25 Jan 2017

Picture this scenario – your company’s product team has put months (or possibly even years) into developing the next revolutionary offering. The investment in R&D was steep, but every stakeholder so far has bought in to its value. You are now attending the big unveil. Everyone in the room has anxiously been waiting for this moment. You can feel the anticipation. The product team presents. Their energy level is high. They’re enthusiastic and passionate about their creation. They finish their demo. The room is silent. Finally, the company president speaks…

“How are we going to market this?”

Instantly, with those seven words, everything grinds to a halt. Questions begin flying around the room. Was it designed to alleviate true pain points in the market?? Is there something we should immediately change? Do we need to we alter the roadmap for the long-term? Hadn’t this been discussed yet?

Believe it or not, from various contacts, our team heard, not one, but two instances of this story in the past year alone. One of which was a startup that ultimately had to cease operations as a result.  When they went to market, nobody wanted the product. This had us wondering … how could this problem be so prevalent, and what can be done to avoid it?

As marketers, we feel the answer is simple. In both instances, while market research was utilized in the development process, the company’s marketing group and/or agency was noticeably absent after that. In order to avoid a similar situation, it is important for organizations to embed their marketing team directly into the development process, starting with the product definition phase.

As a product is being defined, there are three critical questions that must be answered:

  1. What exactly is its purpose (i.e. what problem is it solving)?
  2. How does it stack up against the competition?
  3. What makes this product unique?

When a product team is attempting to answer these questions, there is no better resource than the marketing group, whether they be in-house or outsourced through an agency. They are the people whose job it is to know your customers inside and out, with insight is backed by research, analytics and feedback from engaging directly with customers. This detailed understanding of your customers’ specific requirements is priceless when defining any product. It’s the key to unlocking the answers to these questions that will best position a product for success.

Another benefit of involving the marketing team becomes apparent when differentiation is critical. As much as we would prefer it to be true, customers do not come in one size. They have different tastes, needs, etc. However, they can often be segmented based on their buying behavior. No one has a better understanding of those segments than the marketing group. And, as a result, they offer tremendous value when it comes to defining key features that will potentially separate a product from the herd. By bringing Marketing into the fold, product teams can actually bake a differentiating strategy right into their process.

Some other benefits of involving the marketing team include (but are certainly not limited to) access to a wider skillset, an expanded pool of creative ideas from individuals with a more objective view of the product, and an additional check to help ensure the product is in line with (and supports) the company’s mission.

Finally, involving marketing early in the process will help the company itself get a head start on executing its marketing strategy, which can help bring quicker awareness to the product by utilizing pre-launch tools/tactics to help build demand and garner excitement. In almost any market, timing and speed are of the utmost importance when it comes to a product’s success. In this regard, the marketing team can be the product team’s greatest ally. Fostering a highly collaborative environment between the two groups can only help ensure success throughout the product lifecycle.