Stress is a normal part of product marketing on a good day. Your team has a lot of responsibilities to balance, and it’s a constant juggling act. But no business is having a good day right now (or week, or month, or quarter). We’re all facing huge changes and outside stressors due to the effects of the novel coronavirus.
Product marketing teams are now facing all the usual challenges, but intensified by a number of new factors. All of your team members are stressed out, scared, and distracted by the daily news. Many are also balancing childcare duties or sharing a small space with partners that are also suddenly working from home. And lots of businesses are having to tackle new challenges on top of the familiar ones, such as disruptions in the supply chain and layoffs or furloughs.
Across industries and business types, reduced productivity is inevitable. But you still have a lot of responsibilities to meet. So how do you manage to still get as much done as possible in the wake of everything going on around us?
Step 1: Slow down.
It feels counterintuitive, but improving efficiency comes from better planning and organization. That means taking a step back from everything else you’re doing to analyze the best path forward. There’s a chance your team members are focusing their limited energy on tasks that don’t match your primary needs. This step will help you recognize any weaknesses in the way you’re doing things now, and identify ways to improve.
To do this:
- Talk to your team – Start by working to understand where their focus is now and what they’re dealing with. Get a realistic idea of how much they can accomplish, and what they need in order to keep doing their jobs in the new state of things. For instance, if they made a quick transition to work from home, do they all have access to the right technology to do their work?
- Talk to the teams you work with – Now go beyond your own team. Find out what sales, marketing, and product development are all dealing with right now. What are their current struggles and priorities? Have they made changes to their strategies, or dealt with disruptions to their projects?
- Clarify the main challenges you’re facing – Any realistic plan you create needs to take into account the challenges you’re all dealing with. Identifying and naming them will help you keep them top of mind in your planning.
- Revise your goals, if needed – Based on your analysis of the current state of things, are your former goals still relevant? You may be able to stick with what you had, or you may want to change your goals to match your current needs and challenges.
Taking time to fully understand where you are now and what you’re dealing with will ensure that the framework you create is realistic and focused on actual needs.
Step 2: Clarify the hierarchy of priorities.
Now you have a clear idea of what your needs are, which is a good start. But you’re still looking at a big stack of to-dos that you have limited time and budget to address. It’s time to look hard at all the projects and tasks your team is balancing and start prioritizing.
Look at them all through the lens of your goals. Based on what you most want to achieve—whether that’s increased revenue, improved customer satisfaction, a higher share of the market, or something else—assign relative value to each task and project on your list. This isn’t easy and can be surprisingly emotional. You may need to make some difficult decisions and scrap some projects entirely, or put them on pause until the crisis has passed.
But when your product marketing team has limited capacity and a long list of competing priorities, you need to be realistic about what you can actually achieve. And doing a couple of things well is better than being so spread thin that you do a dozen badly.
Step 3: Consider tools to increase efficiency.
Now review your current processes to look for opportunities where you can work smarter rather than harder. Is anyone on your team doing tedious work that could be taken over by automation? Are there tasks you do now that can be sped up or simplified with a better tool for organization or analysis? Is there any repetitive work you can make more efficient by creating templates or guidelines to use?
You may be able to decrease the workloads of many of the people on your team by finding the right tools and resources to make their jobs easier. When they can complete a task just as well with less work, it opens up time to manage some of the other competing priorities on your list.
Step 4: Create an updated strategy.
Once you’ve taken the time to analyze, prioritize, and identify the tools to equip your team with, you need an updated strategy to put everything you’ve learned into practice. Update which projects get top focus, and create realistic timelines based on what your team can feasibly manage right now. Provide clear assignments to everyone so they know what to focus on. And make sure you provide any needed training for new products or processes you’re implementing.
Be willing to move some projects or tasks to a “wishlist” to get back to later. It’s better to limit your focus now to the things that are most important, and ensure your team can do them well before you move on to other initiatives.
Step 5: Check in and update as needed.
We’re all facing a lot of uncertainty right now, and no one knows what the world will look like in a matter of weeks. Make sure your strategy includes room for flexibility. Change isn’t just possible, it’s certain.
Build a plan into the strategy for reviewing things as you go and revising them as needed. Make a habit out of checking in with your team members and cohorts in other departments to see what they need and learn of any new challenges that arise.
Update your goals, priorities, and plans as often as the changing world requires. Agility is more important right now than ever, and the businesses that learn how to adapt to the changing landscape will fare the best as we come out of this crisis.