Question Page

How do product marketers lead a product launch when roadmaps and priorities are constantly changing?

There is a lack of alignment at my company and our teams act in silos. Consequently, my roadmap and goals seem to change on a weekly if not bi-weekly basis because marketing keeps getting pulled in different directions. There needs to be some sort of roadmap and role that aligns sales with product, but I'm not sure if that should come from product marketing or not. I want to initiate this conversation, but I don't know if it's overstepping my role or not. Advice here?
6 Answers
Mary Sheehan
Mary Sheehan
Adobe Head of Lightroom Product MarketingJanuary 16

There are 2 major questions here - one has to do with priorities changing (e.g. no strategy) and the other is indirectly about out of control roadmap timelines - I'll answer both below! 

Priorities changing

Major Roadmap and priority changes are often a symptom of a weak strategy. It’s common for roadmap dates to slip, especially if they’re more than 3 mos out, but if you’re seeing wild changes with dates and it seems like there is no North Star, there is probably a lack of strategy.

Start with the product team, ask what your strategy is - start with questions like: is this for new customers or existing? Are we improving on our existing product or building our new lines? If the answer is “all of the above” see if they can define this or point you to the pillars that are driving their product decisions.

If you get major pushback or discover these just don’t exist, it might be time to go up the ladder to other execs to understand the strategy.

Getting control of the roadmap timelines

This is definitely a little art and science and requires some major relationship building on your part. I highly recommend setting up a bi-weekly GTM meeting with all your PMs, or if you're at a big company, the product leads, to get everyone on the same page. 

Develop your source of truth - create a visual roadmap on a spreadsheet that helps you understand what is coming and when. On the Y-axis, add in every feature with the owner that you know of. On the X-axis, create columns that reflect every week for the next 12-16 weeks. Fill in what you know, and then ask the PMs to populate. Check in on this at least every other week and update it in real-time. Ask questions like "how confident are you this date will hit? What are the risks?" 

This internal roadmap will help you first understand what is happening, which PMs are most likely to miss their deadlines, and also serve as a foundation to create any more visual roadmaps for sales and external use. 

2613 Views
April Rassa
April Rassa
Aventi Group Product Marketing ConsultantApril 2

As the CMO of the product, product marketing should take the lead and make sure the teams are aligned. This may require you to set up a meeting with Product Management (and perhaps other leaders across the busienss) to discuss the shifting priorities and align on a path forward. Map out the impact on the business, clearly articulate the challenges and come into the meeting with proposed alternatives and suggestions to spur the conversation.

739 Views
Marissa Hastings
Marissa Hastings
Codecademy Group Product Marketing ManagerJune 22

I think PMM is the perfect function to initiate this because you sit at the intersection of both teams. What my team usually does is work with Product to inform the product roadmap, then once that is settled (or in parallel) we develop a product marketing roadmap for the quarter which includes all of the product releases we will support, timing, and priority level. 

As part of this we consider:

- Priority level (not every release needs to get marketing support)

- What level of marketing support is needed (simple feature launch, campaign, no support, etc.)

- Can certain features can be bundled together into a larger launch + what that strategic narrative is

- Timing of other marketing campaigns or sales initiatives and if there is overlap there we should be mindful of or try to align with

Once we have a fist pass at the PMM roadmap, we then present it to Product, Sales, and Marketing for feedback. A core part of the value PMM can bring to this conversation is identifying the overarching narrative and positioning of the features and if there is a larger, holistic message we can tell that ties several launches together.

342 Views
Monty Wolper
Monty Wolper
The New York Times Executive Director, Head of Product MarketingFebruary 15

While the impact of shifts in company strategy and product roadmaps can materialize in similar ways day-to-day, the altitude at which they need to be addressed differs. In both cases, however, you’ll need to understand what’s at the root of the change. Most companies I’ve worked at set long-term goals (think 10+ year vision) and short term goals (think focus for the next 1-3 years). Things can shift more regularly on that shorter time horizon, as teams take a flexible approach to tactics used to deliver on their goals. As long as the company vision remains as a north star, I’d expect the daily/weekly/monthly changes to be adjustments as opposed to a complete shift in direction. However, if the company's long-term strategy has yet to be solidified, there are bigger questions that need to be addressed at a leadership level before individual product teams can be set up for success. You’d be surprised by how much less volatile the product roadmap will be if there’s a steady, and clearly communicated company strategy in place.

OKRs are a great way to ensure company-wide alignment and hold teams accountable for making progress towards that north star. While objectives remain constant longer, KRs can be adapted on a quarterly basis to refine the approach. Helping your PMs understand GTM dependencies, and working with them to set shared KRs can help avoid some of that back and forth it sounds like you’re experiencing. If your roadmap is still constantly shifting despite having this type of structure in place, it may be due to poor processes, unrealistic scoping, or inappropriate resourcing to deliver on the plan. If you have a project manager who can help with this, you’ll want to work with them on resetting that. If you’re part of a leaner team, you’ll want to partner directly with your PM.

511 Views
Vishal Naik
Vishal Naik
Google Product Marketing LeadDecember 6

My advice on this one is that there's no real overstepping of your role--as long as you're respectful of others (both people and functions) and act in the interest of the company. If you're doing both of those things, then act like an owner and do what you think is necessary to help the business move forward. PMMs tend to have a vantage point not always offorded to other teams, given the nature of our role is to be so higly cross functional. So if youre seeing silo'd work and its negatively impacting launches and you arent able to deliver meaningful results, raise your concerns. 

In these types of situations, I also look for a controlled way where I can measure impact. Is there a smaller launch when youre able to execute your way--without a constantly changing roadmap or set of goals? Are you able to then measure impact and see how those results compare to the standard? If impact is greater, you could use these results to try to bring order to roadmap and goal fluidity with a second small launch and if results continue to outpace the norm, you are well on your way to creating cultural change! 

Of course, you'll want to do all of this around its impact to the business rather than its impact to your role or your work. The health of the business is something pretty defensable that all teams *should* care about. So position your thoughts around how you can drive better business goals and how you can make more impact to the org, ultimately leading to longer term revenue potential and cost reduction, you should be able to gain an ear of an influential leader. 

325 Views
Savita Kini
Savita Kini
Cisco Director of Product Management, Speech and Video AIMarch 11

This is a good question and I have seen this especially happen when the market analysis, customer problem identification and prioritization is not done correctly. Product launch won't be successful because how will you know if you have messaged and positioned the product correctly - aka solving the right problem with a unique differentiated offer / solution. 

While it is really a "product management" problem, product marketing can be a big help here if you can step in and offer to help. Again the PM team or even the senior leadership needs to be open to your helping. IF you feel they are not open, perhaps time to look for a new job -- I am serious, not kidding. But if they are open to your help, you can roll up your sleeves, and work directly on some research and analysis, talk to sales, customer support to see if you can get more in-depth information about the customer problem you are solving, is there a market for your solution, how could you position or price things differently, are there features missing etc. If the leadership and PM is open, they will value this new and additional information. You can also broach the subject saying, I really need some clarity in order to do a kick-ass product launch. Ideally, we do want to see a full 6-12 month roadmap in order for product marketing and rest of marketing / demand gen to do a good job. 

642 Views
Market Research that Unlocks Growth
Thursday, June 13 • 12PM PT
Market Research that Unlocks Growth
Virtual Event
Carmelo Abate
Emmanuela Tijani, CWCA
Bárbara Manarelli Vieira
+32
attendees
Top Product Marketing Mentors
Christy Roach
Christy Roach
AssemblyAI VP of Marketing
Claudia Michon
Claudia Michon
Automation Anywhere Senior Vice President, Product & Solutions Marketing
Julie Towns
Julie Towns
Pinterest VP, Product Marketing & Product Operations
Jenna Crane
Jenna Crane
Klaviyo Head of Product Marketing
Kevin Garcia
Kevin Garcia
Anthropic Product Marketing Leader
Kelly Kipkalov
Kelly Kipkalov
BILL Sr Director, Product Marketing
Amanda Groves
Amanda Groves
Enable VP of Product Marketing
Pulkit Agrawal
Pulkit Agrawal
Chameleon Co-founder & CEO
Priyanka Srinivasan
Priyanka Srinivasan
Verkada Vice President Product Marketing
Ashley Faus
Ashley Faus
Atlassian Head of Lifecycle Marketing, Portfolio