HomeBlog How Should CMOs Transform Marketing in Product-Led Organizations?

How Should CMOs Transform Marketing in Product-Led Organizations?

December 27, 2017 | By Alan Gonsenhauser

  • CMOs can build strong cross-functional relationships by understanding what drives product peers, the language they speak and how to align to mutual goals
  • Solicit a common understanding of buyers and customers, their critical needs, and how to turn superior customer experiences into strong corporate growth
  • Translate transformational initiatives with metrics that demonstrate efficient and mutual progress toward meeting key corporate goals

Most b-to-b organizations have power centralized in product, sales or finance/operations functions. This blog post (the first in a three-part series) focuses on organizations in which the power base has historically been with the product management, engineering or business unit teams.

strategy blackboard

Do you or your marketing teams ever feel resistance or roadblocks from the product function? Is marketing ever marginalized for not creating the products and services that drive revenue? Does the product function want to push product/feature “selfies” without clear alignment to what customers really need? Are products thrown over the fence for marketing to launch without any upfront marketing involvement in planning? If any of these situations sound familiar, read on for some advice to consider when transforming marketing in a product-led environment.

The growth engine at product-led organizations centers on product profits and losses and new products and solutions. Marketing often is not involved or trusted in earlier, upstream product portfolio planning decisions – instead, marketing is seen as a downstream tactical support function focused on demand, events and product collateral. CMOs leading marketing transformations in product-led organizations must carefully consider the presence of any historical biases about marketing. Where biases exist, CMOs must work with product leaders to improve cross-functional communication and alignment.

A typical marketing transformation in a product-led organization may be an effort to refocus activities on key personas and their informational and job role needs, requiring closer coordination between the chief product officer (CPO) and CMO to move the organization from product- to customer-centricity, lessen product-centric silos, and develop and execute buyer needs–focused messaging and campaigns.

To drive change, CMOs must first develop an ongoing relationship with the CPO and/or business unit general managers, agreeing on joint planning processes and strategies. Investing time in understanding what drives product peers, the language they speak, and how to align to mutual goals is also important. Additionally, strong alignment between portfolio marketing and product management is critical to driving transformations.

Next, jointly prioritize buyer personas and develop a common understanding of their key pain points and needs. Product executives need to be confident that their products will still be positioned strongly to buyers, but framed more effectively by responding to their needs. Focusing on customer needs across product areas/business units enables more strategic thinking about emerging customer needs and growth opportunities. A better understanding of true customer needs and alignment to the product portfolio empowers organizations to turn superior customer experiences into strong corporate growth.

Finally, tie the KPIs and metrics measured to key transformation initiatives to drive continuous improvement. Together, the CMO and CPO should translate transformational goals and initiatives with metrics that demonstrate efficient, mutual progress toward meeting key corporate goals. Demonstrating interim wins to the organization and showing movement toward the transformation vision goes far in driving transformation progress and visibility.

Effective collaboration between an organization’s marketing and product leaders increases the likelihood of product roadmaps and marketing campaigns that are in line with customer needs. However, the path to a more strategic relationship is not always easy. CMOs should carefully understand existing product function biases and chart a long-term improvement effort with a frequent meeting cadence to jointly plan much earlier in the process, resulting in better alignment between product and marketing.

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Alan Gonsenhauser

Alan Gonsenhauser is a Research Director of CMO and Marketing Executive Strategies at SiriusDecisions. He is passionate about accelerating growth, driving innovations and leading business transformations. At SiriusDecisions, he works closely with global chief marketing officers and sales and product leaders to drive positive organizational change and cross-functional alignment, benchmark against peers, and mobilize deployment of new marketing methods to accelerate innovation and growth. Follow Alan on Twitter @agonsenhauser.