Why Product Management and Digital Marketing should coexist?

Digital Marketing is the engagement of technologies such as websites, e-mail, web apps, mobile apps and social media for the purpose of marketing a product. Though this term applies to any business that wants to reach its consumers through electronic media, SaaS based products rely on it for at least 90% their marketing initiatives.

Product Management spans many activities, from strategic to tactical, and at its best provides cross-functional leadership while bridging gaps within the company between different functions, most notably between engineering-oriented teams, sales and marketing, and support.

Given the definition of these functions I have come to realize that neither Product Management nor Digital Marketing can independently exist without the insights and strategic inputs of the other function.
As rightly pointed out by Brian Balfour in his article about Growth and Marketing , Product activation, customer retention, revenue and referral together along with other marketing activities constitute growth and it requires Product and Marketing teams to work in tandem.

Traditional Marketing

In traditional marketing the customer touch points are different and especially in the context of software business the touch points involve longer customer face time, where activation does not happen until the product is sold.
Customer retention is driven solely through personal relationships where the end users directly get in touch with Account Manager to get things sorted out on priority basis.
Similarly Marketing and Sales teams capitalize on their relationships to get the testimonials and referrals done, with users.

The Grand Digital World

In the fast evolving cloud business environment all the above touch points and relationships are digitized seamlessly into the product and the user is not supposed to leave the app to get their feedback registered.
This requires your Product team to understand the Marketing priorities, and the Marketing team to let your Product team understand the necessity of incorporating certain features for customer enablement.

Customer Activation

Once a website visitor is convinced about the product and the moment s/he decides to signup, On-boarding process begins. This is generally called customer activation which involves a string of steps.
There are high chances for a user to bounce off during the on-boarding process if there is no clarity or simplicity to achieve what they intend to, during the process.
Here is where the Product team, which virtually owns on-boarding, needs to sync up with Digital Marketing team to understand the user behavior and design the on-boarding effectively — taking care of information to be collected from user, number of steps to activate the product, time taken to complete the process, what the user should do once in the application, launching email programs to guide the users during trial usage etc.

Referral and Feedback process

The journey of the two functions does not stop once a user adopts the product. Launching referral programs and enabling a feedback process which could help both marketing and product optimize their roadmap requires them to continue working together.
Deployment of customer deployment applications like Intercom , right time to connect with the users when in the application, drive user communication and feedback, getting issues resolved and optimizing feature roadmap based on the feedback etc. highly depend on how far these functions go hand in hand and understand each others’ limitations and priorities.

And so..

Every successful SaaS product would have recognized this need, at some point of business cycle, to bring together marketing and product teams to make the customer lifecycle healthy.
The products that do not realize this take a long time to iterate, get feedback from customers and change the way user-product interactions work. Such products require a change in mentality, inter-team processes and team structures. While established product organizations may struggle to understand and initiate such a change, this is just imminent.