In many respects, product development and marketing are distinctly separate entities. They practice separate methodologies, have separate KPIs, and more often than not, they are made up of distinctly separate types of people.
However in reality, product development and marketing are intimately intertwined. At least, they should be. Having marketing teams hands-on throughout the development process results in a more cohesive end-product and a stronger message to customers.
To the benefit of product development, marketing teams are sitting on a treasure trove of real customer data that should be used as the basis of ongoing iteration and improvement. This is especially true for SaaS companies rolling out new product updates.
Strategic organisations are creating a collaborative environment where product development is fuelled by customer intelligence provided by marketing and sales.
Marketing Data and the Product Development Process
Marketing and sales teams live and breathe the needs, aspirations and challenges of their audience. They not only have immense qualitative experience with prospects, they also have a staggering variety of customer data to support them. So who better to inform the first stages of product development than the marketing team?
Product development teams following the ‘fuzzy front end’ (FFE) process begin with the identification of design criteria, brainstorm possible products, evaluate the feasibility of the product in the market and begin prototyping.
In particular, SaaS companies who are designing new product features can use marketing data throughout the early stages of the FFE process.
Using Website Analytics to Shape Product Updates
Initial brainstorms are some of the most important (and challenging) stages in the product development lifecycle. When identifying prospective products, development teams should have the current wants and needs of the audience at front of mind.
Web analytics information, like heat mapping with the use of Hotjar, can provide invaluable insight into the product features that are of most interest to your audience:
For example, when brainstorming product updates, development teams may focus their efforts on the features that are of consistent interest to their audience. In this respect, the product is shaped by your customers, for your customers.
Using Qualitative Feedback in the Development Process
Web analytics is not the only dataset useful in the development process. First-hand, qualitative customer information gathered by the sales team can be used to guide market research, determine business relevance and gauge real business value.
A recurring customer objection like “I wish the product offered XYZ” can be the catalyst for the product development process.
Marketing and Development Alignment: A Win-Win-Win
Just like product development benefits from the data held by marketing and sales, marketing teams benefit from a stronger, better-defined marketing message once the product hits the shelves.
Marketers should begin creating the product narrative when the problem is defined, not after the answer is built.
Product developers should have marketing in mind from the get-go, not as a periphery afterthought. A mentality of “Marketing?! that’s not my job!” will result in messaging that is retrofitted to suit the product, not built into the product itself.
The success of marketing campaigns often relies on an immersive knowledge of the product. When the product is born from customer information gathered by marketing, this product knowledge is inherent and genuine. The result is a stronger marketing message that resonates with the customers who fuelled it.
Marketing and product development alignment is also a win for customers, who benefit from a cohesive product that is purpose-built to satisfy their needs and wants.