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As product marketers, we’re often highly visible with feature launches, positioning and messaging, and go-to-market strategy.
And this is actually scarier than it seems. We go from working in the business-as-usual back office for most of the time, to suddenly being thrust in the spotlight.
Add to that, we often need to encourage people in other teams to do work on our behalf too. This might mean shifting priorities, adding new resources, updating their processes, and sometimes completely reinventing the way they work.
Plus, not all launches go smoothly! There’s usually an element of iteration and testing in our work: we need to put things out in the world and then learn. Without proper management, this can cause a drop in motivation and confidence issues across the business.
To really drive maximum results, we need to shift our mindset away from just “sharing internal updates” and team enablement. Instead we need to consider how we proactively manage internal communication.
In this post:
An internal comms framework to save
It’s a helpful framework to have available and ready to consider whenever you need, until it becomes part of your muscle memory.
- When a project requires a considered approach to internal communication – and as with all good strategy – it’s recommended to start with an analysis of the current context and understand the background. For example, this might be a product that has a long history of stops-and-starts and low success.
- Doing this with input from all those impacted – like a cross-section of sales, marketing, success and even supporting teams like billing and finance – will help identify any potential issues and alternatives.
- In your project you’ll set a vision and make choices about the direction that teams will need to work with. in conjunction with teams, you need to understand what gaps exist and the changes required to get from A (today) to B (destination).
- The action plan you’ll create needs to consider four core components: people, structure and process, culture, and measures and rewards.
- From here, the only thing left to do is implement and experiment, with a feedback loop to help you quickly adapt and evolve.
Action plan components
100% of the success of your work relies on 1) whether you have the right people in the right places, 2) how they work together in the organization, 3) the culture that guides their execution, and 4) how they are incentivized.
Let’s look at people.
Twice, I’ve had to have tricky conversations with leadership teams and convince them that they don’t have the right people. Usually, companies that scale fast hire lots of people who can ‘repeat’ – but when time comes to pivot and adapt, they’re not able to keep up. Their preferences for safe comfort zones leads to a lack of engagement with the ‘new world’. All we, as PMMs, can do is to highlight issues and push for resolution, and have candid conversations with leadership.
How teams work together in an organization is a crucial part of strategy success. Most ‘teams’ are actually working groups: a set of individuals with their own goals, managed top-down with performance rated individually. That’s not a team!
A team should be a collaborative approach by a team with a common vision and built-in ownership. Results are achieved and shared.
Your go-to-market team, of cross-functional experts from across the business, should hopefully be a team – not just a working group.
These people should be jointly responsible for setting the structure and process that defines how their peers operate. They’ll be best placed to understand the objective, set process, and support implementation. Structure and process should not just be the way the work is done, but how feedback is heard, changes are managed, and anomalies are processed.
And then incentives. As product marketers, how do you encourage and motivate teams to jump in to the new world? We can influence management and reporting lines to offer spiffs, but tangible incentives are never enough.
Instead, we can treat frontline teams as internal customers, consider the ‘value’ they desire, and position the new world accordingly. How will this new approach help sales to improve quota attainment by selling faster, moving upmarket easier, and justifying higher average contract values? How will this new thing help CX to be less stressed with unhappy customers, and instead focus on delivering proactive support and account expansion?
Tips for maximum internal comms results
There are a few things I’ve taken away from product launches and other changes that have driven hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, and engaged thousands of team members at various companies.
- Consider support teams. These teams may have more procedural changes to update, which can make or break the ease of change for other teams.
- People want to emulate success. So when working on iterative projects, create internal case studies: working in this new way made X more successful, or Y found it easier to sell faster.
- Ultimately, incentives and motivations matter the most. Sales reps can’t (and won’t) dedicate time to something they can’t count as part of their quota. Get creative with spiffs, bonuses, and competitions to gamify engagement.
- People want clarity. Ambiguity is difficult to manage. Nuance is difficult to communicate. It’s harder to simplify than to add complexity.
- Avoid communicating solely by decks. You’ll need to write long-form documents and put opinions to paper. Decks are better produced when they are summarising something else.
- Communicate up, early. You’ll need sign-off and approval, and that’s easiest when your stakeholders have been brought along the journey already.
- Consider how people will ‘get on board’ with change. Usually, they might have a few hours of ‘getting to grips’ before they’re expected to get results with it – is that fair? Depending on the size of the change you should give advance warning, lots of support, lots of practice and Q&A sessions – and allow enough time for a decent ramp-up to full power.
- Open the door. Everyone will feel more confident and comfortable when they feel heard. Be transparent, communicate early, ask for feedback publicly and privately.
Hopefully these can help you achieve better results by working as a team, transparently, and considering the needs of your stakeholders. Think more about internal comms as a core lever to the success of your go-to-market strategy, not just part of the execution, and you’ll see a stepchange in behavior… and feel momentum build with ease.
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