Wednesday, June 22, 2011

10 Steps to Prepare for A New Product Management Position

You've survived the interview process and have signed the papers!  
Congratulations, now how do you prepare to ramp up and hit the ground running for a new product management position?  

New to product management?
from Adrienne Tan of brainmates

Ten Steps:

1.  Review the job description - either someone who did the job wrote it, or its a wish list of all the things they want to happen in an ideal world - use it as the baseline for clarifying what it is you should be doing and when.

2.  Know the product and be familiar with the company mission, this includes the website and all the customer touch points regarding the product.  I take the perspective of a customer with no product or company information who is viewing the website for the first time - does it do its job to be informative, enable intuitive navigation, and provide accurate, timely content? 

3.  Get up on the Blogosphere, Google alerts, forums, social media - know what people are saying who use the product, like or hate the product - start participating on the company blog or in forums - be prepared to create an internal product management communication vehicle if one doesn't exist

4.  Know the Competitive space - who else makes products, better or different, solving the same problem? What are the industry events and media? Who are the thought leaders in the space?

5.  Identify the Target market - who is this product sold to, what is the installed base, capture metrics.

6.  Start analyzing the state of the product by conducting a SWOT Analysis, preparing an Ansoff or BCG Matrix, ....check out my slidedeck slides 14, 15, etc.  These are good ways to get everyone on the same page about the current "state of the product"

7.   Remember what your role is as a product manager. Define your boundaries and be clear about your purpose.
Product Management Manifesto
Product Marketing Manifesto

8.  Listen, ask questions, meet people, take notes and determine expectations, who you report to, who you have to please, identify the deliverables, and find where the fires are.  Make a road map for what you intend to accomplish and determine who to communicate with and how to get visibility so you can do your job effectively. Plan to nurture a mentor relationship, identify the stakeholders, and get chummy with everyone who has information about the product process, learn the developer's first names, favorite sports teams and hobbies, and anything else you need to know to gain respect and a trusted ear.

9. Document your experience so you can track your personal & professional progress on your own blog!

10. Keep returning to iterate and expand as you gain more knowledge and experience with the product, company and process.

Have other advice?  Please share your experience and suggestions!

April Event Review: The Quest to be Market-Driven

April, 2011 Report from the Silicon Valley Product Management Association

At the April 6, 2011 meeting of the Silicon Valley Product Management Association meeting held at Tech Mart in Santa Clara, Mike Gospe presented “The Quest to be Market-driven: what product managers and product marketers need to do to become the customers’ advocate.”

Mike Gospe is an accomplished leader, marketing strategist and corporate executive. He is co-founder of KickStart Alliance, a sales and marketing leadership consulting team where he drives integrated marketing and voice-of-the customer programs, including Customer Advisory Board (CAB) meetings. He’s the author of “Marketing Campaign Development“, a faculty member of San Francisco State University where he teaches the course “Essentials of Integrated Marketing” and a frequent guest speaker at companies, marketing associations and university business schools. His talk addressed the subject matter of his newly published book, “The Marketing High Ground”.

Mike began his career with an engineering perspective having obtained a BSEE from Santa Clara University in semiconductor fabrication.  Early in his career when he was involved with a marketing project at Hewlett Packard, he kept running into trouble with confrontational engineers.  When he mentioned his degree, the engineers said they would have been nicer had they known his background.  
Gospe’s message is that whoever understands the customer best, wins. He wants to ensure that product managers provide information so that the best product decisions are always made.  This requires taking responsibility for understanding customers, their pain points, and their buying process better than ever before. For businesses to thrive in the 21st century, product managers and product marketers must become the definitive source of customer knowledge.

Gospe presented his process for arriving at the ability to illustrate the persona as a reflection of the target market, craft a clear positioning statement that defines and differentiates the product or service, and design a set of relevant use-case scenarios and key messaging to engage the persona.

He said that it sounds cliché to be “market driven”, although it’s a topical idea.  Everyone says they are market driven, when in fact they’re not.  

He asked the audience for a show of hands on the following questions:
What kinds of organizations are we in?
Who thought our product management organization was undervalued?
Who felt the role we’re in is underappreciated.  
Do we feel like we’re on the receiving end of whatever engineering dishes out?
Who finds ourselves defending roadmaps only to be swayed by those that yell the loudest?

“While these three best practices are simple, they should not be taken lightly. They require serious attention, and it takes practice to get them right. Consider them tools marketers can use to drive internal conversations so that the best product, roadmap, and campaign decisions will always be made.” 

Gospe's presentation encompassed examples of implementing the following tools:
·        Personas: To better understand and empathize with the target audience.
·        Positioning Statement: To better understand your value and differentiation from competitive
·        Message Box: To better communicate your value and relevance of your use cases to the
target audiences

Gospe defined the “marketing high ground” as a special place where you know the market so well, so deeply, that you become acknowledged and valued internally as the “customers' advocate.” With this knowledge comes confidence in understanding the target customer and producing impactful lead generation campaigns. No longer are debates driven by random opinions; they are founded on customer use cases, market data, and customer feedback. This is what it takes to earn, then command, a seat at the leadership table.

In Gospe’s own words from his forthcoming book:
“Traditionally, certainly in Silicon Valley, companies are founded by technologists.  Executive staff members, engineering, operations and sales leaders are often added long before a marketer.  And who can argue success when a company’s products continue to sell without the aid of a marketing leader?

“The answer is not to suggest that a marketer should overstep or replace the leadership of engineering or sales. Instead, the real long-lasting value a marketer can bring is to rise to the role of leading the executive team, and by extension the rest of the organization, to the high ground.
 In companies where no one owns the high ground, it often looks like:
·         Marketing and sales departments are unaligned, lack clear goals and objectives
·         Engineering and product management teams work in silos, focused on isolated features
·         Frustrated marketers have to continually rewrite messaging that is never accurate
·         Marketing campaigns are poorly executed and don’t produce quality inquiries and leads
·         Decisions are made based on “whoever yells the loudest” instead of an aligned and focussed team effort

Gospe presented the tools that will gain respect for marketing:

5. Share, communicate, evangelize
4. The Message Box
3. Positioning Statement
2. Customer & Product Use Cases
1. Personas

Start by answering these questions:
1. Who are we targeting?
2. What are they trying to do?
3. Why is our solution best?
4. What’s our story?
5. How will we execute our vision?

Tips on how to begin
1.Become the customers’ advocate by knowing what questions to ask
2.Help colleagues by guiding them through these best practice exercises
3.Challenge assumptions, but diplomatically and constructively
4.Don’t frame your recommendations on personal opinion
5.Lead by example

1. Create a Persona: a fictional representation of a very real market segment that enables marketing empathy with the target market so that messaging matches up with creative approaches to cut through the clutter.

Who they are: Identify a target segment
Focus on responsibilities:
·         What problems do they have?
·         What goals, objectives do they share?
Where they work:
·         New prospects or current customers?
·         Classify the ideal company

Why they are a good target:
·         Add psychographics
What are they thinking?
·         Do they need to be educated?
Evidence they are a good target
·         Name, age, gender
·         Title/responsibilities
·         Role in the purchase process
·         Attitude
·         Reputation
·         Values
·         Fears
·         Pet peeves
·         Information sources
                                   2. Build a Positioning Statement:  
                                   Many marketers throw a multitude of features and benefits at prospects 
                                   requiring them to sort out what’s really important. More is not better. Hone a                                                      
                                   simple statement that identifies the target market (via the persona), names 
                                   the product and maps it to an appropriate category, prioritizes a benefit 
                                   most relevant to the persona, and clearly distinguishes its uniqueness 
                                   against the nearest competitive alternative.

Positioning Statement Format
To: (target persona)__________________________
(product name)_____________________________ is the one
(category) _________________________________ that
(key customer benefit) _______________________ unlike
(nearest competitive alternative)________________ competitor

3. Draft Your Story

The Message Box tool challenges the marketing team to develop a crisp story to engage the prospect in a dialog focusing more on the prospect than it is about the product. Marketers must first show they understand the problem the customer is facing, then offer a set of criteria that can be used to solve the problem.  Then and only then should marketers tell prospects how and why their products are better than any alternative. The story ends with an affirmation of the value provided and how other customers have benefited from the products and services.
Questions to answer:

What’s our story?  
Because nobody likes to be sold to, messaging must have relevance. Messaging must tell a story.

What makes a good business story?
Tell the customer use case story. Engage the persona with a problem or opportunity they care about.  Offer some thought leadership on how the hero can restore balance. Tell how and why your solution will help them
prevail. Highlight the value and rewards they’ll receive from using your products or services.

Gospe’s message is that market-driven does not mean marketing-driven.  The high ground must not be limited to just marketers and product managers. The journey to the high ground begins by helping the team get comfortable with these initial steps. Socialize the output and align the organization by using the persona to better understand and empathize with the target audience. Use the positioning statement to better understand your value and differentiation from competitive alternatives. Apply the message box to better communicate your value and relevance of your use cases to the target audiences. He left us with a challenge to engage these best practices, evangelize their use and encourage others to participate.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Twitter Talk Milestone and Problem Solving


June 20, 2011 marks our 18th Global Product Management Talk on twitter since we began in February!

So its appropriate to welcome Robert Swanwick as this week's speaker. Robert is a product manager and founder of, an online tool for integrating media with twitter chats and creator of the Twitter Chat Schedule Google doc.

Prior to the weekly chat, I provide an orientation to the speaker to go over the mechanics of the talk and do a practice run using the tools for tweeting. Robert was an early supporter of creating a twitter chat for product managers, in that it is a weekly mini product camp. He has generously offered advice and suggestions since he has been on the ground floor of this growing trend for using twitter. He tweets from several handles: @swanwick @twchat @twebevent

Robert suggested that the power of twitter for group discussions is that it enables a parallel threaded discussion where many people can talk at once and the discussion is captured in one place, as opposed to a webinar or telephone conference which only allows a serial threaded conversation limiting the conversation to one person talking at a time.

We've had some technology issues - and it seems that Twitter will act up at the same time Skype is acting up - which is a problem since I am talking over Skype with the speaker and my co-host Adrienne in Australia, while we are watching the Twitter stream on Tweetchat and discussing the conversation flow. Producing the twitter chat requires my multi-tasking ability to type, read, talk, process the information, answer questions, monitor the conversation, respond to tweets and maintain a sense of humor before the hour runs out. Since wthashtag is no longer available to capture the transcript and provide metrics, I have the added challenge of copying the tweets before they disappear from twitter's temporary search.

An additional problem we've encountered, especially with Jim Holland and John Haniotis, which seemed related to using Tweetdeck, is that the speaker's tweets were not showing up in the twitter stream in the discussion room at To remedy the problem, people who could see the speaker's tweets retweeted them, Adrienne retyped tweets spoken by the speaker, and I added in other tweets that didn't show up in the stream to the transcript after the talk.

Some people's tweets are making it out into the Twittersphere, but since they are not included in Twitter’s search function, they don’t show up in a search for a particular hashtag, even if they tweeted it.

Your account may be functioning properly to some extent: your tweets might still be seen by your followers, but chances are you’ve been prevented from showing up in Twitter search. Since aggregator programs (like Tweet Chat, Tweet Grid) rely on accessing Twitter search to find those tweets containing a specific hashtag, you are thus ‘left out’ of the party.

A. To see if your account has been blocked from search, log on to Twitter, and enter the following in the search box at the top of the screen:


If you don’t get any results, your account is not showing up in search. Your followers most likely can still see all of your tweets. However, to properly participate in a chat, your tweets need to show up in Twitter search.

B. Read Twitter's "I'm Missing From Search"

C. If your tweets aren’t showing up in search, what could be happening?

1) Incomplete Bio: You might not have completely filled out your name and bio in your profile (so it might look like an account set up for spamming).

2) New or Low Activity Account: You might not yet have tweeted much, thus not looking like a legitimate account or your account might be brand-new.

3) Spammy Content: Your tweets might be considered spammy if you tweet the same tweet or link over and over, post the same content across different accounts, use bots or sending automated tweets & replies, you might be marked as a spam account. If you are frequently retweeting tweets from other accounts that might considered to be spam, your account also could be tagged as being a contributor to spammy content.

4) Third Party Apps: If you gave your username/password to a third party app that is updating other accounts with similar content, then you might be blocked.

So what can you do if you are blocked from Twitter search?

1) Twitter Search Best Practices
Try to fix your account (complete your profile, start tweeting if you have a new account, stop tweeting the same link or same content repeatedly). It might take some time, but if you follow Twitter’s guidelines for Twitter Search best practices, your tweets should start to appear back in search.

2) Dear Twitter, Please Help!
If you’re at your wit's end and feel that your account should be in good standing, contact Twitter to open a support ticket to look into the problem. There’s a chance that you are doing nothing wrong; your account just might be one of the unfortunate ones experiencing an ongoing problem.

See you at the next Global Product Management Talk on twitter!  

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