Wednesday, June 22, 2011

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
alternatives
·        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.
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