If you were starting a long road trip, and had a destination where you needed to be at the end, how would you make sure you got there? Most likely, you’d pull up your Google Maps app or use a GPS product to map out the way and show you where to go. The same concept should apply for any product that your business is bringing to market. You may have a goal in mind, but you need to map out a way to get to that goal. That’s where a product roadmap comes into play.
A product roadmap provides a high-level vision for what you need to do to meet your goals. It outlines the steps you need to take, and the efforts you need to make over a certain period of time – to ensure that your product has positioned itself in the market favourably. The roadmap’s stops should align with your overall strategy, as well as the strategies for other aspects of the business, such as marketing and sales. Despite its name, however, it should not be considered a precise route. It should act more as a guide for the directions you want to take with allowances for detours along the way. A product roadmap keeps you pointed in the right direction, but it can change as the market changes, or as other internal and external factors play out.
Marketing and the Product Roadmap
Too many companies treat a product roadmap as a concern only for the product management team, and not something that everyone else should worry about. This is a fatal mistake. Other departments, such as marketing, need to work with product management to draft a cohesive roadmap that everyone can follow. Each aspect of the business can have its own roadmap, but the product roadmap should be what unites them all.
Well functioning companies have all their teams heading in the same direction, so having a common map just makes sense. Perhaps no group should be more invested in the product roadmap than the marketing group. Marketing is the biggest factor, beyond having a great product, that will ensure its success. Here’s why product roadmapping is an important part of marketing.
The goals of a product roadmap and a marketing roadmap should be very similar, if not exactly the same. However, what is involved in those specific roadmaps is slightly different. A product roadmap, for example, is concerned with the product itself, and how it might benefit customers, or how they might enjoy it. Part of the roadmap could be the addition of certain features at a certain time of the year, or even add a product that integrates with the original one.
In contrast, marketing is concerned with getting the word out to customers about that product and about those new features. They will create campaigns that will promote every step of the roadmap. For example, if software as a service (SaaS) company releases a new feature related to its visitor sign-in product, then the marketing team can promote that feature as part of its B2B SaaS marketing.
The marketing team needs to know what is coming, and when it is coming, to effectively prepare for those campaigns. Working with the product team, the marketing side should have measurable success goals that reflect the objectives laid out within the product roadmap.
Launches and Campaigns
An initial product release is always performed hand in hand with marketing. In fact, marketing may be the biggest driver of the launch. So why wouldn’t any further updates and changes involve marketing as well? A common aspect of any product roadmap is the features timeline roadmap. In this example, you can see that every new feature or integration is placed on the map so that everyone has an idea of what’s to come.
A product roadmap tends to look out for a relatively short period of time. In most cases it’s around a year. During that time, there may be blocks of days, whether it be a month or two, or a bit more, when work needs to be done to make something happen. That work might be done by the legal team, the finance team, or even the support team. The required work will be laid out in the roadmap. The marketing team should also be a key player, no matter what is going on.
That way, they can lay out campaigns that correspond with what is happening with the product and the rest of the company. This could involve mapping out different media, different tactics, and the timing of all of it. The marketing roadmap needs to synchronize with the product roadmap to make sure that everything makes sense, and to ensure that the marketing side is not caught unprepared for something.
Speaking of being unprepared, timing might be the most important part of the relationship between a product roadmap and marketing. A good company needs to be agile. However, agility does not mean that there is no direction. Good agility means being guided by certain principles inherent to the company, while keeping the route and goal in focus. Agile organizations should stray from the path, but only to get to the same destination at a similar time.
Your product team and your marketing team need to take those side paths together. A product roadmap is usually laid out for a short period of time. At the very least six months, and at the most a year. The marketing roadmap for that time period must match up with the product roadmap. Otherwise, you will end up at the same places, but at different times. The marketing team may have worked hard on a campaign and it might be ready to release, but the product team may not have reached that point for launch yet. Or, even worse, the product team may want to launch something that the marketing team is not ready for yet.
Why Does a Product Roadmap Need to Include Everyone?
Take the case of Almundo, a tech company that wanted to branch into a more product-based business. They ensured that every aspect of the business was included in their product roadmap. They made sure that their product roadmap was completely transparent, took a broad-based approach, and shared it with everyone in the company on a Google spreadsheet. Every department had input, and all were included on the map. The roadmap included holding workshops for everyone to get on board with what was happening, and the process for “selling” everyone in the company on the approach they were taking. The roadmap was considered fluid, and since everyone had input, everyone’s needs were met. The company has successfully transitioned, and is thriving today.
Never assume that a product roadmap should be solely the domain of the product team or upper management. For it to be truly successful, every aspect of a company should be involved. Perhaps the most important is the marketing department. Your marketing needs to be in step with your product roadmap to make sure that timing and tasks are aligned to meet your goals. Everyone wants to achieve the same thing and get to the same place. The only way to do that successfully is to do it together.
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