Innovation Happens when Product Folks and Marketers Learn to Dance Together

Most clients hire me to help with marketing. Really though, marketing is not the biggest challenge. If the products (or services) are not solving a customer’s problem elegantly, no amount of marketing finesse is going to make it work.

But I’m totally okay with people hiring me to help with marketing. Wherever they want to start the conversation works. Here’s why.

Imagine product folks and marketers as two neighbors with a big fence in between. Each neighbor is throwing stuff over the fence. Sometimes they are throwing treasures, sometimes trash. The other neighbor has no idea what is coming, why and when. Imagine you are sitting down to a nice meal outside and over the fence comes sailing a boot filled with mud and holes. And the neighbor yells, “Make that do something, will you?” Even if a beautiful pot of flowers comes over the fence, you can get knocked unconscious if you are not expecting it.

My job is to tear down that fence, as quickly as possible! And to teach these two neighbors to dance.

Fence by Jay Mantri

Both neighbors bring a lot to the dance floor. Great product folks deliver amazing products and services. Great marketers know how to reach people to share the news.

But to dance well, they need:

  1. A super clear vision from leadership
  2. A constant stream of data from the customers about that vision and what we do
  3. A system to hold it all together – a Marketing / Product Development Pipeline


Marking / Product Development Pipeline Layers

Marketing / Product Development Pipeline - Layers

Here’s how the layers work together:

Leaders Lead

The job of the leader is to embody the vision and to provide a calm center in the storm of possibility. The leader listens and coalesces all the inputs but does not say yes to everything.

Most of what I do at Press the Go Button is help leaders lead. It is listening and asking the right questions at the right time. It is reminding them of their humanity, and how they can lean back on data and systems. It is teaching them how to communicate their intense creativity and how to put it into workable chunks for their team. It is making it safe to be wrong, unsure and afraid. It is reminding them to celebrate the true victories.


Decisions Are Based on Data

When we start, we are taking our best guess about customers, campaigns and tactics. We are emulating best practices we see in the world. But we systematically gather data from everything we do so the guessing (also known as gambling) stops as quickly as possible.

Everything can be tested. There is no need to have long meetings where people pontificate about what they think will work. Try the smallest, least expensive test. Get the data. Build the vocabulary. Hone, tweak, confirm, repeat.

There is an art to how you gather and share data. This is an area where I work intensely with clients. People will keep throwing items over the fence as long as they don’t understand the data. Tear down the fence – it’s all one backyard – let’s ensure we have the same view.

It can be challenging to find someone who has an intuition about data and a talent for communicating it to a team, but they are such an essential team member. My friend Jess calls them the magpies. They recognize items of value from across the enterprise, and gather it up. They find ways to share it so it’s completely clear. They combine disparate items so we can all see the patterns. I love finding and cultivating magpies because it is a talent that they don’t often mention in school, an art and science mixed together that can be the heartbeat of a strong team.


We Should Not Start with Tactics

All my clients start with tactics. They ask if I can help with a survey or a blog or an email. My question is always “why?” Why are you doing this, here, now? Why is the best use of your marketing resources (which are always limited)? What will this teach you that you can build on? What is your Vision, Customers and Campaign behind this tactic?

Starting with tactics (especially those with immeasurable results) is feeding the Marketing Vortex of the Universe. Don’t feed it. You will get to the end and wonder how you were so busy and achieved so little. It will steal you from family time, leisure time and team building. It will make people fight for agendas that don’t deserve the fight and steal our energy from fulfilling our mission.


We Can Absorb and Process All the Ideas

My clients are creative, dynamic people – and I’m not just saying that to be nice! Since they are creative and dynamic, they come up with ideas – millions of ideas. And then they spend an ENORMOUS amount of effort debating the ideas, often to the point of paralysis, or at least great FRICTION between team members.

It’s a lot more fun to say Yes than No to an enthusiastic team member. I used to lead marketing production teams, and my job was mostly to say No, we don’t have enough money / people / time.

What I love about creating a Marketing / Product Development Pipeline is that the decision is not based on scarcity. It’s based on data and reason. We will value everything side-by-side. You will help me do that. My heartfelt hope is that the process of valuing your idea will cause you to improve it, increase its value. My favorite thing to do in the world is work on high value ideas!!! So let’s build the value of your idea as sky-high as we can.

But if you don’t have enough energy to do that, you just threw a boot over the fence. Don’t be a boot thrower! Come dance with me instead. We are going to work on things in the order of most potential, most urgency. Life is short, we need to move the needle now.


You can see why I love my job. I get to tear down fences, teach dancing, build up the value of ideas, learn the language of customers, and the most fun – find secret talents in the people around me.

Would you like to learn how to dance?