October 21, 2017

Archives for May 2013

How Product Marketing Contributes to Revenue Growth & Product Success – Webinar Series

We partnered with AIPMM to conduct a series of Webinars on what Product Marketing can do to contribute to product success via revenue growth.  The role of Product Marketing is often misunderstand and through these webinars, I hope you better understand the strategic nature of the Product Marketing role and how they must partner with Product Management and Sales to drive revenue and product success.   The series of webinars includes:

Please click on the associated link for registration information.

Earned Authority #2: Develop Your Expertise in Your Market Domain

Way too many Product Managers (and Product Marketers) are experts in their products, but unfortunately, not experts in the market domain where their product competes. I often here people say that Product Managers should know everything about their product and be able to answer any question about their product. That can be useful, but even more useful is to know the details of their market, of their buyers and users, the kinds of problems they are experiencing and the kind of problems they expect to encounter in the future.

So Why is Market Expertise So Important?

Let me give you two reasons:

  1. The most successful product managers that I know are experts in their markets.
  2. You key constituencies (internal & external) care more about your market expertise than they do about your product expertise.

Why Your Key Stakeholders Care About Your Market Expertise as a Product Manager?

  • Your engineers care about your market expertise. They would much rather work on product ideas and functionality that address specific market needs than they would on product ideas or functionality that you thought would be cool. Trust me, even though engineers are known to develop things just because they are cool, they really do want the products they work on to be successful and want that new functionality they work on to be used by users. Have you ever written a product requirement and gotten push back from the engineers as to why that needed to be done? I know that has happened to me and in all cases it was because it was something that I thought would be cool and not something the market expressed a need for. I can think of one specific example where there was a feature I thought we needed in the product, but if I had presented that feature to the engineering team without any market evidence, they would have pushed back on it as something unnecessary. But one day while speaking to a customer, the customer related to me the specific market reason as to why they needed the feature and based upon that, it was easy to have it added to the product.
  • Your sales team cares about your market expertise. When sales people try to sell product features, they fall flat and rarely succeed. But when they discover prospect’s problems and are able to show how your product solves those problems, they succeed much more often. Guess who they count on to understand those market problems and to make sure the product solves those problems? You, the Product Manager. So unless you, the Product Manager, have deep market expertise and understand your customer’s and prospect’s problems in depth, how will the sales team know how to sell your product?
  • Your marketing team cares about your market expertise.  How can you develop or contribute to a Go-to-Market Strategy if you don’t have market expertise.   Just like the sales team needs your guidance, so does the marketing team.   They need you to provide guidance on target market segments, buyer and user personas, value proposition and competitive differentiators and key messages to communicate.   Once they have a clear understanding of these key items, they can rock with marketing, but you can’t tell them this without developing market expertise.
  • Your management team cares about your market expertise. One definition of Product Management that I like is to maximize the value of your product for your customers, partners and company throughout the life cycle of the product. That’s what your management team cares about because that ensures profitability for today and tomorrow. You can’t do this unless you are a market expert. When you present a new market opportunity to or evaluate a new market opportunity for your management team, they want to see a clear and viable business case based upon a clear understanding of how you can solve big and pervasive market problems, not about cool products. You can only do this if you are a market expert.
  • Finally, your customers care about your market expertise. The buyers of your product don’t care about cool features. They care about how it helps them solve problems they have or help them become more competitive. They want to be able to do things faster, better and cheaper, and you can only help them do that if you understand their problems or the obstacles to achieving their objectives. And you can only get a conversation with senior executives if you show that you understand or want to understand their problems and look for ways of solving them.

How to Develop Expertise in Your Market Domain

So if I haven’t made this perfectly clear, your credibility as a Product Manager and your ability to motivate others to support your product plans rests upon your depth of Market Expertise.  Here are some suggestions to build your market expertise and credibility.

  • Most important of all, you must spend time speaking to your customers as well as the non-customers in your target markets. Meet with and get to know all levels of influencers and decision makers.   From this, you can observe and hear them talk about their challenges and problems and discover how they actually use your product.   You should find a good balance of doing this over the phone and meeting face-to-face.   By doing this, you’ll learn many insights that you’ll never discover with your butt in your office chair.
  • Actively participate in online communities that your company hosts or that are relevant to your market.   Observe what people are talking about and contribute to the discussion to demonstrate thought leadership.
  • Go on an occasional sales call.   I wouldn’t recommend that you overdue this, as the sales team might turn you into the sales engineer, but this will give you another perspective on the needs of your target market.
  • Have regular conversations with you business partners, channel and suppliers.  They have needs to meet and will offer additional insights.
  • Do Win/Loss Analysis.  You’ll rarely get an accurate picture from sales of why you won or lost a deal, but you can learn a lot more by doing the call yourself, especially on the losses.
  • Speak with those in your company doing implementations or providing professional services or customer care.  They are front-line everyday and hear the conversations and complaints from your customers.   They are a great source for improving your products.
  • Set aside time each week to read relevant industry news.   This is one of those tasks that if you don’t schedule, you’ll never find time to do it.   Another idea is to use airplane time to catch up on some of your industry reading.
  • Use Google Alerts to get updates about important competitive or industry news.
  • Develop and help lead an active User Group or Product Advisory Council.  Make sure they meet on a regular basis and ensure they have time to present their needs as a group.
  • Don’t hoard what you learn and keep it all to yourself.   Share it with your key constituents.  Write short summaries on customer visits or do an occasional lunch & learn presentation.
  • Finally, if I didn’t say it enough already, I’ll say it again, spend time with your target market!!!

 Nuff Said!  Becoming a Market Expert is Your Primary Role!