I have never been a fan of fire drills. Not the drills to ensure you can get out of a building in under 120 seconds. I am talking about the ones that every marketing team knows and dreads — the last-minute, hair-on-fire work problems.
No team wants to hear these alarm bells go off. But coming from the marketing world, I can tell you that we hear them a lot. There is good news, though — panic mode can be avoided.
I learned this the hard way. A few years ago I was on a marketing team that supported more than 50 SaaS products. Most of those products were highly complex and served thousands of customers worldwide. But we faced a big internal struggle — the product team had challenges communicating what releases were coming and when.
Brrring brring! Enter the fire drills. New features would appear without warning. And panic would strike my team. Since we did not know these features were coming, we had no plan to market them. This left us in a constant state of catch-up, always scrambling to put together a last-minute, poorly organized product launch. (Can you say “dud”?)
In retrospect, I see that there was a simple solution to this problem. My team needed a clear product roadmap from the product management team.
Today, working at Aha! a clear product roadmap is one of my most valuable tools. And I think it can be for any marketer. For example, our recent Box integration was added to our product roadmap last month. Because we knew it was coming, we were able to coordinate a successful launch with blogs and social media activity from the Aha! team along with the product marketing group at Box.
Here is how your own marketing team will benefit from product roadmaps:
The number one way to prevent fire drills is to get everyone on the same page. With a shared product plan, your team will see exactly where the product is headed. Everyone will know the goals that have been set and when work will begin and end. You can then use that information to create your marketing goals and launch plans (panic-free).
In order to create a strong marketing message, you need to know who the customer is and the benefits the product provides. A roadmap is essential for this. In order to tell the product story, you need to understand it. And that takes time. The benefit to a clear roadmap — and following along as it shifts — your team will be armed with the knowledge to craft more meaningful messages.
We all know that bringing a product to market is a huge effort. And the larger the product launch, the greater the need to prepare. But you cannot work on something that you do not know is coming. A product roadmap is your marketing forecast — it shows you what is ahead so you can plan successful launches.
If you want to avoid fire drills, you need to go to the source of the problem — lack of visibility.
Obviously, you cannot prepare for everything. But when your team is totally in the dark, it results in poor planning. Or often none at all. And I can guarantee that you will not be happy with the final outcome.
That is why the product roadmap is my best friend. We rely on clear and updated roadmaps in our marketing work at Aha! — and the team avoids panic and headaches. And I know that customers benefit as well as we are better prepared to explain exactly what is new and why it matters.
How do you avoid fire drills at work?