Just before the end of the year, I worked closer to marketing and sales teams, crafting pitch decks for potential clients. This is not the core job of a product designer in tech, but it does happen, especially when you are in a startup, and to be honest, I find it incredibly useful.
As designers, we are obsessed with crafting experiences for our users, but we forget that creating stunning products is just a fraction of what’s needed to sell products. To truly succeed, we must recognise the importance of other teams in selling what we create.
There are a few examples of great businesses that connect the dots between marketing, sales, and design to ensure that a product sells. Let’s look at Amazon and Airbnb.
Working backwards at Amazon
Amazon is well known for using a backwards approach to projects. They start with a final idea and create a press release detailing the product name, features, benefits, customer testimonials and FAQs. This method might seem counterintuitive, but it provides a holistic perspective that guides design decisions and stakeholder conversations. Writing things down helps flesh out ideas and delve into details.
A while ago, we created a ‘New products’ cross-functional squad to focus on new product ideas, and we employed this methodology with the help of someone on our team who worked at Amazon. I personally found this way of working helpful at an early stage because it helped me refine ideas.
It is easy to jump on a cool idea without understanding what it entails. Thinking backwards forced us to do more initial research and go deep into the details.
This helped me, as a designer, create concepts with a clear direction. It also supported conversations with executives and provided more details to help decide on the go-ahead.
Airbnb forges collaboration (and doesn’t get rid of PMs, sorry!)
Recently, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky delivered a fantastic talk at Config 2023. I am sure you know what I am talking about- if not, where have you been? And also, there’s a link below 🙂
Beyond the excitement of designers about getting rid of the PM role – which is definitely not what he said – I was captured by how Chesky described the relationship between designers, engineers and marketers, working together towards clear product goals.
He acknowledged that in many companies, marketers are perceived as waiters and engineers as chefs. If, like me, you worked in hospitality, you know what it means: chefs usually yell at everyone, and the rest of the crew just follows, making it a less-than-ideal relationship.
Chesky describes a process where they involve marketers early in the product development phase. Marketers work with designers to establish a vision and tell a compelling story. This collaborative approach helps ensure that the marketing messages inform the product roadmap and design.
The idea is to break down silos between different functions and create a harmonious relationship between design and marketing, ultimately enhancing the overall user experience.
Collaboration in a Saas business
Collaborating with marketing and sales is even more critical when you work in a SaaS business, especially if you work in a pretty niche industry like me!
The main reason is customers.
It can be almost impossible to find the right people to interview, run usability testing or observe whilst they perform essential tasks. In my experience, I have also gone out to agencies to find users that matched our profiles, but they haven’t been that helpful.
That’s when marketing and sales become very useful as they can help designers get closer to customers and users. At the same time, other teams are able to share their insights based on the conversations they have had with customers or potential customers.
This might not be high quality type of research and I am the first one being skeptics of sales insights, however they do offer an initial steer for design that is better than starting completely blind.
Of course, what has worked for me, Amazon, or Airbnb doesn’t mean that it works for you. But we all say that we collaborate, work together as a team, and… bla bla bla. But are you actually finding the right synergies across the business that can help you achieve your goals quicker and better?