Monday, July 27, 2009

Take a Walk, Improve Your Product

I love to take work. Walking gets so much more accomplished, helps build better relationships, and allows me to get my work done faster.

Think about how many people you email each day that only sit a few feet away or are maybe in the next building over from yours. Think about how many email messages you send that might have struck the wrong cord, were misinterpreted, or led to confusion and delay. Then think about how many personal conversations you have had that delivered similar results. If you are like many of us, the number of email messages that went wrong over our careers far outweighs the number of conversations that ended poorly. So much is left to interpretation in email messages that is simply avoided in person.

According to the Pragmatic Marketing annual survey in 2008*, Product Managers receive 50 email messages a day and send 25. Let's assume you are like most Product Managers and send 25 messages a day. Now, I want to throw out a challenge to you: don't send that next email message. Get up from your desk and deliver it personally. Make this a daily habit.

For many years in my career I worked at HP where Management by Walking Around (MBWA) was highly valued. You could be more in touch with the people you worked with, have a better handle on the tasks and even emotions at hand, and develop stronger relationships with your colleagues by walking around on a regular basis.

Walking is not only good for your health, it makes you a better Product Manager. A key responsibility of Product Managers is to coordinate activities, schedules, and agreements between many stakeholders across the company. You need to influence others and keep everyone on the same page. You handle stressful decisions and cool heated emotions as deadlines approach and sleep deprivation of team members increases. Walking around gives you a chance to connect with your colleagues, key business stakeholders, and managers. Walking around gives you a chance to listen, to excite others, and be responsive to others in an immediate sense.

Before you decide to write that next email....STOP. Get up. Walk.

If this did not get you motivated for a walk, read this tweet from Business Week's JohnAByrne"Obesity: Now 9% of All Health Spending"

Next week, think about coming back to this site to let me know how well your walks turned out.

Many of the comments below were copied from Product Managers who read this article on LinkedIn.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Helping Out the Pragmatic Marketing Way

I participate in a number of LinkedIn discussion groups including The 280 Group and Pragmatic Marketing. I recommend both for insightful discussions.

Recently, a product manager posted what I considered to be a vague question: "What is the best way to get a software based product marketed?" My response follows, but what was even more surprising to me was a note that I received from a company President in response to the answer (see below). If you have taken the Pragmatic Marketing courses, you will not find new info in my answer, but I was somewhat surprised that someone following Product Marketing discussions would not have already realized the points in my answer.

Here goes, my answer first, then the President's (not my company) response:

"Your question is extremely vague. Perhaps you could be more specific in your quest for an answer." ...followed by "We are a newer company and we offer a methodology with some other tools that are automated and we put it together as a kit. It is not a software application per se. What avenues do you think would be effective to market this?".

I follow-up with "Sounds like you are offering a software platform and not a product. A few suggestions: First, gather information from the market about the problem that you are trying to solve. Then define the product requirements to solve those problems while identifying who and under what scenarios you are solving the problem. Once you can deliver the solution for the people and the scenarios in which they need it, you should build a targeted marketing plan to go after those people. The plan should focus on generating leads reflecting your target audience, generating market awareness through launch activities, and building awareness with thought leaders and your targeted communities. You then need to enable your sales team to identify the target users and use scenarios so that they can do what they do best. From your question, it sounds like you are very early in your marketing efforts. If you would like to discuss this kind of effort further feel free to contact me directly here on LinkedIn."

Here is where the President of the software company wrote:

"Thank you for your succinct words. You have really summed up what needs to be done, and as I read what you wrote, I think back on the growth our company has experienced and I realize how I could have done much better if I had kept your words in front of me and read them every day. They are motivational for me because I have lived through a disjointed hectic introduction of our software product over the last 20 years and with the guidance you provide, I could have done it a lot faster and easier. We are #1 in our vertical markets now, but it wasn't because of marketing... it was because the programmer wrote an awesome program and the capabilities spread via word of mouth. Oh sure, we spent hundreds of thousands on attending shows and all that, but I like the overview you provide."

Do you think the advice I provided was common knowledge or something special? Feel free to comment below.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Center of the Universe

I recently heard a Product Manager ranting about how poorly her company was getting products to market. Comments included the likes of "the sales people just don't understand the technology" and "the engineers have not spoken to our customer and do not understand the real needs of this market". This Product Manager is similar to others I have run across throughout my career, alone at the center of their universe. (Note: I have intentionally positioned this Product Manager as both a PM and PMM -- the story could apply in similar ways to both roles).

Product Managers have often been touted as the CEO of their Product. From their vantage point, they can see inward toward development, guiding new features through PRDs and MRDs, and possibly directing product road maps. They can see outward toward the markets, speaking with customers, analyzing market research, and sending the latest marketing content to the sales organization. Their position between development and sales is a privileged one giving them visibility across some of the most important operations of the company.

From the center of their universe, the less experienced Product Manager needs to learn to not only absorb information but to relay it in new ways. Their conversation needs to move from being self-centered to being a steward of information. When examining statements like "the sales people just don't understand the technology", we can often find that what is clearly understood in the Product Manager's head has not been communicated clearly enough to the sales audience. The sales people need to understand something about the technology, product, or service they are offering, but also need to understand why a customer would want to purchase it in the first place. What may seem like an obvious value proposition to the Product Manager, is probably not that obvious at all. Sales people want to understand who their best potential customer is, what problem they have, and how their product or service best solves that problem. Additionally, they want to know things important to the center of their universe like "how much will I earn by selling product A over product B, can I achieve my quota faster with product A, or is the new Product C going to establish a beach head for future sales or kill my chances to ever sell into this account again?". A similar exercise of examining key needs of other stakeholders across the Product Managers universe at the company could be done.

Overall, Product Managers can become more effective by using their privileged position at the center of activity to help other's be more effective in their own roles. As a Product Manager, think about how you can apply your knowledge, market awareness, and product expertise, to help improve the universe for your key stakeholders in Sales, Development, Field Marketing, Channel Marketing, etc. Taking less of a self-centered approach in favor of stewardship and being responsible for other's success.

If you enjoyed this article, please provide comments below to share with other readers.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How Obama Won Using Digital and Social Media

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Social Media - Greatest Hits

Buzz building upon buzz. If you are not into social networking as a marketing, you need to be. But why dive in without directions? Adam Hepburn has assembled his top 10 list of social media presentations, covering what it is, how to measure it, and who is succeeding with it. Check them out at:

My social media effort at Systar continues to pay dividends. Web traffic to sites like Scribd continue to grow as we generate more and more awareness. It is amazing how many people we can reach and how many people can find us within a simple search for information. Power to the people...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Art or Science?

Debates continue on the evaluation of marketing as an art or a science. From my perspective, marketing applies both art and science, which is one of the reasons I enjoy it so much.

Marketing by its nature is a creative pursuit. You open your imagination and think of creative ways to attract people to your products, your business, and your messages. You can see many examples of this artistry when you consider some of the best advertising, creative tradeshow booths, a presentation that captures its audience well, or a piece of product literature that captures your interest from the start. Emphasizing the point even further, you can tell when poor creativity has resulted in poor marketing -- like those instances where someone in engineering decided to take a crack on your latest customer presentation and simply misses the mark. Creativity is very important to sound execution of marketing efforts.

On the science side of the house, marketing should not dimiss the fundamentals of product, place, price, and promotion. To execute the four P's properly, guessing is often not the most productive path to take. Research, analytics, measurements, and targeted tactics enable you to pinpoint the proper markets and make the most of your marketing investments. Additionally, by using specific measureable efforts, you can more clearly communicate to business stakeholders the plan, efforts, and progress made through your marketing investments.

By applying art and science together, you make the best of marketing. Movng forward, look for ways to apply both science and art to your marketing efforts.

If you enjoyed this article, please provide comments below to share with other readers.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Using Twitter to Land a Job

Throughout any given day, I see a number of job listing being tweeted about as recruiters have clearly jumped on the Twitter bandwagon to tout their latest search. Clearly, by targeting specific users and keywords on Twitter, you can quickly reach a large audience of prospective job seekers or candidates.

Beyond the plethora of recruiting activity, companies seeking candidates with social media experience are now getting smarter. Take, for example, Best Buy. They are requiring candidates for their new media positions to show over 250 Twitter followers. (RT This is a great strategy for Best Buy and other employers seeking to fill these new roles in their marketing organizations. They can select people that are clearly active, savvy, and familiar with social media communities. Not only will the candidates resume be reviewed, but you can be assured their most recent tweets will be analyzed. Employers will want to understand who the candidate really is, how they have defined their social media persona, and how effective they have been at communicating their messages.

Having only 30+ Twitter followers at the moment, I am not a candidate for the Best Buy position. :( Should they look further into my 700+ LinkedIn connections, or hundreds of views of my documents on, or my Facebook activity? Twitter is just one social media tool that job candidates might actively be using to manage, grow, and communicate to an online community. Not to mention blogger here.

Maybe it's time for you to update that resume again?