Optimizing Your Product Marketing Strategy in 2021: How BizOps Can Help

    2020: The Slowest, Yet Busiest of Times

    I’ve seen a lot of references to what a long year 2020 was. It actually was a leap year, meaning we had 366 days to endure, but that’s not the point. With travel, dining, entertainment, time with friends, and family gatherings altered or restricted, I definitely get the sentiment of time dragging.

    That said, there’s also the saying that “time flies when you’re having fun.” I’d also say the same is true when you’re busy. By that measure, I can see a lot of folks feeling like 2020 came and went very quickly—and those responsible for product marketing strategy in the technology sector in particular can relate to that sentiment.

    For these marketing teams, there’s been plenty of upheaval, adversity, and opportunity, not always in equal measure. Over the course of 2020, marketing leaders were forced to scramble to adapt to new work-from-home realities, move in-person events to virtual, contend with personnel and budget changes, and much more—all while being tasked with hitting targets that may not have changed at all.

    Marketing and BizOps

    As marketing leaders move into 2021, it’s safe to say the pace of change won’t be slowing down any time soon. As they develop and execute their product marketing strategies, it’s important for these leaders to look at how an emerging approach called BizOps can help.

    A lot has been written about BizOps, particularly how this approach speaks to alignment between IT and the business. (For more on that topic, see our blog post on how BizOps offers a roadmap for IT and business alignment.) Often, “the business” in this context is taken to mean top-level business leadership, which is absolutely vital. However, BizOps doesn’t stop there. Ultimately, the full power of BizOps will only be unleashed when it fuels the elimination of silos across the organization, and marketing is definitely a discipline that can benefit.

    In the following sections, I take a look specifically at the role BizOps can play in helping marketing leaders optimize their product marketing strategy and help teams contend with their new 2021 imperatives.

    Business Outcome Alignment

    Within many organizations, sales cycles take too long because of inconsistent messaging, misaligned priorities, and a lack of consistent insight into buyer requirements.

    A core principle of BizOps is the alignment of resources, tactics, and strategies around key business outcomes. The BizOps Manifesto features four core values, one of which is to value “Business outcomes over individual projects and proxy metrics.” In addition, the Manifesto features this principle: “Business outcomes are the ultimate measure of digital transformation initiatives.”

    For marketing leadership, this alignment with business outcomes will require unprecedented levels of collaboration with top-level business leadership. This endeavor will also demand an enhanced product marketing strategy and execution to ensure resources available are applied to the most critical objectives.

    Agility

    Today’s technology providers are adapting to fluid market realities. This includes quickly evolving customer behaviors, priorities, and preferences; business models; competitive dynamics; technology models; and geopolitical realities. As mentioned above, business alignment is key; the challenge is that, with all this change occurring, top-level business objectives may be evolving as rapidly as everything else.

    Therefore, establishing—and sustaining—this alignment is simultaneously getting more difficult and more critical.

    Given all this, it’s no surprise that agility is a chief concern. One survey found that 41% of C-level executives said the top outcome they were hoping to achieve by implementing digital technologies was this: to be able to react more quickly to customer needs (this was the highest-rated response).1

    In the wake of all this change, there is no simplistic, ready-made product marketing strategy for every team. That said, suffice to say, the head-in-the-sand approach, applying the same tactics and strategies, regardless of what’s happening, is a pretty clear-cut recipe for disaster.

    Another one of the core principles of the BizOps Manifesto is to value “Learning and pivoting over following a rigid plan.” Product marketing teams will be well served by embracing this philosophy.

    To establish this ability to learn and pivot, teams need to eliminate silos, and promote better intelligence sharing across IT, business leadership, and marketing leadership. This also requires improved intelligence. Teams need to be able to see what is happening with customers and how their needs are evolving in order to respond to their demands.

    Align Marketing on Customer Value

    Another core principle of BizOps is around the central focus on delivering customer value. The first principle in the BizOps Manifesto reads, “Our highest priority is to wow customers and satisfy investors and stakeholders through continuous discovery and delivery of value-driven solutions.”

    To bring the wow factor, marketing programs will need to have a strengthened focus on customer outcomes and value. This is a clear move among technology product marketing teams. For example, according to a recent Gartner report, “By 2025, 75% of TSPs (technology and service providers) will incorporate business outcome/value and risk avoidance metrics within marketing programs and product offerings.”2

    Ultimately, establishing the customer focus needed will require more consistent, granular, strategic tracking of customer value metrics, including before, during, and after the sale. Through these efforts, teams can begin to realize a number of key objectives:

    • Establish more unified collaboration. It is vital to start tracking customer value metrics, and getting all customer-facing teams to be looking at the same metrics. This can be a great way to break down silos between sales, marketing, and service and better ensure the customer achieves desired outcomes.
    • Deliver more credible, compelling messages. Teams need to make sure that customer outcomes are translated into the most meaningful, compelling engagements. This includes not only maximizing the efficacy of interactions with new prospects, but more fully capitalizing on cross- and up-sell opportunities in existing accounts.

    Data-Driven Approaches

    Another primary value of BizOps is the focus on establishing a more a more data-driven approach. The BizOps Manifesto references the importance of valuing “Data-driven decisions over opinions, judgments, and persuasion.”

    This approach will entail not only employing data to refine marketing planning and investment, but to optimize customer engagement and interactions. This move is very much aligned with key trends taking place in marketing.

    Analysts at Gartner predict that, “By 2025, 60% of B2B sales organizations will transition from experience- and intuition-based selling to data-driven selling, merging their sales process, sales applications, sales data, and sales analytics into a single operational practice.”3

    By breaking down silos between different teams, and gaining a clearer understanding of the customer and their needs, teams will be far better suited to deliver more customer value. Further, they’ll be able to deliver the marketing messages and services that enable them to rise above the noise and the competition. When teams can leverage more data, and act on that data, they can more effectively pursue such initiatives as rapidly prototyping new offerings.

    Harness Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to Optimize Digital Interactions

    For years, digital interactions have grown to become an increasingly foundational component of technical product marketing, as well as sales and support; COVID-19 just turbo-charged that trend. What’s also clear is that this trend won’t be reversing any time soon. For example, a survey of consumers found 63% agreed they would continue to use digital technologies more often well after the pandemic subsides.4

    For this and many other reasons, the emphasis on digital sales and marketing engagements will only get stronger. A survey of C-level executives asked which functional areas will be most critical in the next year, and “digital technology” and “sales and marketing” were the two most-cited areas (receiving 68% and 63% responses respectively).5

    Emerging Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Opportunities

    As the volume and usage of data associated with this digital activity continues to grow, it is increasingly vital for teams to establish unified intelligence that spans previously discrete domains. These teams will then need to apply artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to this aggregated data.

    This move is very much in alignment with this BizOps principle: “Today’s organizations generate more data than humans can process, so informed decisions must be augmented by advanced analytics and AI/ML.”

    Marketing teams will need to form a more strategic relationship with IT and data science teams to adapt and capitalize on this reality. That means partnering to ensure better integration of disparate systems and services to gain better visibility into customer needs, and to facilitate better collaboration across all teams that interact with customers and prospects.

    Advantages

    Buyers expect open, connected, intuitive, and immediate digital interactions. Through unified, AI-driven intelligence, teams can better anticipate the needs of customers, and more consistently meet and exceed those needs.

    In addition, the increased reliance on AI and digital channels can present marketing teams with expanding opportunities for harnessing intelligence. One key strategy that can be pursued is the move to more advanced, account-based marketing. Through increasing digital interactions, teams can capture more data around individual contacts, as well as buying groups and accounts. Ultimately, teams can move from focusing on individual leads to gaining contextual visibility into buying groups, and so more fully optimize their strategies and tactics.

    Conclusion

    There have been no shortage of challenges confronting product marketing teams, and it’s a safe bet that fast change and rapidly emerging imperatives will continue in 2021. At the same time, there are significant opportunities as well, and BizOps represents a key strategy that can help teams capitalize on these opportunities. Through BizOps, teams can establish the agility and data-driven insights that fuel success, not only of product marketing, but of the entire business.

    To learn more about the core strategies behind this approach, be sure to review our “What is BizOps?” page.

    1. Deloitte Insights, “2021 Global Marketing Trends: Find Your Focus, 2020”

    2. Gartner, “Tech Providers 2025: Transformed Buyers and Customers Force Evolution,” September 2020, (G00725231)

    3. Gartner, “The Future of Sales in 2025: A Gartner Trend Insight Report” (G00730671)

    4. Deloitte Insights, “2021 Global Marketing Trends: Find Your Focus, 2020”

    5. IBID