What's your best practice for making sure competitive, personas, and market research info is always up-to-date, moving from product marketing to sales materials?
Your CMS (content management system) should have some sort of archiving parameters in place that should remind the PMM team when things get stale.
With that said, all the reminders in the world won't matter if people ignore them, so I recommend you also have a "librarian" of sorts manage your content site - whether it's in a sales portal or in another tool, someone who is in charge of managing the site, tracking metrics, and also monitoring / organizing PMM when content needs to be refreshed/archived.
This really requires a dedicated effort and should be owned by Product Marketing. Different industries change at different paces – in some cases, a quarterly review process is needed, in other case, it might be less frequent. It really depends. Product Marketing needs to keep a close pulse on customers, talk to sales and product management, and keep an eye on the competition.
There are other factors to consider as well that may trigger an off-cycle review: major industry news, significant new competitive offerings or new entrants, win or loss of a key customer, an upcoming key tradeshow or perhaps a systemic shock such as COVID-19.
Align on needs and get buy-in on the program from key stakeholders upfront, otherwise, you will just be reactive and the expectations will be that every request is handled and every asset is up to date. By setting a strategy upfront, defining the set of deliverables and the cadence at which they'll be updated, and creating rules of engagement and set venues / channels for to communicate with teams, you can create a scalable system. For larger orgs, you may have to create SLAs between your team and sales and product.
Specifically with competitive, I really believe you need to define ourselves based on problems you solve and value you provide, not your competition. But also equip teams to stand out from competition and win against them. Competitive can become a crutch for not having confidence in your own message and story. Some of the most impactful interactions I've seen between a vendor and buyer is when the vendor says, "I don't work for that company. I work here, I know we do this really well, and I think I understand your problem and how we solve it." That's refreshing to hear versus bashing the competition.
In the "real world" this is a function of whose responsibility sales collateral is. If it's product marketing, the answer is simple: Supply new collateral when it's time for an update. However, if product marketing is responsible for informing, and letting sales create its own materials, then it becomes more complicated.
For me, it all starts with the buyer personas (or, as I like to refer to them, stakeholder profiles). I have a particular way of approaching these, leveraging psychographic, rather than demographic, inputs and structuring outputs as stakeholder-specific business cases. They answer the question: "What does this person care about, and how can my product be related to that?"
Whenever the relevant inputs change, so too does the output, and when that happens it's time to circulate to sales. These incorporate elements of competitive and market research, too, but in a way that is immediately actionable by sales (rather than a pile of information that a salesperson then has to figure out what to do with).
There's two parts to keeping all the above content up to date, including content creation and content delivery:
- Content Creation: This is all about capacity planning of the Product Marketing team on the capacity of the team to update content vs. the amount of content that needs to be updated. First, you need to define what content must be kept up-to-date and how frequently these updates need to happen. For example, some product marketing content needs to be updated frequently (e.g. information about new products and/or features that have come out in each release), whereas others can be updated less frequently (e.g. a broad assessment of the overall market or TAM). Once you've identified the cadence of updates and backed out the volume of work, then you can examine how much capacity the team has and align that capacity to tackle the highest priority updates. If there is not enough capacity, you can either reallocate the team to tackle only the higher priority updates or bring on additional team members if the priority content updates are not happening in a timely fashion. The key here is about prioritization -- not everything needs to be updated all the time.
- Content Delivery: Once the required updates have been created by the team, then it's important to deliver this updated content as efficiently and quickly as possible. This is where having a good content management and delivery system is critical. Coupa uses a sales enablement system that we've internally named "The Vault", and this platform allows us to push out new content to the field in an organized way in real-time as product marketing content is updated in our internal file systems. What makes this system effective is its ability to manage versions, control access, and make it easy for the field to find the latest and greatest content at all times. Moreover, as a Product Marketer, I get to see real-time analytics on content usage to better target my efforts.
Make it jointly owned. Your team will (almost certainly) not grow as fast as sales, success, support, etc. Even talented PMMs struggle to keep these things relevant and useful for every season of the company’s journey.
So rather than boil the ocean, make it everyone’s responsibility. If your best competitive and market positioning is in the sales onboarding guide, sales managers and VPs have an incentive to keep it accurate for new hires. Plus new hires can comment on/correct things over time.
If you have personas, consider jointly owning them with the product team. Product teams have to defend their prioritization rationale every day. If you can build personas together, they will align product updates to personas and make it much more likely everyone speaks the same language.
This is tough, but you can prevent foundational PMM assets from going stale by having (1) defined processes (e.g., establishing which components of your market intelligence are most important to update and on what cadence, and using what inputs), (2) quarterly prioritization to revisit key assets (e.g., dedicate budget and get buy-in from cross-functional partners to spend time and energy updating these assets as a part of quarterly OKR planning. If you don't dedicate and protect the time and budget, you're likely to let them fall by the wayside), and (3) cross-functional participation (e.g., consider delegating aspects of updating some of these bigger bodies of work to a SWAT team of marketers, product managers, sellers, business operations folks, etc. if it makes sense and you can get buy-in). We have a 'competitive intelligence SWAT team' that includes a cross-section of stakeholders who each own a small part of the market intelligence ecosystem and are responsible for updating materials once a quarter.
I'm big on updating information based on actions that need to be taken / decision that need to be made.
When it comes to market research and personas, clarify what decisions you need to make based on the information and the cadence to which you will make them. If you use market research to inform half-by-half planning then updating the information prior to the beginning of each half is a good starting assumption.
I recommend keeping a regular pulse on the competition, though. For example, by regularly read news about your industry. If there are public announcements that necessitate changes to claims you make in sales materials - update the materials as soon as possible. The same goes for if you hear and can corroborate intel sourced by industry facing teams. Some changes don't need to wait.
Starting with the customer insight is always the #1 job of a product marketer. Ideal customer profile, target verticals, buyer personas, etc these are things that aren’t going to change on a weekly or monthly basis. However, as part of routine planning cycles – perhaps every 3, 6 or 12 months depending on your market or industry, it’s always good to re-evaluate with sales and CS leadership and understand if we’ve been seeing any shifts in user base or even with the demand gen team to understand how mix in titles might have changed in your inbound lead mix.
Competitive insights are a separate topic. Overall kill sheets probably need quarterly refreshes, but understanding your competitors and what they’re doing can be a daily task depending on how crowded your space is. For this, I’d definitely recommend setting up Google News alerts for all your competitors, and if possible, writing a weekly digest for key stakeholders across sales, CS, product, PR/comms and others to see how/what competitors showcase themselves. Also if you have the budget, listening tools like Chorus.ai that can scan sales calls and alert you via Slack or email when competitors’ names are mentioned on calls also help you hear the context of how prospects and customers are discussing other players in your space.
You have to establish a cadence of updates for different assets, which will vary based on how they are used and your market dynamics. Personas don't change often, so revisting them every 6 months might be enough, but if you are on a competitive market it may require a quarterly or more frequent update of competitive battlecards.
The important thing is to establish a schedule for revisions and set time aside for updating those materials. Another part of your process should be communication to the sales team and others that might use them. Depending on how drastic the update was (e.g. minor edits vs major overhauls) you will also want to have different ways of notifiying the team. A Slack message about a minor update could be good enough but you probably want to do a full enablement session for major revisions that could impact a sales person's abilty to deliver the message or close a deal.
1. Identify 'expiration dates' for all your assets
2. Establish a cadence for the revisions and updates
3. Block time on your calendar to work on the updates
4. Agree w/ the sales teams and others on the best way to communicate those updates
The good news is sales people notice when materials are out of date, and will let you know it is time for a refresh. :) Joking aside, here are some proactive tips on how to keep materials up to date.
Market research: With Google alerts, you can capture trends, survey results and news for the topics your personas care about. If you subscribed to analyst research, be sure to have a look at new research on a regular basis. As PMMs, we write about many of these trends in blogs, and use updated stats in sales presentations and prospecting emails. You could make it a policy to refresh sales content on a quarterly basis (or at least check to see if you need to) and then communicate to the field the new changes.
Personas: In my opinion, persona research needs to be refreshed less frequently. Some triggers that could require a refresh:
- Your product has a major new feature that could serve a different persona
- In analyzing wins/leads, you find that your primary persona has shifted
- There is a disruption in the market which could cause responsibilities/buying centers to shift
Competitive: Competitive should be kept up to date as much as possible. You don't want your sales team caught off gaurd. Competitive intel often comes from your field teams, so it is critical to have good relationships with the field and a mechanism to capture this intel. Usually the best way to capture sales intel is via 1:1 interviews or having monthly listening meetings. (We are implementing a listening tool soon, so that might provide additional insights.)
It's also beneficial to have a person or team focused on capturing competitive insights from across the organization (PM, PMM, field, and external research such as product reviews and documentation). At Snow we are blessed to have someone on our product insights team focused on doing just that. Publishing up to date battlecards and competitive newsletters are ways to keep the field informed. It is even better attend sales meetings to review recent findings and have the field share their win stories with their colleagues.
Talk with at least 1 customer a week and you'll never be surprised by any changes! I like to follow Gartner and Forrester for changes in the market, as well as keeping a pulse on new PLG companies who are bootstrapping (don't underestimate those folks).
The truth is, most companies do these items once a year at best. If you're able to spend time every 6 months, I think you'll be ahead of the curve.
It's a lot of work up front to create, but shouldn't be much to update. I like to check them any time a new product is launched or a new competitor enters the market (usually sales will notify you). Also keep an eye on your competitor for news surrounding funding or new product announcements.
Simply put, it's a big commitment of time, effort, and energy to both build and maintain. My advice here is before diving in to build or if your assuming the responsibility for a program that has become outdated, that you get stakeholder and partner alignment on what the goals are, what the key pieces of information that it useful and usable for functional areas, frequency of updates, and get clarity on how teams will utilize. If you've got a big field of competitors your tracking, get agreement on primary folks to track versus secondary. I also like to walk everyone through what's involved in aggregating the information. It's very common to see a list of 10 "essentials' get knocked down to 5 when there is realization of the investment to gather.
Tactically, once you've got that here is how to approach and best practicies:
Establish a Centralized Repository: Create a centralized and easily accessible repository for all relevant information. This could be a cloud-based document management system, a shared drive, or a dedicated folder within your organization's intranet. Make sure it's organized logically, with clear categories for competitive data, personas, and market research. Share access with teams and stakeholders.
Regularly Scheduled Updates: Set up a schedule for updating and reviewing these materials. Consider quarterly to half year reviews , but adjust the frequency based on the pace of change in your industry.
Cross-Functional Collaboration: Foster collaboration between product marketing, sales, customer support, and other relevant teams. Encourage them to contribute updates and insights based on their interactions with customers and the market. Assign owners and keep them accountable,
Automated Alerts: Leverage tools or software that can send automated alerts or reminders for content updates. Google alerts pop in your email inbox daily.
Competitive Monitoring Tools: It's an investment that many companies won't make but if you are lucky enough to have budget....
Persona Interviews and Surveys: Regularly conduct interviews or surveys with your target personas to validate and update their profiles. Their needs and pain points may evolve over time. Small investment to keep your ear on the ground.
Market Research: Stay engaged with market research firms or conduct your own market research to gather current data and insights. I subscribe and follow a core group that is direct to my industry and then a secondary ancillary group that are relevant from a related or micro-economic perspective.
Audit Trail: Maintain an audit trail of changes made to sales materials, including who made the changes and when. This can help in identifying errors or tracking the evolution of content.
Regular Sales Enablement Sessions: Host regular sales enablement sessions where product marketing provides updates on competitive intelligence, personas, and market trends.
Outdated information is almost worse than having no information since you might be making decisions from data sources that are no longer relevant or valid.
To make sure this doesn't happen to you, come up with a process or SOP (standard operating procedure) where you refresh/update your information on a regular cadence. This could be bi-weekly but even quarterly works.
It's also important that you incorporate some sort of social listening and competitor tracking solutions. Your prospects are already doing their homework by comparing your product/service with your competitor. Your customer success and sales teams have to be on-point when they talk with these prospects. If a prospect senses that you're not in the loop with the market or offerings the trustworthy factor may fall and the chances of a sale will go down as well.
- Develop SOPs and process for updates/refreshes
- Timestamp/date your materials (research, positioning, battlecards, comparison sheets, etc...).
- Have social listening, competitor tracking process so you can predict, react, secure quick wins and/or prepare/plan for your future product update to stay ahead of your competition
In short, you can’t hit ‘snooze’ on any of those even after you launched internally new resources and programs. A few ways I used to make sure that doesn’t happen:
Make it a habit to talk to your team. Have a monthly catch up with a few AEs and/or SDRs, and ask them—have you seen any changes in the market? How have you been using the material, has it been helpful? In what situations does it come handy? Is there anything you think is missing? They’re often the first to hear about a new competition or notice a new trend before capturing it in CRM, if at all
Tip: this was also a great way for me to make sure they use the materials I created for them, and shared their success using it with their peers.
Audit usage and adoption regularly, hopefully along with a Sales Enablement or Sales Ops counterpart. Have similar conversations with the Sales Managers
Before any Sales+Marketing meetings have these conversations with Sales leadership; what is useful, where are we missing the mark. Y’all are a team; so before taking any new project your CRO asks for think about it critically, together.
—> this is key. A well-informed sales team isn’t “your” problem, it’s a team effort. Get their buy-in and you’d be amazed how much easier it is.
Be creative in how you engage with the team on a regular basis. This way even when there’s a need to update the material you already have the channels to make these changes known. Keep it top of mind, always
Internal competitive or PMM newsletter
Dedicated slack channel for weekly updates only (new assets / active campaigns / recently updated assets). At a previous company, our sales team loved it — they knew they were getting this roundup every Friday at 10 AM so it was easy to reference it later too.
Make it fun! I had success organizing Sales+Marketing (and sometimes +Product) competitions about competitive intel or a new pillar content we launched. You can make it about any topic. We used Kahoot but there’s many options out there.