Attention DevOps and Marketing: You’re on the Same Team

Think DevOps is just about development and operations working together? Think again. See how marketing can, and should, get into the conversation.

Technology has undeniably brought developers and marketing professionals closer together. As the DevOps methodology continues to take hold in software development shops, it’s important to examine what effects this will have on the role of marketing.

Marketing’s relationship with DevOps is two-fold. First, there’s a good deal of internal overlap between the programs in which DevOps and marketing collaborate and require access. Second, marketers work with DevOps to better influence the user experience. What steps, for example, should you encourage your client to take after they’ve started to use your software platform?

Because developers aren’t on the front lines interacting with customers, they may not always be aware of the issues their audience is most concerned about. DevOps needs marketing in order to receive feedback and learn about gaps in functionality from customers and prospects. Meanwhile, the marketing team needs to understand what DevOps is focusing on so they can plan things such as promotions, roll-outs, and training.

Whether marketing and DevOps teams like it or not, they’re in a symbiotic relationship. Unfortunately, the two groups don’t always see eye-to-eye, even when it benefits them both. So — how can we change this?

Marketing and DevOps Want the Same Thing

Both developers and marketers want their company to be successful. They’re both working to bring in new customers; one is focusing on improving the actual product while the other is focusing on who to target and how to reach them.

The people whose job it is to promote the product or service are just as integral as those building and deploying code. This is because those promoting the software are the ones driving paying customers and facilitating engagement with the product beyond simply using it (i.e. social media, webinar events, tradeshows, etc.). Without those customers literally buying into the product and talking about it, therefore piquing venture capitalist interest or building an entirely self-sustaining revenue stream, there is no product to continuously develop.

While the software development lifecycle and the sales/marketing funnel are two separate concepts, they feed into one another. When you launch an update to your software, marketing is there to promote its new features via channels such as social media, emails, the website, press releases, events, and blog posts. Companies with partner programs in place also need to make sure they inform their partners of updates and changes since partners are fellow advocates of your software. They can then help share this information with shared prospects and customers. By managing and programmatically making the release or update announcements, marketing is able to gather vital feedback and insights that only your customers, partners, and prospects can provide.

This external feedback helps to drive the development process. By prioritizing customer feedback and feature requests users or partners (when within the realm of reason), you can better delight your base. But DevOps and marketing can only get to this point if they work together.

Marketing and sales also need to work with DevOps to connect to all the data. For instance, marketing and sales should be able to see user activity in their CRM and marketing automation systems. This will enable marketers to create more relevant content for users based on what they’re using your software for, how they’re using your software, or even how frequently they’re using your software.

Customer account managers, who also typically work out of a CRM, should be able to see open support tickets and customer usage, allowing them to step in when necessary on accounts they manage to see if they’re happy with support solutions. If there has been a noticeable drop (or spike) in usage, account managers can address possible issues or engage in an upsell opportunity.

When working to decrease customer churn, it’s also a good idea to give marketing visibility into customer tickets so they can work on engagement programs tailored to common issues.

But marketing can’t connect to this data without the help of DevOps.

Marketers create content and digital ads in an effort to increase the number of paid users of the product. DevOps can help with content creation by steering marketing in the right direction in terms of messaging. After all, they built the product — they know its selling points!

Know Each Other’s Goals

It’s ingrained in the mindset of DevOps to have a knee-jerk, “This is wrong!” reaction to the work of the marketing team. At DemandZEN, we’ve seen this response countless times since we work with both departments. Because of this, we understand the reasons behind DevOps’ reaction. And we’ve seen marketers handle these objections with grace and…something less than grace. For marketing and DevOps to come out the other end in a good mood (or still on speaking terms), it’s important to know where each side is coming from.

DevOps’ reaction is often due to the two teams not speaking the same language. Marketing uses marketing terms and abbreviations that devs likely don’t understand. And developers use technical language that marketing usually doesn’t get.

However, if teams share their goals with one another and have an ongoing dialogue, they can alleviate some of the common stress of miscommunication and misunderstanding. Meet semi-regularly to develop a more common language. Marketing will understand over time which terms need to be defined for the DevOps team, and likewise, DevOps will come to realize when technical language needs more explanation.

Why else should DevOps and marketing be made aware of one another’s goals? Let’s look at common marketing goals first.

Marketing is most likely looking to bring in a certain number of leads and convert a percentage of those leads into paying customers. Depending on the organization, objectives might be specific to the programs running (e.g. free trial, tradeshow event, etc.), type of lead (e.g. developers, CIOs, etc.), or a location (e.g. increasing presence on the west coast).

DevOps needs to be aware of this to better support the aspects of the software that marketing is spending time on. If marketing is running a successful free trial ad campaign that’s driving a large volume of new users, DevOps need to be aware that campaign is running and react a little quicker to complaints of bugs in the free trial version of the software. They might also be tapped to review content or social messaging that is needed in a timely manner.

Now onto common DevOps goals. The DevOps team goals might include releasing a new update by a specific date, addressing bugs within an 18-hour window, or averaging an uptime of four nines for an entire quarter.

Marketing needs to assist with the detection of bugs in the software through the use of sentiment analysis to find issues and problems for DevOps to address. We all know that not everyone reports bugs to the unit who can take care of them; some just complain on Twitter.

Essentially, sentiment analysis in marketing involves the automated monitoring of communications (i.e. comments, emails, social media posts) in order to understand customers’ emotions, tones, and attitudes. If marketing team members notice recurring complaints during sentiment analysis, they can alert DevOps to fix a particular bug or add a specific feature.

Marketing also needs to be informed of large outages immediately so they can do some damage control and make sure their users are informed. How a user reacts to an outage is highly dependent on how they find out and the assurance they receive from the company that everything will be back up and running within a certain amount of time. If that’s not reality, then marketing needs to spread that message, too, and break the news that things are down for who-knows-how-long.

A Message to DevOps: You Need to Trust Marketing

Often, developers think that marketing’s efforts emphasize the wrong things, or that they don’t address any of the software’s features and abilities. This might translate into an assumption that “marketing doesn’t know what they’re doing” or that they don’t understand the software. But developers need to realize that marketing is usually trying to reach the decision maker in their efforts, and that’s not always the end user. The person actually buying the product might never actually touch the software, but they still need to understand the high-level business benefits to their team.

DevOps is concerned with the technical side, while marketing is tasked with promoting products and services to non-technical business users and key decision makers. The messaging may be wrong in the eyes of software developers, but it might be exactly what the non-technical folks need to hear to make a decision.

Marketing teams are also perpetually performing tests. These differ from DevOps tests; while DevOps’ tests push software to its limits, marketing’s tests push different versions of imagery and messaging to see what’s going to work the best. They might even be testing the same messaging on two different audiences to see what resonates with who.

When DevOps team members complain that marketing is “simply throwing spaghetti at the wall to see if anything sticks,” it’s usually because they’re left out of the loop. Marketing likely has very good reasons for proposing an idea, even if DevOps can’t immediately see them.

Constant communication is necessary. If there are any concerns, they should be raised. For instance, if marketing is pushing the mobile version of your software but that’s your weakest link, DevOps needs to let marketing know and inform them of stronger features that are worth promoting.

A Message to Marketing: You Need to Listen to DevOps

No one knows the software better than members of the DevOps team — its strengths, weaknesses, and the team’s plans for future development.

It’s imperative that marketers speak with DevOps to better understand the use cases of the software they’re promoting. This further helps marketing tailor messaging for specific audiences where certain use cases are the most valid. At the same time, these use cases tell marketing what the software doesn’t do. After all, marketing doesn’t want to get into a situation where they promise a capability that doesn’t exist because they didn’t understand the exact use case.

This valuable information from DevOps can help marketers improve their content plan as a whole, including sales cadences, paid advertising, white papers, email nurtures, and more. Using the information from DevOps, Marketing will be able to reach out at the right times and highlight the right features and use cases for different industries and personas.

Both teams are responsible for clearly communicating their plans to one another so both can work together to drive business goals more effectively.

Continued Collaboration Is Inevitable — and a Good Thing

As DevOps seeks to unify software development and software operations, it’s only natural that it brings together other parts of the business, as well. For better or for worse, marketing and DevOps will have to work together, even if they have different priorities.

Both groups have the common goal of building a loyal, happy customer base. Both teams strive to help users get the most out of the software. In order to form stronger bonds between DevOps and marketing, trust and excellent communication will be essential at all times.

The future of B2B enterprises is cohesive DevOps, sales, and marketing units that work in tandem to drive interest while aggressively addressing user feedback to create a better experience. In the age of product-first companies, everyone is on the same team.