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  • Writer's pictureEric Doherty

"What Does Taylor Swift Have to Do With Product and Marketing for a B2B Tech Company?"


B2B Marketing and Product Development


Introduction


At first glance, the connection between global pop sensation Taylor Swift and the intricate world of B2B product development, sales, and marketing might seem tenuous at best. However, in the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing, the relevance of trending topics like Taylor Swift, who consistently dominates social and mainstream media, cannot be overstated.


The power of trending topics lies in their ability to capture public attention – a crucial element for any marketing strategy. In fact, Taylor Swift's recent album releases and social media activities generate significant buzz, illustrating the magnetic pull of current trends. This phenomenon is not lost on savvy B2B marketers and product managers, who are increasingly leveraging such trends to promote their products and services.


By actively listening to and capitalising on these trending topics, B2B product, sales, and marketing teams can remain top-of-mind with their current customers and prospects, creating a connection through shared touchpoints. This strategy is not about the direct relevance of the trend to the product, but about harnessing the trend's momentum to drive engagement and visibility. The following steps outline how B2B companies can effectively run ideation sessions, aligning cross-functional teams to enhance product features and roadmap development, all while staying attuned to the pulse of trending topics that re relevant to their target market. i.e. If you are a Cyber Security Company the recent announcement from the Australian Federal Government of a $587M spend in this space and high-profile hacks by “bad actors” creates an opportunity for your products or services.

Here is an in-depth guide to position your product and services aligned with the trending topic for your team.

 

1. Preparation and Agenda Setting (Duration: 1 week before the session)


 - Objective: Define the goals of the ideation session, such as identifying potential feature enhancements or exploring new functionality.

 - Actions:

     - Appoint a facilitator to lead the session.

     - Create a diverse team comprising domain experts, sales and marketing professionals, product managers, and developers.

     - Conduct pre-session surveys or interviews to gather initial ideas and insights.

     - Develop an agenda with clear objectives and time allocations.

 

 2. Kickoff and Introduction (Duration: 30 minutes)


   - Objective: Align the team on the session’s goals and encourage open communication.

   - Actions:

     - Facilitator to outline the session’s objectives.

     - Quick introduction round to build rapport.

     - Emphasise the importance of diverse perspectives.

 

3. Brainstorming Session (Duration: 1-2 hours)


   - Objective: Generate a wide range of ideas for feature enhancement or new functionality.

   - Actions:

     - Use techniques like mind mapping, SWOT analysis, or the SCAMPER method to stimulate creative thinking.

     - Encourage free-flowing ideas without immediate critique.

     - Document all ideas for later analysis.


It is crucial to delve deeper into the methodologies employed: mind mapping, SWOT analysis, and the SCAMPER method. Each of these techniques plays a vital role in stimulating creative thinking and generating a wide array of ideas, which are essential for successful ideation in a cross-functional team.

 

a. Mind Mapping:


   - Description: Mind mapping is a visual brainstorming tool that encourages participants to generate ideas around a central concept. It helps in organizing thoughts and exploring various aspects of an idea in a non-linear manner.

   - Implementation:

     - Begin with a central idea or problem statement at the centre of a whiteboard or digital mind mapping tool.

     - Team members contribute ideas, which are then branched out from the central idea.

     - Each branch can lead to further sub-branches, encouraging exploration of different aspects or subtopics.

     - This visual representation helps in seeing connections between different ideas and can spark new thoughts.

     - Mind mapping is particularly useful for complex problems where ideas are interconnected.

 

b. SWOT Analysis:


   - Description: SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning tool used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or business venture.

   - Implementation:

     - Divide the team into groups, each focusing on one aspect of SWOT.

     - Strengths and Weaknesses are typically internal factors, such as resources, expertise, or processes.

     - Opportunities and Threats are external elements, like market trends, competition, or regulatory changes.

     - Discuss and list relevant points under each category, encouraging team members to consider both positive and negative aspects.

     - This method helps in understanding the internal capabilities and external environment, which can influence the feasibility and success of the ideas generated.

 

c. SCAMPER Method


   - Description: SCAMPER is a creative thinking technique that involves asking questions about existing products, services, or processes to generate new ideas.

  - Implementation:

  - SCAMPER is an acronym for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, and Rearrange.

   - The facilitator presents each SCAMPER category, one at a time, and prompts the team to think about how these actions could apply to their product or service.

 - For example, asking "What can we substitute in our current feature set?" or "How can we combine this feature with another to create something new?"

  - This method is particularly effective in challenging the team's thinking and pushing the boundaries of traditional ideas.

 - It helps in looking at existing elements in new ways, which can lead to innovative feature enhancements or functionalities.


Employing these techniques in a brainstorming session enables the team to explore ideas from multiple angles. Mind mapping offers a holistic view of interconnected ideas, SWOT analysis provides a structured evaluation of internal and external factors, and the SCAMPER method encourages innovative thinking by reimagining existing elements. Together, they form a comprehensive toolkit for generating and refining ideas in a cross-functional team setting, particularly in the context of a B2B company looking to enhance its product features and roadmap.


4. Group Discussion and Refinement (Duration: 1 hour)


   - Objective: Narrow down ideas based on feasibility, market demand, and alignment with business goals.

   - Actions:

     - Group similar ideas and discuss their merits and challenges.

     - Use voting or ranking systems to prioritise ideas. I introduced the RICE (Reach, Impact, Confidence and Effort) Methodology for a client to rank and score development efforts and it helped tremendously to provide some critical thinking to prioritiation of development teams efforts especially when you have limited resources. It is way better then the original method of "we put our finger in the air and decide". Its very simple to impliment , an objective measure based on subjective inputs from the team.

     - Also consider other market trends and existing customer feedback.

 

5. Feasibility Analysis and Prototyping (Duration: 1-2 weeks)


   - Objective: Assess the practicality of the top ideas.

   - Actions:

     - Assign cross-functional sub-teams to conduct detailed analyses.

     - Create basic prototypes or mockups if applicable.

     - Gather feedback from stakeholders and refine ideas.

 

6. Integration into Product Roadmap (Duration: 1 week)


   - Objective: Finalise how the chosen ideas will be integrated into the product roadmap.

   - Actions:

   - Define clear timelines and milestones for development.

   - Assign roles and responsibilities for implementation.

   - Update the product roadmap and communicate changes to relevant stakeholders.

 

7. Follow-Up and Review (Ongoing)


   - Objective: Monitor progress and gather feedback for continuous improvement.

   - Actions:

   - Schedule regular check-ins and progress reviews.

   - Be open to iterating on the ideas based on new information or feedback.

   - Celebrate successes and learn from challenges.



Harnessing Cross-Functional Collaboration for Innovative B2B Product Roadmapping
Harnessing Cross-Functional Collaboration for Innovative B2B Product Roadmapping

Real World Example


Here is a real world example of a Cybersecurity software company leveraging a trending topic that I was involved in, As we were a scrappy vendor punchin well above our wieght it was a lot less formal then the above method I have described.

 

In 2013 the Australian Signals Directorate released guidance that was a predessecor to the Essential 8, which was advice from a federal government agency to government departments and industry on how to secure thier critical data and best practice. It created a huge buzz in the industry as the existing standard, the Information Security Manual required a very high degree of profiencency to impliment where this new set of guidelines was relatively easy to impliment (and I stress relatively). This is what we did in response.

 

1. Opportunity Recognition: After spotting the trend, I consulted our sales engineer about possible actions.

2. Idea Generation: Together, we realised a dashboard could be created to show the organisation's status regarding essential guidelines using a traffic light system.

3. Initial Development: Our first attempt was downright ugle, yet it validated the idea. We took another week to enhance it our spare time.

4. Testing and Validation: We approached select longstanding clients for feedback on this innovation. Their enthusiasm confirmed its potential. Consequently, the CEO involved both an external marketing agency and the development team leader to take it to market.

5. Implementation Planning: This feature was scheduled for the upcoming major release, with defined stages for beta testing and additional feedback.

6. Promotion Strategy: The marketing agency produced various promotional materials, including content, web pages, informational papers, and brochures about this development.


This dashboard became a highly sought-after feature, attracting new clients and strengthening existing relationships. For around a year, we ranked first in organic searches for "Essential 8 Compliance Dashboard" before larger competitors emulated our strategy. Even now, searching for this term often shows them among the top three organic results.


They recently claimed to a client of ours that this niche was a significant market differentiator, not bad for a thought bubble in response to a trending topic that was knocked up and released to a select few in under a week.


Conclusion

 

By following this structured approach which can sometimes be informal, B2B companies can effectively run ideation sessions that not only foster innovation but also ensure that new features and functionalities are in line with market trends and customer needs. The key to success lies in the collaborative efforts of cross-functional teams, guided by a clear methodology and driven by a deep understanding of market dynamics. This approach not only leads to the development of relevant and competitive products but also strengthens the company's position as a forward-thinking leader in its industry.

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