Wait half an hour after lunch before goingin the water. Never end a sentence with apreposition. Don’t wear white after Labor Dayand before Memorial Day.Some rules really are meant to be broken.But others aren’t. In the “other” category,there are 20 astute and practical rules thatPragmatic Marketing has laid out for productmanagement. I should know, because inmy more than 25 years in B2B technologymarketing, I’ve broken all of them. Sowith absolute conviction, I’ve reached theconclusion that, when it comes to rules, theseall fall into the category of better to observethan to break.After thinking about Pragmatic Marketing’srules, I’ve observed the following:RULE 1 If product managers don’t do their jobs, the other departments will fill the void. 4RULE 2 An outside-inapproach increases the likelihood of product success. 6RULE 3 Time spent on the strategic reduces time wasted on the tactical. 7RULE 4 In the absence of market facts, he who owns the compiler wins. 8RULE 5 Product Management determines the go-to-market strategy;Marcom executes the strategy. 9RULE 6 Product Management should help sales channels, not individual salespeople. 10RULE 7 Be able to articulate your distinctive competence. 11RULE 8 Your opinion, although interesting, is irrelevant. 12RULE 9 The building is full of product experts. Your company needs market experts. 13RULE 10 Find market segments that value your distinctive competence. 14RULE 11 Don’t expect your sales channel to conduct win/loss analysis. 15RULE 12 The answer to most of your questions is not in the building. 16RULE 13 Every “product” needs a product manager and a business case. 17RULE 14 Look for opportunities to deliver the remarkable. 18RULE 15 With positioning, the focus is on what we do for the buyers. 19RULE 16 Positioning should be complete before you start developing. 20RULE 17 You need a positioning document for each type of buyer. 21RULE 18 Name the product after positioning is finished. 22RULE 19 Provide collateral, tools, and programs to support each step in the sales cycle. 23RULE 20 The market-driven product manager should be the final authorityon what goes into the product. 24Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management3
Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management4When I first worked as a product manager, Iwasn’t all that sure what I was supposed to do.So I waited for everyone else—Engineering, QA,Tech Writing, Marketing, Sales Support, CustomerService—to stake their claims; then I ran aroundfilling in the gaps. At the time, this struck me as aquite handy and pragmatic way to define my job.But it was a bad idea—and not just because I gotstuck with all the stuff no one else wanted to do.As it turns out, products end up being better ifsomeone truly owns the entire thing.As so often happened during the course of mylong career, I learned the hard way that goodproduct managers aren’t just pragmatic, they’reproactive. They don’t just sit around waiting to seewhat everyone else does; they make it clear upfront what their role is. And then they fill that role,rather than the gaps.Here are just a few of the things that can happenwhen product managers don’t fill their roles:If you don’t provide clear and supportedinput to the process, the engineerswill develop what they please. It’s yourresponsibility to talk to your customers (andyour prospects), check out the competition,listen to the analysts, learn about your industry,learn about your customers’ industries, findout what your sales engineers and customersupport reps are encountering, look at thoseRFPs, and glean market intelligence. And it’syour responsibility to translate all this “stuff” intoproduct requirements that you communicate toyour engineers.Yes, there will be things that your developerscome up with on their own—and a lot of it will begreat. But you need to be the driving force behindwhat goes into that product, or you could endup with a magnificently engineered product thatnobody wants or needs.If you don’t provide clear direction aboutyour target customers, Sales will gowherever they please. Your products shouldbe built with some particular use and customer inmind…shouldn’t they? Please let Sales know.Even if your products are entirely horizontal—every company can use a database and a wordprocessor—products need to be targeted tospecific customers and/or buyers. You may alsohave a product that’s better suited for certain-sized companies or specific geographies. Theremay be good reasons to target industries as well.(If you’re selling to later adopters, for example,Get-a-Life Insurance is more apt to buy if One-Life-to-Live Insurance is on your customer list.)The point is, you need to send Sales where theystand the best chance of winning. Even if youhave the most generic product, you have to startsomewhere. Pick that somewhere wisely, or Saleswill pick it for you. And, in the short run, they’renot necessarily going to choose wisely (i.e. insupport of your long-run strategy). Sure, they maymake a sale or two, but it may not end up being agood thing for your product or your company.While we’re on the subject of sales, if youdon’t establish pricing, Sales will make it up.You absolutely need to listen to what Sales has tosay on the matter. But it’s up to you to determinepricing that will work, that’s commensurate withthe value provided, that’s not out-of-whack withthe competition, and that is what the market canbear. If not, you’ll be in the wonderful world ofhaving your sales team cannily figuring out whatthe prospects have in their wallets, and thenestablishing that as the price du jour—or justlow-balling and overpromising to get the deal.(Just watch out when customers get together andcompare notes.)RULE 1If product managers don’tdo their jobs, the otherdepartments will fill the void.
Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management5If you don’t provide clear direction abouttarget customers and the right message forthem, Marcom will go wherever they pleaseand say whatever they want. Like Sales, ifyou’re not providing guidance to Marcom abouttarget customers, they will come up with it ontheir own. Their programs may make spectacularsense; they may not. It’s best not to leavethings to chance.Similarly, if Marcom doesn’t know what theproduct is and does, they will come up withtheir own story. Again, their story may makespectacular sense; it may not. Again, it’s best notto leave things to chance. I worked for a companythat was teetering, very publicly, on the brink ofbankruptcy. One day, I saw a banner ad for one ofour services. The ad touted our financial stability.I immediately called the ad person in Marcom andpointed out that this wasn’t exactly our strong suit.“But that’s what our buyers are most interested in,”she told me.I could go on about how important this rule is, butby now you get it. And you were likely well aheadof me in getting it.Of all of the Pragmatic Marketing rules, I findthis the most important. And that’s not becausethose who will be filling whatever void you leaveare evil and must be stopped. (Hey, you mayeven want, need, appreciate their suggestionsand advice.) But, if engineers are figuring outwhat’s in the product all on their lonesome…if Sales is pulling prices out of their ear on theway to a call…if Marketing is claiming that yourproduct solves world peace when it’s reallydesigned for warmongers—they’re all trying to dosomething that is neither their expertise nor theirresponsibility. That responsibility is yours. Take itand use it.
Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management6However brilliantly,presciently, and uniquelyimagined a product is;however a product ideaseemingly springs full-blown from some Medusa’shead, there is no substitutefor solving a real problemexperienced by real people ina way that will work for them.How do you get real?I’ve found the key is in five simple words: See how yourcustomer works.That means looking at the current processes they have in place, atthe inputs, the outputs, the end results. Who does what to whom?How do they do it? Where do they hit roadblocks? Little snags?Where does the ball drop? What happens when that happens?There are a number of ways you can do this.One is to actually go in and watch. Some of my most valuable hoursin the field have been spent observing how my customers get theirjobs done—with or without my product.In days of yore, as the product manager for a mainframe financialreporting system, I spent the night at ATT while they closed theirbooks, just to see how they used our product.Boy, was I exhausted after 20 hours. And, boy, did I see some areaswhere our product could be improved.I’ve done this a few times since. And, to me, it’s the most effectiveway to figure out where your product needs to go. Knowing whatpeople go through trumps your imagination, common sense, andintuition—no matter how wonderful they all are.Another good technique is open-ended interviews that getyour customers and prospects to talk about “things”: business,processes, behaviors, wish lists, druthers, etc. When I’ve used thismethod, I’ve taken notes and, where possible, made recordings.A third technique I’ve used is creating “A Day in the Life”scenarios, where you lay out the hour-by-hour activities yourcustomer goes through and figure out where your product can beinserted to relieve some of the pain that invariably occurs in eventhe happiest work day. Obviously, it helps if you’ve observed and/or spoken with customers to ensure you have the right idea abouthow they spend their days.The bottom line: Your product has to “fit” the customers’ needs anddesires, solving a true problem. You never want your customersto be stuck exchanging an existing problem for a new one—usingyour product. This won’t happen if you build a product outside-in.RULE 2An outside-inapproach increasesthe likelihoodof product success.
Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management7Simply defined, strategic iswhere you want to go; tacticalis how to get there. It’s prettyeasy to see that you’d betterhave the strategic figuredout first.While there are manydifferent areas in which the“strategy vs. tactics” debatecan occur, I’ll frame it here in terms of trying to market a productabsent a strategy. (Which also translates into trying to market aproduct for which the product manager hasn’t followed Rule #1,and the product has just sort of happened—generally at the handsof the engineers, I’m afraid.)My personal favorite is the “if we build it, they will come”approach, in which a product is built, then tossed over the transominto Marketing, who are presumably waiting with open arms andclosed mouths for the product toss.No, no, a thousand times no!You need to have a product strategy in mind that spells outpositioning basics (who’s going to use the product and why),establishes the pricing rationale, provides at least a rudimentaryguidepost for where the product is going, etc., etc., etc.Another thing we’ve all faced as marketers is the situation in whichwe’ve been goaded (forced?) to just do something, do anything.“Something” must be done! This usually comes down on the headof Marcom and usually means helping fill the big, gaping maw atthe beginning of the sales pipeline.Do something. Do anything. Let’s get going.Banner ads…webinars…email blasts…spiffs…promotional deals…guys with sandwich boards trolling the streets.Thus, the campaign to nowhere begins.You may get somewhere, but even that somewhere is going to feellike nowhere, absent a strategy. Never confuse activity with action.There’s a corollary to this rule: In the absence of a strategy, peoplewill go ahead and do what they think is best.So the marketers will look at the product they’ve been given andhazard a guess on where they can market it. They may do a bang-up job of it. (Great! Two hundred tuna fishermen attended ourwebinar. Too bad our product doesn’t really do anything for them.Not to mention that we really should be selling to tuba players.Tuna? Tuba? Close enough.)Strategy’s hard. It means really thinking through things. Itmeans taking a risk by declaring where it is you want to go.It means having the discipline and strength to give it timeenough to succeed.Tactics absent strategy? You might think you’re gettingsomewhere, but you’re really on the night train to nowhere.RULE 3Time spent on thestrategic reduces timewasted on the tactical.
Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management8I’ve lived through this nightmare more thanonce, and all I can say is, even in the presence ofmarket facts, it’s plenty easy for the guy with thecompiler to win. But when you’re working with theengineers, it is always best to have the following:• Win-loss analysis. If 19 out of 20 times, youhear that a key factor in a loss was ease of use,your developers may respond that “thecustomers don’t know what they’re talkingabout,” “we’re selling to the wrong people,” and“our sales folks don’t know how to sell.” But youwill have market facts to support your argumentthat the UI needs work.• Competitive information. The lastthing you want to find yourself doing isplaying competitive catch-up. It is alwaysuseful to know what you’re up against.And, if you can anticipate moves thatyour competition is going to make— bywatching what they’re saying publicly,whom they’re partnering with, wherethey’re selling, etc. —so much the better.• Market trends. What’s going on in yourindustry or the industry into which yousell? What’s being said about technologytrends? No, you don’t have to listen toevery pronouncement from on high, but ithelps not to operate in a completevacuum. So dig up whatever data youcan find on SOA, SaaS, MDM, orwhatever acronym your product needs toaccommodate. (Years ago, I worked for asoftware company that was wedded toOS/2. I came to a development meetingwith a copy of InfoWeek magazinesporting a cover showing OS/2 in a coffinwith a lily on it. That display definitelyhelped us move along on our decisionto convert to NT.)• Customer input. The customer is not alwaysright, and sometimes, they will ask for stupid orirrelevant things. But your trusted customers—not your developers—are the ones actuallyusing your product, so their ideas matter.• Sales engineering and customer serviceinput. Better than anyone else, your salesengineers tend to know the technical obstaclesto selling and implementing your product. Youneed a forum for capturing their ideas. Betterthan anyone else, your customer service folkstend to know the technical obstacles to ongoing,day-to-day success with your products. Youneed a forum for capturing their ideas, as well.When you, as a product manager, start talkingproduct with the engineers, you need to bearmed with the richest set of market facts youcan find. The preceding suggestions are usefulsources of those facts. It’s then up to you to put themarket facts into a digestible, sensible format forpresentation to engineering.There is still no guarantee that a really stubbornguy with a compiler won’t balk at product ideasthat aren’t invented in his brain. But, if you’ve gotthe facts, ma’am, it’s far more likely that resistancewill fade away.RULE 4In the absenceof market facts,he who ownsthe compiler wins.
Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management9First off, much of my career has been spent insmaller companies where Product Management/Product Marketing and Marcom were housedunder one very small group. Heck, I’ve been inplaces where they were me, myself, and I.But I did spend several years in a large companywhere we had separate Product Management,Product Marketing, and Marcom groups. Andherein lies a cautionary tale of what happens whenit’s not clear who’s setting the strategic agenda.At this company, Product Management andProduct Marketing resided in the same group, andwe were clear about the roles each group played.But Marcom was completely and utterly separatefrom us, connecting on the org chart only to thepresident’s box.This would have worked out fine if someone in thepresident’s box or in the EVP boxes just belowactually agreed that Product Marketing—whichset the go-to-market strategy—andMarcom were separate functions, with differentroles, responsibilities, and expertise. Andthen declared that the two groups weregoing to get along.Well, that never happened. And, although thereasons had little to do with marketing, is it anywonder that the company folded?Although I had many good friends andcolleagues in Marcom, relationships between us(Product Marketing) and them were generallynon-productive and rancorous.Marcom was under Sales, and much of what theydid was what Sales wanted them to do. Suffice itto say that Sales wanted the short-term hit, not thelong-term build. It never seemed to matter whatthe overall corporate strategy was; if Sales didn’tthink they could easily sell it tomorrow, it didn’tget marketed today.Marcom also owned the entire budget, so ProductMarketing was always in the position of beggingto get any attention for our products.Sometimes, the budget stuff played out inridiculous ways. At one annual (internal) salesconference, we had an exhibit hall for theproducts. Product Marketing had draped tables,out-of-pocket signs printed at Kinko’s, photocopiedsell sheets, no lights, and lame-o promotionalgimmicks to attract the sales guys’ interest.Marcom shipped in tradeshow booths—completewith beautiful lighting and nice signage—at whichthey showcased their new corporate brochures,ad campaigns, website, and corporate giveaways.We had the content; they had the stuff.Shouldn’t we have come together on this? But, no.The enmity between the two camps was just toogreat. The rap on Product Marketing: no sense ofthe real-world pressure from Sales. The rap onMarcom: no content, big spenders.I spent half my life at this company just tryingto define organizational roles, smooth ruffledfeathers, make peace, and make some sense outof things. Believe me, if I couldn’t get things towork out between us, no one could.What a waste!So, I’ll add to Pragmatic’s rule: Ensure that theroles are clear, and insist on an environment ofmutual trust and respect. Strategy and executionare both important. But if the executors aren’tbothering with the strategy, whatever happens willnot be pretty.RULE 5Product Managementdetermines thego-to-market strategy;Marcom executes the strategy.
Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management10Obviously, when you’redeveloping marketapproaches and sales tools,your product and companywill be best served by yourfocusing on those that can bewidely deployed across anentire sales channel—whetherdirect or indirect. Take it fromsomeone who has done someserious hand holding with some fairly hapless sales folks, we allwould have been better off if I’d spent my time on things that wouldbe available and useful to everybody.But is the converse true as well? What about time spent with thetruly excellent salespeople?Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much time in small companies,there are plenty of circumstances in which I’ve spent what Iconsidered very profitable time with individual salespeople whoare pleasant, helpful, and insightful. In my experience, these havealso tended to be the most successful sales folks.You could argue, then, that they don’t need your help. Maybe.But, as a marketer, you still need to acknowledge that you mightneed their help for reviewing sales tools, great feedback, accessto customers…and so on. Yes, there are plenty of reasons whyyou want and need to develop relationships with individualsalespeople. And sometimes that will mean providing them withindividual help. The good news? They’re not the kind who’ll ask forit unless they genuinely need it.Of course, just as time spent helping out dunderheads detractsfrom working for the greater, common good, so does time spentworking with the A students. So you have to be careful not toindulge yourself all that much.As for spending time wisely, like a lot of product managers, I’vespent hours concocting presentations on demand, pitching in onlast minute RFP responses, tweaking data sheets—so much easiernow that everything’s PDF’d rather than printed—when the sametime could have been spent making sure that strong, current,baseline materials were made available in a shared space.Just say “no” to creating a slight variation of the wheel every time asalesperson calls and asks you for something.Similarly, when you’re eliciting feedback and product input fromsales, it’s better to hear from many voices, rather than respond tothe bleating of the lone sales wolf whose input is colored by the lastlost deal.But as a marketer, I really want to reserve some quality time withthe quality salespeople.RULE 6Product Managementshould help sales channels,not individual salespeople.
Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management11So why, exactly, shouldsomeone buy your product asopposed to the other guy’s?It may seem obvious thatyou need to be able to tell aprospect what’s distinctiveabout you, but we often getcaught up in just getting thefeatures and benefits outthere. Our product is really good, and we want everyone to knowabout it—so sometimes we forget to mention “why us.” It’s alsoeasy to fall into the trap of picking up on some picayune featurethat nobody cares about and making a big show about how andwhy this is a big differentiator. I’ve certainly done it: our productis the only one on the market that brings a smiley face up on eachscreen…the only one written in an obscure, arcane language…theonly one that comes in a plain, brown wrapper. But a differentiatedfeature of your product, no matter how meritorious (or not) is NOT adistinctive competence.No, your distinctive competence is something that you genuinelyexcel at—and that benefits your customer.We all know the standard ones: You’re the most efficient, withthe most streamlined service and support; you’ve got the mostadvanced, the very best product; you’re the most in tune with yourcustomers and what they actually want, need, and value.What might your distinctive competence be? Here area few examples:• You may have deep-seated knowledge of an industry thatenables you to develop products that solve vertical-specificproblems in ways that generic, horizontal applications can’t.• Your engineering approach may enable you to react to customerrequests and emerging requirements more rapidly than others.• Your implementation team may be so proficient that they caneasily and cost-effectively customize your application.• Your training approach may help your customers more easily“on-board” new employees.• Your automation strategy may let your customers painlessly andquickly purchase and implement new modules.Whatever it is, you need to know just what your distinctivecompetence is. And it should go without saying that it’sreality-based. Prospects and customers will figure it out prettyquickly if you’re blowing smoke here.RULE 7Be able toarticulate yourdistinctive competence.
Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management12As marketers, we’ve all had to put up with the“everyone’s an expert” syndrome, in which peoplefeel free to second guess and take pot shots ateverything we do.Unveil the new logo? Someone will hate it—and letyou know.Name the new product? Guaranteed that someonewill think the name is dumb—or inform youthat they once had a dog with this name. (Comeon, did someone really have a dog namedOmniCentraSolvAll?)Publish the list of new features? Why’d you pickthose ones? Why didn’t you use my suggestion?Color of the golf-outing t-shirt. Trade show graphics.Target market. Partner strategy.Doesn’t matter how strategic, how tactical, howimportant, or how trivial: People always secondguess what Marketing does.In these circumstances, the rule aboutopinions holds.But I have to add a big qualifier, because aninformed opinion can be both interestingand relevant.Sometimes the person with the informed opinionknows something you don’t know. Or thinks aboutsomething in a way that you don’t. Or just alwaysseems worth listening to.With any luck, you’ll know who the InformedOpinions are and include them somewhere in theprocess before decisions are made. (After you spentall that money on the new logo is not the time to findout that an underground fascist party or the dumbestreality show ever uses a similar graphic.)What can the Informed Opinion do for you?It can save you from making a mistake.You might have fallen in love with the new colorscheme. Come on, who doesn’t like avocado andharvest gold? The Informed Opinion might informyou that two of your closest competitors are using thesame colors, and you don’t want to look “me, too.”UniCentraSolvAll may sound like a uniquely swellproduct name. Informed Opinion may be able to tellyou that it’s actually a heavily marketed pesticidein one country, or a product that in another countryunclogs drains.You may have missed an important and compellingproduct feature, and Informed Opinion may be ableto tell you what it is and why it’s so important.Of course, Informed Opinion’s opinion is not soimportant if you’ve done your homework. But youcan’t think of everything, so it’s always good tohave a couple of trusted Informed Opinions youcan count on.As far as your own opinions go: Offer your opinionsonly when asked for them. Try to eradicate (or atleast minimize) any after-the-fact sniping and secondguessing. (You hate it when it’s done to you!) Andkeep in mind that an opinion that’s informed by factsand market information is genuinely valuable andgenerally welcomed.RULE 8Your opinion,although interesting,is irrelevant.
Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management13There’s nothing worse thana marketing person whoknows little about the productthey’re marketing. Mattersnot whether you’re “just” inMarcom; minimal fluencyis required. The bar getsraised for Product Marketingand Product Management,of course.But as the rule says: If you’re in technology marketing: Thebuilding is full of product experts. Developers. Servicesfolks. Sales engineers.Nice if you can demonstrate your understanding of SOA, yourappreciation of MDM, your giga-intimacy with bits, bytes, and allassortments of hertzes. What the company also (and really) needsfrom Marketing is insight on what’s happening in the market.What’s the competition up to? What trends—both technical andbusiness—do you need to watch? What’s up with the wonderfulworld of compliance and regulation? (Eek! It’s everywhere.) What’sgoing on in your verticals?Not to mention what’s lurking out there that might have an impacton your customers and prospects—and how they might benefitfrom your product at this particular time. And just how do thosecustomers use your product? What connections are they makingbetween the features and benefits? What are they asking for? Whatdo they need that they aren’t requesting?Sure, it’s great if you can read binary, but in the long run, yourproduct is better off if you can read The Wall Street Journal.RULE 9The building is fullof product experts.Your company needsmarket experts.
Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management14I suspect that all marketershave, at some point, attemptedto broaden their market toextend beyond whateversegment in which they findthemselves. Sometimes thismakes absolute sense. Theproblem occurs when youstart convincing yourself thatyour offering—as is—will work for everybody.At the macro level of “distinctive competence,” you’re not going tosell bleeding-edge technology into an industry where companiestypically adopt new-fangled “stuff” with a five-year lag. You’re notgoing to sell a costly, hands-on services model to a company thatprides itself on do-it-yourself. You’re not going to sell costly bellsand whistles to a company that runs on shoestring margins.At the less-grand, micro level, “distinctive competence” maytranslate into a feature set (or singular feature) that is ideal for onemarket. So it’s tempting to think that should at least be somewhatuseful for other markets, as well.But unless that shiny new market really needs and wants what youhave, heading down this path will only get you: more expense toattract fewer customers, longer sales cycles, more price resistance,and less satisfied customers. You name it; you’ll find it when youdrift into territory that doesn’t value your distinctive competence.So before loping down the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, you oweyour product a critical examination of just how and why someonewants and needs what you’ve got. Plain and simple, if you can’tcome up with an answer, those potential customers won’t be ableto either. Sure, you’ll convince some of them to buy your wares bysheer force of will. But that’s not the recipe for market success.You may, of course, be able to create that market success byaltering, or perhaps even just tweaking, your product. Just makesure that this is something you really want to do (i.e., somethingthat fits your strategy).Yes, focusing on your distinctive competence—or even on yoursimple, technical differentiation—may mean that you find yourselfin a niche. This is fine, if being a niche player is what you reallywant to be. If not, find yourself a distinctive competence or meansof differentiation that won’t relegate you to a niche.Easier said than done, I know. But whoever said that productmanagement was easy?RULE 10Find market segmentsthat value your distinctivecompetence.
Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management15I wish I had a Euro for every time I sat through apipeline review meeting and, as last month’s hotprospects transitioned into the “L” column, askedthe question “Why’d we lose?”I should have saved my breath. After all, just asthe answer to “Why’d we win?” always turns outto be “superior salesmanship,” the “Why’d welose?” answer is invariably “Our price was toohigh,” or “Our product stinks,” or “They went withsomebody else,” or “They did nothing.”Let’s face it, it’s just not in the nature of mostsalespeople to analyze why a sale did or did nothappen. Plus, you want and need your salespeopleto look forward, not backward.So who does win/loss analysis—and how do yougo about it?Ideally, your product marketing or productmanagement team should conduct win/lossanalysis. Alternatively, if you really thinkpeople are reluctant to be candid when talkingwith someone in-house, you should hirea third party.Analysis should begin with a mini-debrief withthe salesperson and (better yet) the salesengineer. An initial impression by those closestto the deal may yield a useful avenue for yourquestioning.Prepare a specific list of questions—about yourproduct, pricing, and process—to review withevery prospect. If you have a complex salesprocess that involves many different people onthe buying side—influencers, decision-makers,purchasers—try to talk to several of them.Realistically, this isn’t always feasible—especiallyafter a loss. And remember that a good, candidconversation with your prime sponsor is worthplenty; so don’t get greedy.Beyond specific questions about product, pricing,and process, try to flat out ask lost customers thefollowing questions: What we could have donebetter? What would it have taken to win? Wheredid the competition outshine us? For a win, askthose same questions about the competitor.Win/loss conversations should be brief (no morethan 10-15 minutes), and they should take placewithin a week or two after the decision is made.Conversations are ideal, but email response worksjust fine.It goes without saying that the information shouldbe kept in some sort of a system—and in asystematic fashion—so that you can make somesense of it as a whole and not just look at disparateinformation points. This analysis is not all thateasy to do when you’re looking at subjectiveinformation, but there’s no point in collecting win/loss data unless you’re planning to draw generalinferences.Here are some ways your win/loss analysis canhelp you:• Determining which features you need to add toyour product• Refining your pricing• Shaping your marketing message• Homing in on a more sharply defined targetmarket• Improving your sales and marketing processesYes, lots of good things can and will come fromwin/loss analysis. Just don’t ask your sales folks todo the heavy lifting for you.RULE 11Don’t expect yoursales channel to conductwin/loss analysis.
Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management16During the dot.com era, Iworked for a large InternetServices Provider (ISP) whererank-and-file marketingpeople rarely had access tocustomers and prospects. Ihad come there from a smallsoftware company, where Iwent regularly on sales callsand frequently spoke withcustomers, so I knew I was missing something.In my three years with the ISP, I went on a handful of calls. Oursales model was multi-layered, and there were often three or fourfolks just from Sales on every call. No room in that clown car foranother body! If Sales brought another body along, it was typicallya technical expert or a product manager.During those years when I was starved for the outside perspective,I did participate in many events, speaking on behalf of thecompany, so I was able to have some interaction with customersand prospects. But it was way too limited. I also met often withindustry analysts—another good source of insight and information.But I really missed customer and prospect interaction.Several times I created customer surveys, but was not allowed tospeak with customers directly; I had to go through multiple layersof the customer support organization.All in all, it made for a very high frustration level, in which I alwaysfelt I had my nose pressed up against the window glass—able tosee, but not communicate with the world outside.Fortunately, I developed good relationships with enough of thetechnical sales folks and sales engineers to get my questionsanswered. But it was not really the same as building goodrelationships with customers or hearing first-hand what prospectswere saying.You really do need to get out of the building to truly understandhow people use your products and services and to appreciate thebenefits they derive. You need to get out there to see which partsof your message customers respond to and which parts drawblanks—or leave them cold.*Obviously, you also need to stick your head out to get a sense ofwhat’s happening in the economy and technology—both in generaland with your industry, your market, and your competition, inparticular. (Thankfully, the Internet gives us all the chance to getour heads a bit out there.)None of this is to say that there’s not important “stuff” that you canand should find out within your own four walls. There are definitelypeople who know things, and you should know who they are andhow to tap them. But, when it comes right down to it, there’s reallyjust one question that can only be answered inside the building,and that’s “How does it work?” For everything else, you need tolook outside.RULE 12The answer to mostof your questions is notin the building.* I read Tuned In: Uncover the Extraordinary Opportunities That Lead to Business Breakthroughs, by Craig Stull, Phil Myers David Meerman Scott after I’d written this article. Tuned Inmakes the excellent point that, in addition to speaking with customers, you should also make sure you spend time with non-customers, since they represent the majority of the market.
Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management17In my experience, most B2Btechnology companies do seethat all their products have aproduct manager. Sometimesthe product manager windsup with multiple products—which is okay if they’re onthe smallish side and in thesame family. If the productsare on the biggish side andnot well related, it can lead to product attention deficit disorder.But, fortunately, most products tend to have product managers.But those business cases...Products start out in many ways.Sometimes (especially in the software industry) they getdeveloped by someone who thinks it’s a good idea and just goesahead and does it. If that’s the case, the product manager may betasked with creating a business case after the fact, trying to figureout the positioning and all that other good stuff that should havebeen determined before the product was created.Sometimes a product starts out with a business case, but it neverreally gets evaluated—let alone updated. And if you don’t botherto regularly update your product’s business case—or create itanew—you run into a lot of dangers:• Missed market opportunities• Missed product enhancement opportunities• Pricing that leaves $$$ on the table• Putting too many resources on Product X and too fewon Product Y• Hanging on to a product that really should be on anend-of-life pathWe all know how easy it is to keep chugging along, doing thesame thing quarter after quarter, year after year. If you’re aproduct manager, you probably know this drill by heart. You doyour job. You cover all the bases: product requirements, projectplan, documentation, product launch, sales tools, sales training,marketing programs, etc.It’s so darned easy never to take the time to critically examineyour product’s raison d’etre—and really figure out if there’s enoughraison to keep the d’etre going.Product managers, it’s never too late.If you have products with a business case covered by a spiderweb, it’s time to create a new one. You may have some tiny littlefear that a business case will end up putting your product out ofbusiness and your job at risk.Truly, this is a remote possibility; and, in fact, the best way to makesure it doesn’t happen is to ensure that the product(s) you managehave a strong business case behind them.As the saying goes, the unexamined life is not worth living; and, inthe end, the unexamined product is not worth managing.RULE 13Every “product” needsa product manager anda business case.
Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management18I confess: When I first sawPragmatic Marketing’sword remarkable, my initialthought was, “Is this one ofthose annoying words likepassionate and personal brandthat pop up from time to timeto test my gag reflex?”But that first thoughtwas fleeting.As product marketers and product managers, we should wantto deliver the remarkable in whatever we do. Think about itfor a minute.If you settle for “good enough” in your product and don’t includeat least a few “nice to have” goodies, your customers will greetthe new release with “It’s about time!” And your prospectswill greet the product with “Big deal—now you have whateveryone else does.”Is this the type of response you want?No, you want your customers and prospects to have some senseof delight—something they hadn’t thought of…something that’sa bit out of the ordinary…something they’ll find really useful, orat least interesting.It could be something as simple as a last-minute time- or trouble-saving feature. Maybe it’s a smooth integration with an applicationeveryone in your target industry’s using. Maybe it’s somethingall-new, first-ever, state-of-the-art—that everyone will soon clamorto own. Your remarkable “thing” could be a couple of hours ofinstallation support thrown in—not because installation is such abear, but because every environment’s different and anything canhappen. Remarkable can be extending the number of seats thelicense will support.You can be remarkable in your sales process by really andtruly listening to what your prospects and customers aresaying, and responding to them. You can be remarkable in yourcustomer service process with a check-in phone call to followup on whether or not last week’s problem has been resolved.Don’t forget the finance side of things, either. A lot of customerswould find it quite remarkable if you contacted them to let themknow you’ve discovered an overcharge, or that more attractivefinancing is available.It’s a tough world out there. In order to get noticed—and to winbusiness—you need to do something to stand out. And it reallydoesn’t have to be all that remarkable—just something simple forwhich your customers and prospects will love you.RULE 14Look for opportunitiesto deliver the remarkable.
Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management19We love our products.We’re proud of who we areand how we got here.Yes, yes, yes…we know whatwent into developing them.We want everyone to knowabout all the cool features.But before we get too carried away, let’s focus on messaging that’srelevant to the people who are actually going to buy the product.This rule is really resonating with me these days. I’m working witha new client, and there’s a part of their history of which they arerightfully quite proud. In fact, they’re so proud of it, that they prettymuch lead off with it. Which would be fine and dandy—except thatthis little piece of information (which looms so mightily for “us”) isstunningly irrelevant to the customers they’re trying to attract.At best, it’s of passing interest—like finding out that the woman inthe next office was an Olympic pairs skater, or that the sales guyyou did booth duty with at the tradeshow is related to the almost-famous actor with the same last name.So, when you’re positioning your product, lead with what’simportant to the person who might be writing the check, not withwhat’s near and dear to you.I am not, by the way, advocating for positioning that excludes whatthe product actually does. I’m a strong believer that goodpositioning includes not just what a product does for the buyer,but what it does, period. I absolutely hate reading about how aproduct saves time and money, increasing your bottom line—andcoming away without knowing whether we’re talking aboutaccounting software or a Ginsu knife.So save the off-message information for footnotes, conversation,or company background.Yes, it’s interesting that your founder won the Pulitzer Prize.That your product was originally built to count hula hoops. Thatcorporate headquarters is located in the old mill where Civil Warmuskets were manufactured. Nice to know...just not need to know.Obviously, no one is going to make the positioning mistake oftelling the audience what’s in it for the company selling the product(“We need this product to be a success so that we can stay inbusiness!”). But it’s pretty easy to slip into talking about what’s ofmost interest to us, rather than to focus on what the customer reallywants to learn.Sure, there are two sides to every transaction, and the buyerknows that there’s something in it for us. But let’s face it; all buyersreally want to know what’s in it for them.RULE 15With positioning,the focus is on whatwe do for the buyers.
Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management20Anyone who has spent morethan a few days in technologyproduct management,product marketing, ordevelopment is familiar withthat scariest of creatures:The Continuously MorphingSet of Requirements.Everyone can be guilty offeeding this particular beast by coming up with a last-minutefeature request. Even if you have stellar positioning, you still mighthave light bulbs go off in your head right up until the second theproduct is supposed to ship. But if you have solid positioningcompleted before product development begins, you should face nomajor surprises, because you will already have considered:• Who exactly will be using this product?• How many different constituencies are there (worker-bees,managers, partners, customers of your customer, etc.)?• For what specific purpose will each of thesegroups be using the product?• What does each of these groups need in order to trulyadopt the product?• What does each of these groups need in order to derivemaximum benefit from the product?• How will the product be deployed?• How will the product be sold?• What does each channel need to effectively sell the product?• Who will be implementing this product?• What do they need to easily deploy it?• Who will be supporting this product?• What do they need to effectively support the product?• Where will this product be available?• Are there any regional/country differences to consider?• Etc.This list might seem “duh-simple,” but you’d be surprised at the“must-have” requirements that show up at the last minute if youhaven’t answered them.If you haven’t thought about your sales force, you may forget tomention to the developers that you need a web-accessible demo.That decision to market overseas may have significant implications.You may not have considered the possibility that managementdoesn’t want to use the product every day, but still wants to seehigh-level information on a dashboard.The more precisely you’ve defined your positioning, the less likelyyou are to have any last-minute surprises—or even post-last-minute surprises, when you’ve launched the product, only to find itcomes up short for any number of reasons. Reasons that you couldhave easily avoided if only you’d answered all the questions!RULE 16Positioning shouldbe complete beforeyou start developing.
Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management21In the dawn of technology marketing, we spoke“techinese,” emphasizing features and oftenforgetting the benefits.Then someone uttered those immortal words,“People don’t buy features; they buy benefits.” Sowe were off to the races with benefits statements.Unfortunately, all benefits statements startedto sound alike: Use our product to save timeand money, increase productivity, and growyour revenues. You could read these benefitsstatements and come away with no ideawhatsoever whether someone was trying to sellyou a mainframe or a spreadsheet.This all came about because, as marketers,we often fail to think through exactly who ourbuyers are—especially in terms of all thevarious constituencies who might be involvedin a purchase decision.We jumped from thinking only about thetechies and their need to know the grittyproduct details, to thinking only about theillustrious “C-level” exec who just wants toknow the ROI.With individual positioning work, you’llhave the essential messages you need tocommunicate about your product and its valueto all of your audiences.• For the technology buyer, go heavy on thefeatures and technical details. By the timethey’re looking at your product, these buyershave often already made the decision to buysomething. They need to know whatdifferentiates your product from the pack. Sure,they want to know how your features translateinto benefits, but mostly, they want to know howit works, what it’s made of, and what it’s going totake to implement and support. When they’rethinking benefits, they’re probably looking forwhat they need in order to sell up the chain intheir organization.• End users mostly want to know what yourproduct does for them, how it’s going to changethe way they work, and how easy it’s going to befor them to learn to use. And just like misery,end users love company: They want to knowwho else is using your product.• Managers may not need all the details that thetech buyer and end user do, but they still needinfo on how your product is going to make lifebetter for their people and for them. It’s at thislevel that the positioning starts shifting gearsfrom being predominantly feature-orientedto a bit more benefits-oriented.• For the executive/economic buyer, yourpositioning moves squarely into the benefitscamp. But you still need to ensure that thepositioning communicates what the product isand does, since even the most hands-off execsneed to know whether they’re okaying thepurchase of accounting softwareor a storage drive.• Don’t forget vertical positioning, either.Most industries have their own peculiaritiesand lingo.Having these positioning documents on handsaves you a lot of effort when you’re creating salestools, collateral, and program material. You’ll knowwhat to say, and you’ll make sure you’re saying theright thing to the right people.RULE 17You need a positioningdocument for eachtype of buyer.
Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management22Given that you want your product name toresonate in some way, this is a good rule of thumb.With your positioning complete, you realizewhich attributes of your product are the mostcompelling, so you can craft a product namethat speaks to those attributes. Is your productall things to all people? Are you most psychedabout how environmentally friendly it is? Howabout “Green Thang”? (Okay, that’s terrible,but you get the point.)Whatever product name you choose, keep inmind product naming isn’t nearly as importantor essential for technology products as it isfor consumer products. You brush with Cresttoothpaste, not PG.Many B2B technology products are referredto by the company name, not by the specificproduct name (for example, many peoplesay “Oracle” when asked what databasethey use). So you don’t always have to spenda lot of money and effort coming up withperfect names, when what you really wantto do is promote your company name asyour brand. Sure, there are exceptions—Microsoft Office, Outlook, Word, Excel, andPowerPoint come to mind—but what matters mostis your company name.Another thing to consider—and I’d recommendthis for anybody who thinks they’re ever goingto have more than one product to name: Createan overall naming architecture and set ofguidelines. Maybe all products will start with theCompany Name, followed by a straightforwardexpression of what the product is or does:• Acme Accounting Software• Acme HR SoftwareMaybe it’s Company Name, followed bysomething that combines an element of what theproduct is, as well as an associated attribute.• Acme Accounting Excellence• Acme HR ExcellenceOr vice versa:• Acme Excellence for Accounting• Acme Excellence for HRWhile you’re at it, figure out how you’re going tohandle versioning, “special editions,” and anyother rules you want observed (for example,don’t use two of the same vooweels together inthe same word).If you’ve got all this codified ahead of time, peoplewill spend a lot less time agonizing over names.RULE 18Name the productafter positioningis finished.
Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management23Early in the sales cycle, a prospect needs to knowthe basics about your product and company—enough to help establish interest (theirs) andcredibility (yours). Period. Dangle a case studyin front of them. If they bite, great! You’ve movedthem a little further along.Thinly veiled sales pitches can go out in thesecond wave. But you might want to reservea really meaty whitepaper—one that digsinto industry and/or technology trends anddownplays the product stuff—for someone who’sdemonstrated serious interest. (If you have sucha whitepaper, you probably paid plenty for it andshould use it judiciously—this goodie is worthsomething. Serious prospects only!)Nitty-gritty product info should be available to theserious tech buyer. Within reason, you’ll have alot of this material on your website as downloads,but you might want to reserve highly detailedinformation for prospects that are fairly far along inthe sales cycle—and have the salesperson send it,or make it available via special download.As you move forward in the sales cycle,you’ll want to introduce tools and collateralthat help the ROI cause, provide customertestimonials, explain implementation, etc. Atthis point, prospects have a need to know and need to use.For heaven’s sake, don’t send out the whiz-bang PowerPoint until you’re scheduled towalk through it in a virtual meeting (maybenot even then). You can always email the file to theprospect after the presentation.When meeting in person, some people liketo distribute presentation copies beforehand;others like to distribute them after the fact. I’m forgiving them out after the fact, preferring to turn apresentation, wherever possible, into a two-wayconversation, rather than a slide read-along. Andmake sure that the slides are annotated, so thatsomeone who wasn’t at the presentation is notreading a page that says only:• It’s big.• It’s wonderful.• You’ll like it.With notes, they can read the fine print andunderstand what point you’re trying to make.Whether you work at a small or large company,there’s always the temptation to shoot out all thecollateral at once. Take one of everything! Don’twe have a lot of neat stuff for you? And now, ofcourse, we have a tendency to put all that stuffup on the website and let prospects downloadwhatever they want. Unfortunately, those prospectscould get overwhelmed and/or not read much ofanything. So, it’s really best to reserve some bits ofinformation that your salespeople can send out atdifferent points in the cycle (following a roadmapfor what-goes-where-when that you provided).Similarly, your marketing programs—tradeshows,seminars, webinars, direct marketing, blogs—should be used for different purposes and atdifferent times in the cycle. But don’t forget, manyprograms can serve multiple purposes: If you’regoing to a tradeshow, you’re probably trolling forleads, but don’t forget that it’s a good opportunityto set up face-time with customers who’llalso be attending.B2B technology sales don’t tend to occur asone-shot events. They take time. And duringthat time, you want to make sure that you havesomething more to say or do than have yoursales folks on the phone asking, “Have you madeyour decision yet?”RULE 19Provide collateral, tools,and programs to supporteach step in the sales cycle.
Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management24While this should be themost obvious of rules—afterall, someone has to be thefinal authority on productrequirements—the operativeterm here is market-driven.Take it from someonewho’s been both a productmanager and a market-driven product manager, there’s a world of differencebetween the two.The plain-old product manager serves a very valuable function,making sure that the requirements are nailed down; keeping aproduct release on track; knowing at any given time just wherethings stand with development, QA, documentation, packaging,manufacturing, production, training, marketing, support, sales, etc.The product manager knows who the customers are—and whothey aren’t. The product manager gets to buy all those bubble-gum cigars for launch date—“It’s a product!”Sounds pretty good, no?But here’s where life is not so good for the non-market-driven product manager: He or she may have made sure therequirements were nailed down, but they’re not likely the one whoactually did the nailing.Absent strong awareness of the market—the kind that comes fromknowing your customers, industry, product domain, competition,and business and technology environments—a product managerwill almost invariably give in to the loud-mouth/know-it-allbrigade—developer, salesperson, or anyone else who is willing tovoice a strong opinion (informed or not).The product manager in this scenario is really a glorified projectmanager—the keeper of the Gantt charts, spreadsheets, andschedules—but not the person who truly “owns” the product. Thatis, until the product meets with some market resistance. Then, youcan best believe heads will swivel toward the product manager,eyes will turn, fingers will point. “How did we let the product goout the door without X, which everybody seems to want? Why didwe waste all that time and money on making sure the product didY, which nobody seems to want?”Sure, this can happen even when the product manager ismarket-driven. Anyone can make a mistake.But that scenario is far less likely for the market-driven productmanager, who will have either made sure the product does X orunderstand why it doesn’t; who will know why Y went into theproduct and what you need to do to ensure it’s not a waste of time.The product manager should be the final authority—but that willhappen only when he or she has earned the authority by beingable to show the world—especially those loud-mouths/know-it-alls—what being market-driven is all about.RULE 20The market-drivenproduct manager should bethe final authority on whatgoes into the product.
Practical Rules for Product ManagementPractical Rules for Product Management25Maureen blogs at Opinionated Marketers, and Pink Slip.Training seminars from Pragmatic Marketing.Complimentary subscription to The Pragmatic Marketer digital magazine.I hope you enjoyed this e-book, and it gives you some food for thought. If you want to learn more, check out the following.-MaureenLicensed under Creative Commons License, Attribution 3.0. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0Other product and/or company names mentioned in this e-book may be trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies and are the sole property of their respective owners.
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