David is a career product leader, who worked for over 8 years leading product at Booking.com. I am a former CEO and CMO who still considers himself to have 100% marketing DNA. So, we were both well able to represent our functions. Additionally, because I am a B2B person and David is mostly a B2C person that added another dimension of difference for us to explore.
In the session, which was held as an interactive workshop for Balderton portfolio companies, we described the problem, shared a few war stories as examples, and then discussed the five things companies can do to get their product and marketing teams working better together.
- Foster a culture of collaboration and respect. This begins at the top. Do not apply the old adage that “good fences make good neighbors,” and wall the teams off from each other. (David had a great story where security literally kept them from visiting each other’s floors.) Instead, do what we say in point 3, below.
- Drive together for both PMF and PCF (product-channel fit), an idea that David brought. This means the teams should work together to build and sell a product that solves a problem for a person (i.e., my definition of PMF) in conjunction with finding a way to economically reach that person (i.e., PCF). David provided a few examples where he believes you could get PMF fairly easily (e.g., a hotel booking site for people traveling with dogs or who need chargers for electric cars), but have a hard time economically finding customers due to the need to compete with large vendors for contested search terms in paid channels.
- Build a high-level interaction model. That sounds fancy but it just means make a one-page table with three rows: lifecycle phase, product responsibilities, and marketing responsibilities. Taking the time to make this – typically done in a few meetings of a working group — sets expectations on both sides. It avoids the common problem of ten people bringing expectations from ten different prior employers, which usually results in everyone being disappointed all the time.
- Adapt your model with stage and scale. We both like the Ansoff matrix and David uses it as a framework to adapt the product/marketing collaboration model. He argues that the more you’re in “keep on keeping on” mode (box 1), the more is known, and the higher the fence between product and marketing can be. But in boxes 2 and 3 you are working with one unknown dimension and that requires more collaboration. Box 4, where both product and market unknown, is basically like starting a new company and requires maximum collaboration. (I largely, but not entirely, agree. My primary argument being that in Box 1, marketing will be more focused on features to differentiate and win deals than product usually is.)
- When it comes time for your second album, don’t forget your roots. I think as companies grow they forget how they innovated in the past, they forget the processes they used in the early days and end up, for example, localizing a new product into 10 languages on its initial release – because that’s what we do now with all products.
Thanks to everyone who attended the session. I’ve embedded the slides below. They are available in PDF here (so the links on the resources page work). Balderton is producing a summary of the event as well, which I’ll link to once it’s up.