Engineering-led companies typically include a product marketing function. Embedded with the Product and Engineering team, product marketers are the voice of the customer, ensuring that the products they manage capture their needs (stated or unstated) and that the market knows all about a company’s latest innovation.
What if your company doesn’t have a product marketing team, or perhaps the product marketing team is under-resourced? There is a way forward.
The big idea: Recruit a team of internal evangelists to lead product go-to-market (GTM). If your company has a team responsible for customer success, they are a perfect fit for this role, though almost anyone can become an effective product evangelist.
What job requirements should evangelists expect?
Sharing their feedback and that which they receive from customers and colleagues in structured, regular ways with product and engineering to improve product functionality, performance and stability. This is “voice of the customer” work that very few products can succeed without.
Alpha and beta testing
Inspiring and educating colleagues and customers about new product capabilities and benefits.
Ensuring that everyone who is customer-facing is fluent in product knowledge.
Answering questions about product functionality and best practices.
Talking colleagues and customers off the ledge when they confuse having to learn something new with something that doesn’t work as well as the incumbent product, something all of us who have felt lost after a smartphone software update can relate to.
I led the charge at my company to recruit and unleash a team of about 10 evangelists to launch our latest marketing software. Here are the key steps to getting it right, as well as a few lessons we learned along the way.
Get Product and Engineering buy-in: Using internal evangelists will be unconventional for most engineers and product managers. Getting our SVP of Product & Engineering to buy in ensured that our evangelists would get the support they needed.
Do a little “anti-sell” when recruiting Evangelists: Since evangelism requires volunteers to work outside their day jobs, it’s important that they know what they’re signing up for. It will require more hours for as long as the engagement lasts. Be honest when describing the commitment. You don’t want evangelists quitting when the going gets tough.
Start the evangelism early: Don’t wait until your product managers have wireframes of a product’s UI. Ideally, your evangelists will be in a position to review product or marketing requirement documents (PRDs, MRDs), a stage that precedes anything close to being ready for customers.
Assign evangelism team leads: Our evangelists met as a team at least once a week. You’ll want team captains to set the agenda and hold others accountable for action items.
Check in with Product & Engineering along the way: Are the evangelists creating value? Are they delivering feedback on time? Are they easy to work with? There’s only one way to find out: ask Product and Engineering.
Evangelists can make pretty good collateral: We wanted to make some product posters to hang around the office, especially as we got close to general availability. By that point, and with an assist from our Creative team, no one knew how to translate the product’s features into eye-catching signs better than our Evangelists. They also can help update your company’s website and create leave-behind materials for your customers.
Publicly celebrate your Evangelists: If your company holds all-hands meetings, plan on celebrating your Evangelists and their contributions. We got ours a simple gift that ordinarily goes just to product managers and engineers. It was inexpensive but meant a lot.
By now, you might have concluded that evangelists could work just as well at companies that have well resourced product marketing functions. You’d be right. Evangelism can work in just about any scenario.