Demand GenerationMarketing Strategy

How a Top Product Marketer Navigates Office “Game of Thrones”

By November 11, 2015 No Comments

Honestly, I don’t enjoy when B2B blogs sacrifice relevant content for the sake of being pop-culture relevant.

But here’s the thing: we interviewed dozens of B2B product marketers last quarter, and the most common barrier to success was this: “I have to navigate departmental politics—kind of like Game of Thrones.

B2B product marketers are the glue that holds together product, marketing, and sales to ensure a smooth and successful product launch. So naturally, they often fall into the role of cross-departmental bridge-builder—or referee, depending on who you ask.

But when a product marketer is responsible for executing a successful go-to-market strategy, they must create and maintain alignment across often-misaligned teams and departments. This inevitably stirs up conflict.

Since so many product marketers vocalized how challenging it was to navigate office Game of Thrones, we knew there was a lot of ground to cover. So we wrote this eBook on it.

But if you’re short on time, here are the highlights of how to navigate pesky internal politics and win your next product launch.

When Approaching Sales Feels Like…

tv game of thrones show tv show excited

Let me start by clearing the air. Sales enablement is hard, for everyone involved. You put hours into a sales training just to find out later that the sales team isn’t using your messaging with prospects, nor the collateral you created. Sales is frustrated with you because they can’t find the collateral you made, and now that they’re in a pinch, they’re forced to make off-message collateral themselves.

That said, there are some strategies that a top product marketer can use to become an advocate and a support system for sales, rather than a source of pain and contention.

Be an Available Resource, Not an Interruption

The most successful product marketers I know build great relationships with sales and collaborate constantly—not just when something is needed. This ongoing communication helps focus efforts on both sides, drives better results, and provides invaluable insights.”—Angelita Aquino, Director of Product Marketing, Kapost

In product marketing, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of reaching out to sales only when you need something from them. Top product marketers know that good sales professionals are under extreme pressure and timelines. Therefore, product marketers must remain empathetic (read: not a doormat) to the evolving needs and demands of sales as they try to close deals with prospects.

The product marketing team at Kapost realizes this, and adapts accordingly. To makes themselves more available for sales, they created product marketing “office hours,” where they actually move their desk locations throughout the week to sit and work alongside the sales team to simply be present and available as needed. This has opened the door for greater mutual trust and respect among the two teams, and better alignment in messaging and use of product-related materials as a result.

RELATED CONTENT: Get the eBook for more insights from all-star B2B product marketers!

When Your Sales/Marketing Dynamic Makes You Want To…

game of thrones animated GIF

After speaking with so many product marketers, we heard a resounding frustration regarding content findability and trackability, and gained insight into how much tension this causes between sales and marketing teams.

Marketing gets frustrated when sales doesn’t use the content they produce, and thinks sales just can’t be pleased. Sales gets frustrated with marketing because their content is either a) not relevant to their needs, or b) buried so deep in their emails or shared drive folders that they can’t recover it easily or quickly enough when they need it most. Likewise, product marketers get frustrated when the sales team requests the same collateral from them over and over again, even though they’ve shared it with them several times already. This is a time and resources drain on everybody.

Build a Central Repository—and Have a Legitimate Training on How to Use It

Our team leverages our own Kapost Content Gallery to organize content by vertical, persona, and sales stage; share internally by using team-specific “collections”; and easily distribute content to prospects and customers.

To build your own centralized content repository, consider the following:

1. Survey Your Content Consumers

If you’re the content creator, it’s likely that the organization methodology that makes sense to you doesn’t make sense to those who actually consume it internally. It’s worth the time and effort to conduct an internal survey of the teams that most frequently consume your content and determine how to filter, tag, and store content in the most intuitive way.

Kapost organizes its content repository by using the following filters:

  • Persona
  • Buying stage
  • Geography
  • Content type
  • Product line
  • Pain point

Remember, less is more. Keep things simple and streamlined, otherwise you risk triggering the content-void nightmare all over again.

2. Conduct an In-Depth Training for Everyone

This will require time and patience at the onset, but it will save you loads of time in the long run. Create an in-depth training for sales and marketing teams from the content creation side and the content consumption side. Remember to record the training so new hires can include this in their onboarding activity. If you really want to get accountability, consider setting up a test after the training to ensure that those in attendance listened and absorbed the material.

3. Incorporate an Internal Tracking System

You wouldn’t be an all-star product marketer if you didn’t make decisions based on market-driven data. The same holds true for your content repository. By tracking the following metrics, you get a better sense of what content is being most often consumed and shared with prospects:

  • Internal views and downloads
  • How content is distributed by internal teams to external audiences
  • The traffic content receives as a result of internal shares

When Marketing/Product Alignment Looks More Like…

game of thrones animated GIF

In a perfect B2B world, marketing and product teams would be like peas and carrots, collaborating and aligning strategy fluidly. It would be peace and love, progress and prosperity…you get the picture.

Unfortunately, we exist in a very different world—one where shows like Game of Thrones, which touts violent power struggles and corruption, have become a household term.

It’s easy for power struggles and a finger-pointing environment to build between product and corporate marketing. Product marketing can feel frustrated with corporate marketing “over-promising” to customers in their messaging, and the corporate team often feels out of the loop, forced to create messaging without visibility into product timelines and details.

Now, I’m just as addicted to GOT as the next person, but when it comes to successfully launching a product in the market, these two teams absolutely must be aligned.

Be the Bridge Between Product and Corporate Marketing

1. Become Best Friends with the Product Manager

A top product marketer is a master relationship-builder, and perhaps the most important relationship for a product marketer is that with the product owner/manager. In order to align marketing and sales teams with the right messaging and direction, it’s your job to keep an ear to the ground on product roadmaps, timelines, and new offerings.

If possible, consider scheduling weekly or bi-weekly check-ins with the product manager, and work to become a significant stakeholder in the product development process.

2. Over-Communicate with Corporate Marketing

Your relationship with corporate marketing must be constantly nurtured. Without you, the risk of off-brand messaging and false advertising of your products is high. Some key meetings and activities critical to aligning this team include the following:

  • Holding a minimum of one quarterly meeting to update corporate marketing on upcoming product launches or feature rollouts, including new product messaging or target personas
  • Identifying key milestones for corporate marketing, and seeing where these align with upcoming product launches
  • Helping corporate marketing plan top- to mid-funnel content to support a product launch

So, in the words of Daenerys “Khaleesi” Targaryen, “I’m not going to stop the wheel. I’m going to break the wheel.”

Break the wheel of blame shifting, tension, and miscommunication among internal teams, and you’re bound to feel like this after a successful product launch:

game of thrones got dragons emmys emilia clarke

Tarah Speck

About Tarah Speck

As a former content marketing manager for Kapost, Tarah developed content to help other B2B marketers strengthen their marketing efforts. When not writing and geeking out on content trends, Tarah can be found cooking, biking, or hiking/backpacking in the Rockies. Follow her at @tarahspeck

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