June 11, 2019

Coexisting inside the product: A guide for product-led marketing

With the rise of customizable and user-friendly tools for in-app messaging, marketers are invading a space previously gatekept by product managers: inside the product itself. Marketers no longer need to wait on engineering or product teams to make changes to the way they’re communicating during the product experience. And that’s huge.

This change presents incredible opportunities, and when these tools are used correctly, they can help teams move faster and communicate with users more effectively.

But as great as this shift in power is for marketers, it can be really frustrating for product managers and leaders. Product teams spend a lot of time researching, planning, and designing products with a specific experience in mind. When marketing adds a layer of in-app messaging on top of that, it affects the ways users experience the product.

This kind of impact shouldn’t happen without product’s knowledge. Product doesn't need to know about every marketing email, but they should probably know about all the modals and tooltips.

This isn't to say that product necessarily needs oversight or approval, it's more about awareness and alignment—and ultimately, leveraging each team’s talents and insights to build better user experiences.

How to keep product and marketing on the same page

Get your process buttoned up before it becomes a problem! And no, this doesn’t just mean having your marketing team work off template builds or copying some CSS and calling it a day. A product-led strategy requires communication and cohesion to succeed—that means genuine understanding and collaboration between teams, not begrudging coexistence within the product.

Here are some tactics for making sure your marketing efforts keep step with product:

1. Establish design requirements

Anyone responsible for creating user experiences within your product should know (or know where to find information about) your brand’s guidelines on button color, text size and weight, capitalization, and any other design or content patterns.

If your design team doesn’t already have one, work with them to create a document that outlines design requirements in clear terms. A design requirements doc creates a single source of truth—and can ease designer anxieties about letting marketing folks into the product.

You could get even more in-depth by creating a complete design system, with prescriptions and best-practices for using each design component. But if you’re starting from square one, start small—if a simple style guide will help your teams stay aligned and keep your branding consistent, that’s more important and probably more useful to your marketing team than a comprehensive design system.

2. Build a resource library

Create a repository of approved images. Source all the images, icons, and other design resources you might need in one place like a Dropbox or Google Drive folder and ask your design team for some guidance on how to use images correctly.

Again, you could build this out into a design system, but consider your shared folder an MVP for now.

Also, make sure you have an easy process in place for new design requests and have a clear understanding of realistic timelines.

3. QA, QA, QA

Build a tracking sheet or use a tool like Asana to QA all of your messaging before it goes live.

This will help everyone involved in your product, including customer support folks who often bear the brunt of any misplaced messaging.

Your QA process should check for proper segmentation, correct personalization, page placement, and any other variables that could affect the user experience.

4. Be transparent

Nothing great is built in a vacuum.

Show what you're building, let it live somewhere people can see, and encourage other teams to give feedback.

Your teammates in product may have a better understanding of where to effectively engage customers in your app, or weak areas to avoid. Your support and success teams can probably provide useful insights about customer pain points. And who knows? Maybe someone on the design team has spare time this week to help with custom CSS or graphics that you hadn’t considered—without transparency about what you’re working on, you won’t know!

It's also helpful to keep a running, comprehensive list of all your live experiences. That way, if product makes any changes or updates to your app, you know which messaging may or may not be affected.

5. Share results

Let people know what's been working (and not working) well.

Create dashboards or provide regular updates to keep other teams in the loop on your progress. Sharing results can spur people to come up with some cool ideas themselves, be better informed when they come to you for a request, or ask an important question that leads to an illuminating experiment.

Figuring out how to present your results effectively can take some trial and error. Start by presenting a range of analytics, and invite feedback about which ones people find informative and tweak your reporting over time.

Product + marketing = better UX

Agreeing on design requirements, putting systems in place, inviting feedback, and striving for transparency leads to understanding and empathy between teams. But that doesn’t mean you’ll always agree on approaches. If your product and marketing team (or CS, or sales, or anyone else for that matter) can’t see eye to eye on an experience, run A/B tests and see what the data says.

Remember, your teams may operate on different wavelengths and have different perspectives—but you’re all working toward the same goal: creating a better user experience that helps to drive growth.

Prior to her role as Product Manager at Appcues, Lyla was on the retention and engagement team at Litmus, where she focused on helping email marketers be their best selves. She works remotely from western Massachusetts.

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