by John Mansour
“Slow down! I can’t learn all the new functionality that fast.”
“Can you accelerate the delivery of feature X? The competition is killing us on that one.”
What’s the appropriate cadence of agile releases that would satisfy marketing and sales? Finding that delicate balance is frustrating for many agile product teams. The fix is simple. Don’t change the cadence of agile releases. If product teams make a few simple tweaks to the content they feed marketing and sales, and marketing tweaks the structure of the company’s positioning, marketing and sales will thrive in an agile world.
Here are three tactics that will help marketing and sales reap the benefits of more frequent product releases.
1. Product Teams – Theme Your Releases
For releases that deliver significant market value, create themes as a way of communicating the intent to meet critical business objectives of your target markets. For example, “The goal of the next two releases is to improve front-desk productivity and reduce staffing costs while also improving the customer experience.”
The business-value themes defined before development become the storylines of your marketing and sales positioning when the solutions are released to market.
2. Product Teams – Create User Stories That Have Life After Development
User stories simply everything when the context stays true to a user scenario – Who am I? What am I doing? Why? Expected outcome/benefit?
Product teams own the quality of the user-story content and when they nail it, life becomes easier for everyone downstream, especially marketing and sales. Good user stories take the emphasis away from positioning detailed features and specs and put it right where it belongs – on the problematic business scenarios you’ve addressed.
The business objectives (release themes) with supporting user stories are the most critical part of marketing and selling. If you can articulate the issues, challenges and needs better than your competition, buyers assume your product solutions are also superior. Product details only serve to illustrate the proof points of your value story and should therefore play second fiddle to the business scenarios. Go deep into products only when pushed.
3. Marketing – Tier Your Value Propositions
If your company’s positioning revolves around products, agile development and frequent releases will bring marketing and sales to their knees because products are in a constant state of flux.
Tiered value propositions are the key to making life easier for marketing and sales when it comes to the frequency of agile product releases. Why? Your core value propositions won’t change that often when they’re more closely tied to the market dynamics and business objectives of your target customers than products. In a tiered positioning structure, agile releases provide a steady stream of proof points (business/user scenarios) that constantly strengthen your higher level value themes.
Use a two-tiered structure to develop your value propositions and frequent agile releases will delight your marketing and sales teams.
- Tier 1 – The Value of Your Company
Regardless of how it’s written or verbalized the essence of the message is “my company exists for one reason, to make organizations like yours (industry context) successful by doing something unique.
- Tier 2 – The Value of Your Business Solutions
For the departments where your products are most relevant, build value propositions that speak to the business goals of each department and position “solutions” that align accordingly. For example:
- Customer service solutions that help you differentiate
- IT solutions that reduce the cost of compliance
Incorporating the above tactics into your agile process gives marketing and sales a longer list of differentiating proof points with every agile release. What’s not to love?
Updates to marketing content and sales tools will be incremental and only required when significant functionality is released. Learning the value of new user stories is far easier than memorizing gory product details that don’t really matter in marketing and sales situations.
Agile development is a dream come true for marketing and sales when product companies keep their focus on target market dynamics, buyer business objectives and user scenarios.
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John Mansour is the founder and president of Proficientz, a company that specializes in B2B product portfolio management.