June 25, 2017

Real Product Managers Don’t Do Selfies!

It’s a great honor for a new word to earn a definition in the Oxford Dictionary, but the greatest honor that any new word can achieve is to be named the “Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year“.  In 2013, the word “selfie” achieved that honor via a 17,000% increase in usage from 2012.    It won over other recently popularized words such as “twerk” and “binge-watch”.   The Oxford definition for “selfie” is:

“A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smart phone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website” ~ Oxford Dictionary

So what does all of this have to do with Product Managers (and Product Marketers)?  When it comes to managing a product, or defining the Go-to-Market strategy for a product, way too many Product Managers and Product Marketers are doing “selfies”.

Ways in Which Product Managers & Product Marketers Do Selfies

Here a just a few examples of how we as Product Managers & Product Marketers do selfies:

  1. We define features that we think are cool.
  2. We write market messages that tickle our ears.
  3. We give presentations to customers where we talk about how great our company and our products are.
  4. We sit around conference rooms talking about what we think our customers think (and never ask them).
  5. We use marketing programs and marketing media that we like to use or that is currently fashionable.
  6. We define User Experience (UX) that is flashy and uses the latest trendy technologies.  (BTW – I’m not endorsing that PMs should be doing UX)
  7. We give long product demos, feature-by-feature, making sure not to miss a single feature (and especially our pet features).

Selfies is a Sin of Marketing Narcissism

When we do selfies such as the examples described above, we are committing a sin of Marketing Narcissism.   Marketing Narcissism is doing marketing that is all about you, your company or your product.

I know, calling it a sin is pretty harsh, but what amazes me is, that within the Product Management community, the message is clear and loud that we must focus on the customer, understand their market needs, build products that solve those needs and communicate messages that resonate with the problems they have, but even with that clear understanding, over and over again, I see companies and Product Managers/Product Marketers who are regularly committing Marketing Narcissism.   Companies from start-up to Global 2000 do this on a regular basis.   Even trained Product Managers & Product Marketers do this.  Why? When will learn?

I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason we continually make this mistake is that Marketing Narcissism is easier to do.  Is is the path of least resistance.   It’s hard work to really understand our customers in depth, so instead of doing the hard work ,we take the easy and well-traveled path, which eventually leads to Product Management hell.

The Harder and Less-Traveled Path to Product Management Heaven

We cannot continue doing things the way we used to if we really want establish the Product Management and Product Marketing disciplines as the key strategic roles they are meant to be and make a significant impact on the success of our organization.   Here are some thoughts to help move in the right direction:

  • We must get our management teams and key internal constituents aligned to understand the importance of being market-driven so that we can break down that resistance to change.  I have seen over and over again where Product Management teams have committed to improving their practices and have been trained and established market-driven processes, but the resistance to change from other parts of the organization was so high, the initiative failed and everyone fell back into their old patterns of Marketing Narcissism.
  • We must commit to being students of the Product Management game so that we keep learning better ways to do our role better and self-correct ourselves as we remind ourselves of things of we know we should be doing, but either forgot or got to busy to do.
  • We must develop our Market Expertise.  We must develop a deep and “intimate” understanding of customers and markets to be successful in Product Management and Product Marketing.  Nothing creates greater credibility for you as a Product Manager or Product Marketer than being able to speak from the perspective of your customers using real market evidence.
  • And, anytime someone in your company wants you to commit Marketing Narcissism, Just Say No!!

I highly encourage all Product Managers and Product Marketers to make a new years resolution to spend more time in the market and to develop that deep understanding of their customer’s.  Wishing you all the best for 2014!!!

 

BTW – Real Product Managers don’t “twerk” either, but I’ll get to that another time.

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