When Adam Greco and John Cutler joined Amplitude as Product Evangelists, they quickly bonded over their shared belief in the power of bringing together product and marketing.
Taken aback this wasn't the norm in most businesses, they set about finding out why, and how to bring the two together.
As a leader of the digital marketing analytics industry, Adam's helped thousands of organizations improve their digital properties through the use of data, authoring the preeminent book on Adobe Analytics.
Having worked for companies including AppFolio, Zendesk and Pendo.io., John's perspective spans individual roles, domains and products. He currently focuses on user experience and evidence-driven product development.
John and Adam shared their experiences of bridging the gap between product and marketing with Product-Led Alliance's webinar series last November.
Here’s a break down of the main talking points:
- The culture clash between product and marketing
- Understanding the product and marketing collaboration
- Product thinking (vs Project thinking)
- Moving away from siloed goals to a common framework
Let’s dive in 👇
The culture clash between product and marketing
From a product background to marketing
I joined Amplitude on the marketing team. They hired me to be a product evangelist, knowing I had a product background. In this new role, I was immersed in the marketing world.
I've noticed a few things upon joining the world of marketing, number one being that I thought product was stressful but marketing is even more stressful. There’s a great deal of pressure for short term results, everything is fast and furious with people cranking out content such as landing pages at an incredible pace.
The second is how, at least in b2b SaaS, your audience is out in the world but you also have internal customers and users like go-to-market teams or sales and customer success.
The challenge here is that you can have something that resonates with the outside world, but if people internally can't understand the message, you're gonna have trouble.
From a marketing background to product
As a marketer working in product, I learned all this new terminology around product, the different methodologies, sprints and backlogs.
I've also learned how product is data driven like marketing. In marketing we were looking at Google keywords and display ads but product folks are also data driven because they’re tracking how people are using their products and working on experiments.
Marketers, product people, do you all get along?
You'd assume product and marketing are pretty aligned and you'd imagine they're like peas in a pod but in fact, it wasn't the case.
A data point we looked at was when we compared our two networks on LinkedIn. Out of thousands of people there were only 85 people that were part of both of our networks so this showed us these two groups don't get along.
We took this experiment further by posing a similar question to both of our groups: do you all get along. What's amazing is how similar the results are. Over 60% of the time, groups are saying they're not really working together.
How could we help the whole industry by getting product and marketing folks together?
Understanding the product and marketing collaboration
We came up with this diagram to explain some of the trends we're seeing to help us understand collaboration. A term we often use in product is ‘feature factory’, meaning a view of product which is gut driven and very reactive in the near term. The definition of success in the product world and in a feature factory is having the feature ship and sell.
Now what's also interesting in these organizations and in many feature factories is you'll observe a demand marketing type function which is extremely data driven but also very near term focused.
On the marketing side, there’s an evolution of product becoming more outcome focused; they take a longer term view, think more about product strategy and take more data informed approaches.
What happens in an organization like this is product is far ahead in terms of longer term thinking, but it's still not under the gun like demand marketing. Brand marketing has always been a gut feel type thing and it's to that credit that I've learned there's this element of brand marketing which is very qualitative and that's a good thing.
The next thing we started to see is product growth teams getting more near term and further up the funnel, but they were still in the product world. That's the growth movement. What's developing here is these groups are covering the funnel but there's still silos between that.
Advertising analytics technology
In terms of technology in the marketing world, it started around analytics and advertising and asking ourselves questions like “are we getting good ROI?” or “are we maximizing our ad spend?”. This is why the two big giants in marketing have always been Google Analytics and Adobe analytics. These tools were brought in to figure out how the ad spending was working.
When it comes to websites, which predates a lot of the mobile apps, the function was looking at the content on the website and asking ourselves questions like “are they falling out?”, “is the content relevant?” or “are we getting customers”. Here again, a lot of companies were using Google Analytics and Adobe analytics.
Now, when you start to get into more complex web apps, mobile applications or typical software products, the goal there was more around retention and loyalty. That's where the product team really focused. This is where companies like Amplitude, Mixpanel and Pendo tended to be the vendors that people were going to in order to figure out how to improve these digital products.
There's this natural split between websites we've seen marketers own and applications product folks tend to own. For example, Walmart, a very large organization, has lots of time and money to invest in technologies and processes.
They are a case study on the website for the marketing team of Adobe and Adobe analytics. However, at the same time, they’re a case study for Amplitude on the mobile app.
They're using two different technologies, even though the same customers are probably using walmart.com. and the Walmart mobile app, which is fascinating.
Are websites digital products?
What is the difference between a website, a mobile application or a digital product? Some people believe they're the same thing. Some people were defining both as digital services, but a website has a marketing job and a mobile app is delivering value.
You've got two different teams, marketing and product, all working towards the same common goals but they're doing it using different platforms and different teams in many cases.
Product thinking (vs Project thinking)
My first major awareness about the marketing world is just how project based it is, even campaigns are project based. This quote by Dave Gearhart is very insightful:
“A great lead magnet is so damn underrated. But I don't mean PDF downloads. I mean legit lead magnets. Lead magnets that are built like a product and deliver value for free”.
From a marketer standpoint, what is product thinking about? The themes are:
- Sustainability: It's not just shipped and then goes away, but produces money over time.
- Compounding & non-linear: In product work, I've seen teams spend two days and make a million dollars a year for a company.
- Persistent and longer term
- Experimentation: After it's shipped, it's not just like a simple landing page but a lot of elements that provide value.
Canva’s free templates are an interesting example. They're integrated into the product. There’s opportunity here for collaboration and a shift in the thinking is: can marketers adopt a more product-like thinking?
Marketers are interested in doing this work. They feel so overwhelmed by short term goals, but they’d love to do more of those things. From a product team standpoint, it’s like having to build features to close deals. It's the same kind of angst and tension between short term thinking and long term things that pay off more, but require more experimentation and require more value oriented thinking.
Marketing tends to want to find one message that resonates with all our customers and ship a project for that. On the other hand, a product person thinks about the organic personas and different people we’ve got.
That's another case where to adopt product thinking, we think about what people are actually doing in the product, vs. demographic targeting, so it’s a more human centric approach.
You could create 50 white papers that are PDF downloads and generate leads if you're a marketer, but you could be spending that time building something that's actually useful to your audience, which then moves them into the product-led approach. Too many marketers are so used to the short-term mindset.
One of the benefits I see in product and marketing collaboration is having the product mindset brought over to the marketers, then they could agree on the personas and do some short-term things but then focus on stuff that's more long-term.
That's what I am really excited about with the product-led movement because it's pushing marketers to collaborate with the product teams.
Moving away from siloed goals to a common framework
When I headed up marketing analytics for Salesforce.com, which was about 10-15 years ago way before the product led movement emerged, we were one of the few SaaS companies offering a free trial. My job was to get more people to the website, get them to fill out a form and I was hammered every week about getting more leads.
Once someone filled out a form, I had zero visibility into what happened when they were in the free trial. I never found out if those people ended up becoming customers. I was just a lead factory. In hindsight, I think a little bit differently knowing what I know now.
It would have been great to be able to see what was happening in the product, what features were they using, what actions were they taking or what was their real motivation for doing the free trial.
I could then extract that and I could think about different digital advertising I could do to call out the things that seem to be resonating in the free trial process.
Conversely, the product team probably didn't know how the free trial got there. Maybe they searched for CRM, or customer support and landed on our website.
If they would have known that the person who's doing the free trial came from maybe a customer support angle vs. a sales angle, maybe they would have shown different things in the free trial or pushed different features.
I was horrified by the fact that the marketing team was so disconnected from the product team.
We had Northstar workshops at Amplitude. The example above highlights the opportunity for collaboration. What the team decided on is that there was a Northstar metric called Acme Anglers that in this case were organically returning deals, engaging fun having item receiving anglers.
They didn't push off lead generated to the side, but they acknowledged that part of what they needed to do was to attract and engage new anglers. Then, they realize there is this element of satisfying first time purchasers and this company runs incredibly effective flash sales.
So they realize the events were what it was about, if they could create enthusiasm and urgency. This is the problem they're having. The lead generated promoted the events but didn't fully capture the zest of the events.
Finally, there's a deepening engagement loyalty referral community. This company's app is so good that a friend's friend's mom in law had to uninstall it because she spent too much money on it.
What was amazing about this workshop is that it encompassed what we would normally think of as a customer journey, but it also included a flywheel around successful events and it gave marketers belief that their efforts were tying in to Acme anglers.
This helped the team do the things they do really well, but align on what mattered for the business.
Closing thoughts 🤔
It's all the product. Every interaction you're having with the customer is part of an experience and it’s an opportunity to engage, wow the customer and connect with them. We have an amazing customer success team and our customer success team is probably as much of the product as our features.
As well, brand has expanded into product and it's important while branding is long term. The closer the brand is in the brand messages to the product the better. Sometimes there's issues where the brand pitches a product and the product team is not in line. They both need to share a vision of the future together.
Your customer doesn't care if they're interacting with product or marketing. Marketing makes the promise. Product keeps it. Anything the customer touches can be improved, personalized and integrated.
What should product and marketing do next? 🤝
- Align on research and data-backed behavioral personas between product and marketing
- Map the full customer journey (not just a funnel)
- Identify any customer data silos
- Identify at least one shared metric
- Experiment with one integrated bet (and treat it as a product)