Dear Product Managers, You Can’t Have it All


I love this cartoon from Hugh MacLeod (GapingVoid). It is so simple but at the same time, so powerful.

There are lots of ways you could interpret this message but I have been thinking about it in the context of product development.

More often than not, you don’t have the time or resources to tackle everything. This means as a product manager, you have to make some tough choices of what not to do.

Great products (and companies) intentionally leave out features that some customers find unacceptable. While this means that some customers won’t buy their product, it means they can focus more on the ones that will.

I also ran across another example that I think really highlights the point of intentionally making decisions not to do something. Doc Searls’s new book, the Intention Economy, has a great overview on the grocery chain Trader Joe’s (a company that has been historically very private about its operating strategy).

Here are some of the things that Trader Joe’s says no to:

  • No ads, sales, loyalty cards, etc. No gimmicks.
  • No trade shows. They don’t chase the latest fashions.
  • No muscling suppliers. Instead they partner to offer the best product at the best price.

Most importantly they say no to selling a lot of products. They don’t try and sell every type of food item. They don’t sell electronics. They don’t sell toys. They just focus on selling “innovative, hard-to-find, great-tasting foods.

Trader Joe’s have consciously made the decision to try to not sell everything under the sun. This allows them focus on adding “unconventional and interesting” products that keep customers delighted and coming back for more.

Stick with Hugh’s advice and pick your sliver well, my friend and your customers will reward you.


Cartoon Credit:  GapingVoid

The Process of Finding Breakaway Ideas

the idea hunter If your goal is to come up with something new, be it for an existing product or a new to the world innovation, you are going to need a list of ideas to work with. The question is, how does one come with an idea in the first place?

According to the the book, The Idea Hunter, if you are waiting for a time to start looking for ideas, you are too late.

 “BREAKAWAY IDEAS COME TO those who are in the habit of looking for them” – The Idea Hunter

While this sounds like a simple approach, the challenge is in the implementation. Just because you are blocking time on your calendar to “brainstorm” doesn’t mean ideas will be waiting for you to show up.

Finding new ideas begins with the discipline of intentionally looking for ideas all the time. We are often so busy running from meeting to meeting and project to project that we miss opportunities to digest information that could produce the next big idea.

To hep prepare you for becoming an idea hunter, the books covers 4 principles that will help improve your ability to find ideas  – Interested, Diverse, Exercised, and Agile. Additionally, the book continues on with some techniques on how to make sure you get the most out of the ideas you find through prioritization and implementation.

“Albert Einstein once made the disarming comment, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” – The Idea Hunter

Overall, I would say the book was a good read and left you thinking more about how to make idea hunting part of your daily routine. I also like how there was a focus on what comes next after finding that next great idea.

Remember – ideas without execution are hobbies!

Check it out!

8 Reasons to Like Likeonomics

I like Likeonomics and I think you will too. What is Likeonomics?

Likeonomics is a book by Rohit Bhargava about being likeable and everything that goes into it (Rohit also wrote the book Personality Not Included which I would highly recommend).

Likeonomics is based on the simple idea that, “People buy from people they like”. I wasn’t kidding when I said it was a simple idea.

In the book, Rohit breaks down what goes into being likable – truth, relevance, unselfishness, simplicity and timing. The idea being that if you can understand what makes a company more likable than others, you can try to apply to your situation.

Along with the framework, there a lot of great Likeonomics stories so you can see the concept in action. This makes for a fast, fun, and informative read that will leave you with plenty to think about when it comes to addressing the Likability-Gap” with your product and company.

To give you an idea of what Likeonomics is all about, here are my favorite 8 quotes from the book:

  • Marketing has played a central role in creating a culture where people are afraid to trust the media around them.
  • The American poet and activist Audre Lorde is credited with the famous saying: “There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.”
  • In the long term, the only thing that can help the most successful organizations and people differentiate is based on their human elements, as well as what they sell or what they say.
  • The Likeability Gap describes the difference between what people do because they have to, and what they do because they want to. In a world where just having a good product or service isn’t enough, the likeability gap explains success and failure.
  • In order to be believable, the most successful people and organizations always find a way to share their truth, and then build on it.
  • …finding the right truth is hard. The truth can be buried. It can feel wrong to share.
  • It is impossible to care about everything. Things like irrelevant products and over-the-top sales people are easy to tune out. That is a choice many of us make on an hourly basis without thought.
  • The important thing to remember is just because a topic is relevant for someone doesn’t mean that you automatically have relevance to that topic.

Image Credit:  rohitbhargava

Start With The Customer Product Marketing Podcast #11 – Comparing Products Part 2

start with the customer marketing podcast on product marketing and product managementIn this episode of the Start with the Customer Podcast, I am honored to be joined by Scott Sehlhorst, of Tyner Blain consulting.

Today’s topic is on comparing products. Scott has been working on a blog series on how product managers can use comparisons to make better products. Scott has finished the eight part series and due to its length, over 16,000 words, we decided to cover over two calls. Continuing this conversation where we left off, we discussed identifying and prioritizing target customers, building your competitive set, and scoring your evaluation.

I hope you enjoy the call and would love to hear your feedback!

You can listen here:

or download from iTunes and from TalkShoe.

Show Notes:

Runtime 30 minutes

Are you Ready for the Zero Moment of Truth?

marketing at the Zero moment of TruthI recently caught a great post from Amy Taylor at the Brains on Fire Blog on the changing dynamics of consumers and retailers. Amy comments in her post,

After my iPhone shattered, I went on the hunt for an indestructible case by throwing a question out to my Twitter followers. The name “Otterbox” was quickly Tweeted back by many. When I decided to invest in iPhone insurance, my social network (and their glowing recommendations) directed me to a company called SquareTrade. In these instances, my social network wasn’t just influential in my purchase, it was integral.

This may sound like a familiar experience but have you really thought about what’s happening here? This trend might not be new to you but is dramatically changing the way you should market your solutions.

Think Insights with Google has gone as far as coining this new step of the buying process the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) and defines it as the following:

ZMOT is that moment when you grab your laptop, mobile phone or some other wired device and start learning about a product or service (or potential boyfriend) you’re thinking about trying or buying. I’m sure you know what I mean — you probably do web searches like this every day.

To prove that this isn’t just impacting a small niche of the marketplace, they did some some extensive research (download the Google ZMOT research report here) and found that:

70% of Americans now say they look at product reviews before making a purchase

79% of consumers now say they use a smartphone to help with shopping

83% of moms say they do online research after seeing TV commercials for products that interest them

And most tellingly, the data revealed that the average shopper used 10.4 sources of information to make a decision in 2011, up from 5.3 sources in 2010.

This is a gigantic shift and should very clearly signify that the sales process is no longer managed by the seller. By the time a prospect wants to talk with you they will not only know your story but those of all your competitors. If you hope to be considered, not to mention win, during the ZMOT, you are going to have find ways to be part of the early conversation.

So, are preparing to win the Zero Moment of Truth?

Keep It Simple, Stupid

Last week, our top sales rep told us his secret sauce for repeatedly exceeding his quota. He summarized it as follow: “Look guys, just keep it simple” …

  1. Find how who has the money
  2. Find out how much they have
  3. Sell to them as fast as you can

While they are many other best practices that he shared with us, his success recipe reminded me how much we, as marketers, tend to over-complicate things. We like to come up with a messaging full of superlatives and other buzz words, build as many strategies and campaigns as possible,  and produce countless numbers of collaterals and sales supporting tools etc.

While this makes all of us feel good, excess is usually not associated with efficiency. In fact in these days over information overflow, less is more.

Folks in the design world know that perfectly. They’ve even coined an acronym for it: K.I.S.S – Keep It Simple, Stupid. Yet simplicity is not easy to achieve. What makes a striking design stand out is that it contains no unnecessary elements.

As marketers, we should continuously search for those unnecessary elements, whether strategies, tactics, words or tools.  After all we all know that simplicity is necessary in order to properly convey an idea. Think Apple’s iPod 1,000 songs in your pocket.

My (simple) advice: stick to the basics

  1. Know your audience
  2. Identify their buying cycle
  3. Focus on driving revenues

What about you, how do you keep it simple?


Image Credit –  ImageLink

Check Your Assumptions

The first half of this year has been jammed packed with product launches and new marketing campaigns and at the end of the day, I haven’t had as mush time as I would like to blog.

Now that I have had time to catch my breath, I am trying to do a little retrospective. Jim Holland put together a great post on the subject back in June that highlights some great questions to ask during a moment of pause.

One area I would like to comment on is the subject of  examining your strategy and seeing if anything has shifted – especially looking at your assumptions.

During planning, all sorts of assumptions are made when it comes to market forecasts, costs, and business impacts. Sometimes, a lot of thought goes into this analysis, sometimes, it’s the back of the napkin, and sometimes, it’s a thumb in the air.

However it was done, it’s easy to forget what magic went into those numbers to make the business case work. If you stop and revist these assumptions, you may find that what seemed like a slam dunk a year ago isn’t looking so straight forward.

I recently ran across a perfect example that highlights the danger of working with old assumptions while shopping for a new car – a bit random but relevant.

We were in no rush while shopping and spent a lot of time looking at dealers and different car models. While trying to find a way to compare costs, features, etc, I noticed some fine print in the fuel cost calculations:

The annual fuel cost calculations were based on $3.00 a gallon? I honestly don’t remember when gas cost $3.00 but I know it has been some time (2008?). So here’s the question, what does the annual cost look like with today’s fuel prices? What if gas goes back up to $4 or more?

Continuing to make new decisions on old assumptions can not only artificially inflate your numbers but also leave you with a pain at the pump when trying to fuel your business.

So here’s the question for you, when’s the last time you checked your assumptions?


Image credit: scui3asteveo

A Marketing Reminder From Nokia – Stay Paranoid

Outstanding article in this week’s BusinessWeek on the fall of Nokia. It is a fascinating tale of complacency and complete disregard for a changing marketplace.

From the article,

Nokia’s initial reaction to the iPhone is the most embarrassing example of what went wrong. When Steve Jobs unveiled the device in January 2007, “it was widely disregarded,” says former manager Dave Grannan, who now runs Burlington (Mass.)-based voice recognition company Vlingo. “The attitude was that we’d tried touchscreens before, and people didn’t like them.”

…As iPhone sales took off, Nokia remained strangely detached, say a dozen current and former executives. The company didn’t sit still, exactly. It opened its own app store, Ovi—but never put marketing muscle behind it. With no runaway hit like the iPhone, app developers largely ignored it. When Elop euthanized the Ovi brand name on May 16, it had 50,000 apps; Apple had 500,000. “It was an ignorant complacency, not an arrogant complacency,” says Nokia human resources head Juha Akras.

It would be one thing if Nokia was unable to respond to the shift driven by Apple and Google but in reality, it sounds as if the company just chose to ignore all signs of change. They assumed that customers would keep buying their products no matter how the market was changing.

Nokia never stepped away to look at the marketplace through their customers’ eyes.

If you don’t have time to read the full article, Andrew Grove’s famous quote sums up what happened at Nokia in one sentence, “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.”

Image Credit:  Alicakes*

What is this About?

Here’s a deceptively difficult question for you to ponder (inspired by Steven Pressfield’s excellent latest book, “Do the Work“),

What is this about?

If you are working on developing a new product, can you answer? Can you do it without a ten page PowerPoint deck? How about to someone not familiar with your product line or industry? If you only had 10 seconds to explain in front of a room of potential customers buyers could you convince them?

What is this about?

Ok, so now that you get the point, take a look at how you are talking about your product in your marketing campaigns, advertisements, web sites, sales decks, blogs. Does the message still come through? Do the sub-points add or strengthen the overall message? Ultimately, are you building the overall story or watering it down?

Talk to your customers. Ask them how they describe what you do? Does it align to your story? Does what you think is valuable and different align with their assessments? Does your “special sauce” really taste special?

Now take a look at your competitor’s marketing, advertisements, web sites, blogs. Does what they are saying compare to your story? Do the differences jump off the page or do you need to go down a level or two?

Like what you find?

If not, return to the start and ask, “What is this about?” Fix from there.

Image Credit:  Colin_K