February 24, 2018

Making a Big Mistake in Product Positioning?

Recently, I was at an entrepreneurial networking meeting and I saw this written on a whiteboard.

Common Misconception in Product Positioning

Common Misconception in Product Positioning

I apologize for the low quality image, but it shows a process of where your start with your product, then you determine how to position in your product in the market, which then drives your promotions for your product.

When I see positioning presented like this, I want to cringe, as this is such a common misconception of positioning.   The common mistake is that positioning occurs after the product is defined.   My response to that is, “how do you know what product you should build if you don’t know what position you want to achieve and with what market segment”.   That determination of target market segment and desired position can result in completely different products based upon those two key decisions.

So allow me to share some additional background.   The early definition of positioning by Trout and Ries clearly stated that positioning occurs in the mind of the customer.   And I agree, that ultimately, the customer (the market) owns how they want to position your product in their mind.   But our goal as product managers and product marketers is to select our desired position and effectively use our Ps of marketing (Product, Price, Place, Promotion) to influence our product’s desired position in the mind of the customer.

The mistake that people make, including some very smart marketers, is that they look at positioning as being primarily driven by promotions.  While in some consumer markets with commodity type products, where you are focused “principally” on making an emotional connection to your brand, this might be true.  But in most markets, you must leverage all of your Ps of marketing to build and support that position in the market.  Thus before you completely define your product, pricing strategy, promotion strategy and channel strategy, you need to first decide upon your positioning strategy.

Many people will argue my above point by stating that they are lean and they are iterating themselves to Problem/Solution Fit or Product/Market Fit.   And I agree that in opportunities where they is uncertainty around the problem and the right solution, you have to iterate through various positions before you arrive at the right Fit.

Why do I say iterate through positions (Positioning)?  If you read the standard format for the positioning statement (as created by Geoffrey Moore), the components include both your value proposition and your competitive differentiation.   Those are key decisions that you can begin to iterate through before you even know what your solution is.  Theoretically, I can, and should, define and validate my product positioning before I even know what my product (solution) is.

My Message – Start by defining and validating your desired product positioning before you formalize your product solution!

Please see more about my thoughts on positioning and go-to-market strategies on my SlideShare presentation.




Product Management Lessons From The Street

The more time I spend in Product Management, the more I look at day-to-day experiences through the lens of a Product Manager.  Almost daily, I encounter an experience with a product or service where I’m either really impressed or very dissatisfied with the experience.   From those experiences, I see the application of important lessons for Product Managers and Product Marketers.  I’m going to use this series of posts to share with you those experiences and the lessons that we can learn.   I hope you enjoy these posts as much as I enjoy writing them.

Product Management Lessons From the Street – Posts

  1. How Much Profit Is A Poor Online Experience Costing An Offline Service?
  2. What Can Airlines Learn From the 3Ps of Services



What Can Airlines Learn From the 3Ps of Services

The airline industry consistently ranks as one of the most disliked industries in the United States, along with health care, the postal service and telco providers.  But does it really have to be that way.   Are there some simple things the airlines can do to improve on this status?  Let me relate a story that show how a simple application of the 3Ps of service (the new 3Ps in addition to the traditional 4Ps) might make a difference.

If you’re not familiar with the Ps of marketing, the traditional Ps of marketing are product, price, place (distribution channels) and promotions.   With the increase in service oriented products being offered, there are 3 new Ps that have grown in importance – People, Process and Physical Evidence.

Several years ago, I was on a flight to Chicago, and toward the end of the flight, I realized that something was different about that flight.  I was experiencing some of the best coach class service that I had experienced in recent years.   And I started to think about why this time was different.  After thinking about it for a few moments, I concluded the following made the difference:

  • In most flights of that length (2 to 3 hours), the flight attendants come through the cabin once to offer a drink, and then they congregate in the back galley to chat or read (and do some of their paperwork).  If you need anything else from them, you have to push the call button or go to the back of the plane.
  • On this flight, the flight attendants passed through the aisle multiple times offering water, not just the once.

When I had a chance, I went back to the flight attendants to compliment them on the excellent service.  They were grateful for the compliment and noted that many flight attendants don’t have the same attitude toward service and do the minimum required.

That got me thinking about how the new 3Ps of marketing applied in this case.  But before I share my thoughts, I want to emphasize a couple of points.

  1. First of all, I don’t want to want to bash flight attendants in general.   I believe the challenge for most flight attendants are problems with the policies of the airline companies and the industry in general.
  2. E.g., when the industry states in their announcements that the flight attendants are there primarily for your safety, that already sets some expectations on service.   I think this statement is primarily a US industry statement, as I find other carriers in other countries have a much stronger orientate toward service.

So let’s apply the 3Ps.

  • Process – I’m going to start with process, as this seems the most relevant.   The airlines definitely have lots of process in place around safety, security and some of the service work.   It can’t be too much more difficult to enhance some of the process around customer service and set expectations around passing through the cabin and offering water on a more regular basis, instead of sitting in the back chatting.
  • People – Some airlines are well known for having hiring practices that make sure they hire people that really enjoy serving and engaging with customers.  I’d like to think that all airlines try to do this, but it’s clear some airlines treat this with a higher importance than others.   But you also have to give the flight attendants the right training to understand and apply the customer service processes and in the importance of doing that.
  • Physical Evidence – In my specific example, the water or selection of drinks would be the physical evidence of the service provided.   So this brings up another interesting point.  On another flight (a 3+ hour flight), I went back to the galley to get some water, and was speaking with the flight attendants about coming through the cabin more often, instead of making us go to the back.   This flight attendant stated that they were supposed to go through the cabin more often, but if they did, they would end up serving more water, and they didn’t have enough water on board the flight.  So they were controlling the consumption by making it a little less convenient to get water.   I don’t know if not enough water was just for this flight, or is a common situation because the airlines are trying to control costs (or possibly weight).

As I think about the application of people and process in this particular example, it has really has almost no cost associated with it, but yet it can reap so many benefits in developing a more positive image around an airline, and the industry.

What are your thoughts about this?

How Much Profit Is A Poor Online Experience Costing An Offline Service?

Several weeks ago I took my son a theme park at which we held season passes.   So the night before, I decided to purchase some “extras” online before arriving so that we could get right to fun upon arrival.   As much I tried to make these purchases ahead of time, the site proved far too confusing to complete an online transaction.

So here’s what happened.

  1. First of all, I logged into my online account that I already had, and for some reason, I was not seeing the discounts that season pass-holders should get.  As I looked through my account, I realized my annual passes were not registered to my online account.   How could that be?  I purchased the annual passes through my online account, so how could it not have my pass already registered?   In the end, after of many minutes of frustration, I finally found a place to where I could enter a long and almost unreadable number from my annual pass to register my annual pass with my online account where I had purchased the annual pass.
  2. Next, the theme park actually has two sections (main theme park and a water park).  I had purchased annual passes for both parks, so I assumed that I could purchase the “extras” for both parks via that one online account.  Wrong again!   As I desperately searched for the “extras” to the water park, I discovered those extras could only be found on a website for the water park, and not via the main theme park.   So I went to that water park website where I tried to login using my online account, and ….., it wouldn’t login.  It appears that I had to create another account on that website to make online purchases.   At that point, I finally gave up in frustration and decided not to purchase any extras at that time.

So my question for this theme park, and for you, is, even if you are an offline service, what is your poor online purchase experience costing you?  Without thinking about it, I would automatically want to say this organization must invest in creating a much improved online experience.  But should they?   Is it actually costing them, in revenue, brand reputation, etc?

If I were in their position, I would want to ask and answer the following questions.

  • What percentage of people who fail to buy extras online, never purchase these extras upon arrival?  Or purchase fewer extras onsite?   Can I track these attempts and connect them to onsite purchases (for a season pass-holder, I think yes)?
  • How much does our poor online experience impact our brand reputation?   Does it keep people from coming to our park or keep season pass-holders from renewing annual passes?  Does it impact our online reviews?
  • How can we test the impact of improvements before we make them?   Can we do this via small incremental investments?   If large investments are required (in this case I think the park needs to make some major integration investments), how can I measure this?  Through customer interviews, customer surveys?  By answering some of the above questions?

While there are other questions we could ask, the main thing is that this park, and your company, need to consider these possibilities and then put metrics in place to determine how improving the online experience will benefit the organization.

BTW – my son and I had an amazing two days at this theme park, in spite of the of the poor online experience.  Would I have purchased more extras than I did?   Probably



Webcast – Driving the Marketing and Sales Funnel to Close Deals: What Product Marketers Must Know and Do!

Date:  Dec 11, 1:00 PM CT

The Product Marketer is responsible for ensuring demand for a product in the market, and part of that responsibility is “guiding” marketing programs that will drive that demand.  Without a clear understanding of the Product Marketer’s role in demand generation, demand generation programs too often lack clarity and focus and deliver marginal results.  But what does this really mean for the Product Marketer?  What must the Product Marketer know and be able to do to effectively drive demand?

In this webinar, you’ll learn:

  • A clear definition of Product Marketing’s role in demand generation
  • How Product Marketing interfaces with the rest of the marketing organization
  • How to define program goals
  • How to determine the best methods of customer acquisition
  • How to define program metrics and monitor the marketing and sales funnel

Webcast – Nothing Happens Until Someone Sells Something: Enabling Your Sales Channel For Success

Date:  November 19, 12pm CT

Too often, those of us in the product marketing role are not doing enough to help our sales team or sales channel be successful.  Our typical approach to helping is to provide a new salesperson with some marketing collateral and a product presentation and then wish them luck as they look for prospects and try to close deals with anyone that listens.  This approach is sufficient for the star salespeople as they intuitively know how to talk with the right potential buyers about their problems and then show these buyers how to solve these problems with their products or services.  But unfortunately, this only represents about 20% of salespeople.  The other 80% of sales people need more training and coaching to be successful and we as product marketers need to help them be successful.  This is the process of “Sales Enablement”.

What happens when we don’t engage in the sales enablement process?  Sales people pursue opportunities that don’t fit well with your solution, speak with the prospects that aren’t really decision makers, sell solutions that you don’t really have and the list can go on.  But the overall resulting impact is wasted time and effort in pursuing the wrong opportunities, confusion in the market place and poor sales results.

In this webinar, you’ll learn how to create a Sales Enablement program that will make your sales channel significantly more productive and close better deals faster for your products.

In this webinar, you’ll learn:

  • Why the typical approach to enabling sales doesn’t work.
  • The key goals of a successful Sales Enablement program.
  • The core tools you need to develop to effectively enable your sales channel.
  • Best practices to make sure the Sales Enablement program is effectively implemented.


Webcast: How to Create Effective Sales & Marketing Tools That Actually Get Used By Sales and Prospects! – Oct 15, 2015

According to the American Marketing Association (AMA), “Up to 90% of collateral created by marketing is never used by sales.”  That is an astounding statistic which should be a wakeup call to those of us in Product Marketing that we need to be doing something different.   Most of the time, sales doesn’t use our tools because the tools are ineffective, and the reasons for this include:

  • Too many companies create a standard checklist of marketing and sales tools based upon what someone used in a past company, without any consideration as to what is really needed in this company.
  • Too much content is about the company and their products with little discussion about the buyers and users and what they need.

In this webinar, you’ll learn:

  • A process for discovering and defining what sales & marketing tools are required for your target markets.
  • How to develop content that resonates with your target audiences.
  • How to use your marketing and sales tools to create alignment with the sales team.

Real Product Managers Don’t Twerk

Twerking was the Runner Up in “Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year” (after Selfie) and is a sexually provocative style of dancing.

So what does Twerking have to do with Product Management and Product Marketing?

I would suggest that the reason most people (especially celebrities) Twerk is to attract attention to themselves.  While this often does create immediate and significant buzz, does it create long term value and long-term fan loyalty for them?   And when Twerking no longer shocks, what is the next shocking thing they have to do to keep attracting attention.

From a Product Management & Product Marketing perspective, Twerking is when we take actions with our products or marketing that might create short-term attention, but don’t create long-term value.  We take tactical actions that don’t necessarily support a solid growth strategy.  We trade-off the long-term reward for a short-term gain.  When we do a product or marketing Twerk, we might gain some temporary attention, and attract some eyeballs , but have we really created long-term sustainable value and customer loyalty?

How do Product Managers/Marketers Twerk?  

We Twerk when we:

  • Add cool features or a new cool user interface to our products without considering the value for our customers;
  • Invest a lot of money in a one time marketing action (e.g., dotcom Super Bowl adds);
  • Do marketing that entertains, but doesn’t inform or persuade the prospect (e.g., dotcom Super Bowl adds);
  • Chase the shiny objects (market opportunities) in the market without regard to our overall strategy and the true viability of the opportunity (can I say dotcom boom again).

All of these might create a short-term win, but rarely do they lead to creating long-term value.

I know your asking, “But Tom, don’t we need to create buzz in the market?”   Yes, of course you need to create buzz in the market, but it should always be done as part of an overall strategy.   Sure, there are examples of companies creating long-term success from short-term buzzes, but those tend to be the exception and not the rule.   You best bet is focus on a clear strategy that delivers long-term value and find ways to create buzz that support that strategy.

The next time you make decisions around product enhancements, new market opportunities, market messages or a marketing campaign, take a moment to consider, are you creating true long-term value based upon a well defined strategy, or are you just Twerking?  Executing solid Product Management and Product Marketing practices is the foundation for successful strategies.

Hmm, now that I think about it, would I consider this blog post a Twerk?


BTW – Please share your favorite Product or Marketing Twerks in the comments below!!

Webcast: From Messaging Nightmare to Messaging Delight – How to Create a Powerful Messaging Platform – Sept 17th

If you were to do a survey of executives, sales people, marketing and other market facing personnel within a company and ask them how they would describe a specific product to a potential prospect, I bet in the majority of cases, you would hear almost as many explanations as there were people interviewed.  This really is a messaging nightmare that might be undermining the success of your product(s).  This results in significant marketplace confusion, impacts revenue generation and reflects poorly on your product.  We as Product Managers and Product Marketers like to blame the messenger for this problem, but the likely reality is that we are at fault.  As PMs & PMMS, we must own the message and then enable the organization to take this message to the market.   The starting point for doing this is a Powerful Messaging Platform.

Key Takeaways from participating in this webinar:

    • Understand the key business drivers for developing a messaging platform
    • Discover the most important, but yet often overlooked, starting point for your messaging
    • Learn the five key components of a successful Messaging Platform
    • Understand how the Messaging Platform contributes to more success in the market

Webcast: Profitable Products Sell Value: Why Value-Based Pricing Wins – August 13, 2015

Pricing is the fastest and most effective way for companies to increase profitability.   Studies show that a 1% increase in pricing has a greater positive impact on profitability than does a 1% increase in sales volume or a 1% decrease in costs.  Unfortunately, too many companies think tactically about pricing and do not effectively price for profitability.  In this webinar, we’ll discuss common mistakes that companies make in pricing and identify best pricing practices that will enable them to maximize company profitability.

Key Takeaways from participating in this webinar:

  • Understand key principles for defining pricing
  • Connect your pricing strategy to your Go-to-Market strategy
  • Discover ways to define your price based upon your value proposition