How Marketing and Product Teams Can Improve Collaboration

It’s no secret that collaboration leads to an increase and productivity and better outcomes for businesses. A 2014 Stanford study, found that even the prospect of working collectively increased motivation and performance. A similar Harvard Business Review study analyzing 3,500 businesses found that collaboration leads to higher productivity, profitability, efficiency and customer satisfaction.

However, if you’re a manager trying to combine marketing and product teams, two disciplines at odds between the creative and technical, you might encounter some challenges. Use the following strategies to align your product and marketing departments.

Create a Clear Cross-Departmental Mission

Marketing and product teams are different departments. To improve collaboration, you need to first ensure that there’s a functional working relationship between the two. To build a solid foundation, provide context on projects, individual roles, and, most importantly, overall objectives by maintaining a specific cross-departmental mission that’s tied to the overall mission of the business. People can’t work together if they don’t understand what everyone is doing to accomplish the big-picture goals.

Michael Stahl, CMO of HealthMarkets, finds this to be helpful when managing his teams. “People need to be motivated by the broader mission of the organization, and leaders have to ensure they continually provide and stimulate that motivation.”

Why? This motivates everyone on the team to work their best, which benefits the teams and the business. He explains, “If you have a workforce that is not motivated to make the effort to go from “good” to awesome, then it will undoubtedly impact productivity, profitability and overall health and wellbeing of the workforce.”

Proactively Limit Miscommunication

Miscommunication wreaks havoc on productivity. In a recent survey, 44% of workers said communication breakdowns lead to a delay or failure to complete projects, and 25% reported missing performance goals. Stop communication issues before they start for smooth collaboration between your product and marketing teams. Set a precedence to facilitate consistent communication for each step of the product road map.

These breakdowns in communication become especially challenging when it comes to prioritization. Invariably, every department thinks their deadlines are the most important. As a manager, it’s your job to ensure there’s no ambiguity when it comes to priorities for both teams as one functioning team.

Lastly, remember that department-specific jargon makes people on other teams feel left out, or worse, alienated. As a manager, make sure to explain technical language or acronyms.

Focus on Feedback

Managers or co-workers often fear that giving feedback might be uncomfortable or cause issues. However, most workers crave more input. OfficeVibe’s State of Employee Engagement found that 83% of employees appreciate receiving feedback, negative or positive. What’s more, feedback can actually bolster the creativity of your marketing team. Another scientific study found that a feedback-driven environment led to an increase in creative performance for employees.

Brian Crofts, VP of Product at Namely and former Intuit Product Manager, explains how and why the product side specifically should provide feedback.

      • How: “To be a successful product manager, you need to communicate not only what the vision is and what it is we’re building, but why we’re building it.”
      • Why: “Because we’re agile and always changing, and constantly getting new data and insights, it becomes imperative that we bring stakeholders along. This often requires cadence within the company.”

Incorporate and encourage feedback loops between product and marketing, especially as you develop initial strategies. Champion transparent culture and communication that embraces open dialogue (even constructive T) for the greater good.

Leverage Each Team’s Strengths to Optimize Overall Performance

Everyone on your product and marketing team is there for a reason; they bring a specific set of skills to the table. As a leader, you need to fit their strengths together like a puzzle and use them to the best advantage. Here are a few common examples of collaboration that can level-up results:

      • Have your product team provide valuable insights into the inner-workings of the product that marketing can repurpose to create educational content, for example, tutorial videos or blog posts.
      • As the eyes and ears of the digital community, marketing should share insights from users with product team members, such as comments on social media, blog posts, forums or even from on-site chat platforms. Their focus should be to filter any useful information for product development.
      • Enthusiasm is contagious. Your product team understands the unique selling proposition and key differentiators better than anyone. Make sure product staff not only explicitly explains these items to marketing but gets them as excited as they are about the end-product.
      • Post-launch, have product provide information on new releases so marketing can build it into their content and social strategies. Beyond that, have marketing share tentative content with product info, so the experts can fact check prior to publishing and promotion.

Invest in Collaboration Tools

At the end of the day, collaboration is only possible if both teams have the tools to facilitate regular communication, no matter where they’re working from. “Collaboration used to happen in offices, at desks, in meeting rooms…Today it happens around a presentation discussed in a group chat or a video call. Even if people are miles apart, they are working more closely together and more efficiently,” explains communication experts at Hubgets.

Whether your team is remote or not, digital tools that facilitate collaboration are crucial to connecting both teams. A few tools to consider investing in, include:

      • Chat platforms
      • File sharing
      • Data/reporting platforms
      • Video call software
      • Shared calendars

The key, however, is ensuring that everyone uses the tools available to them and that you have systems in place that make them effective. For example, when using shared file drives, naming should be clear and consistent so everyone can find what they need, regardless of what team they’re on.

Foster Collaboration Between Your Product and Marketing Teams

Fostering working relationships between creative and technical teams requires dedicated effort on both the part of leadership and the teams themselves. As a manager, remind your product and marketing teams that a shared vision aligns them and make sure everyone understands the big-picture objectives. You’ll ensure the best end-product by building a culture where feedback and teamwork come easy, and shared innovation and success is the goal.

Founder & CEO
Jessica Thiefels Consulting
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