Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


Leave a comment

Three Ways to Get Your Team Excited About a Boring Product

Guest post by Guy Ascher

It’s hard to get amped up about selling razor blades, but somehow Dollar Shave Club has pulled it off. It’s one of the most successful new startup companies and it sells items that most people couldn’t give two hoots about. The secret is in the marketing. If you sell a boring product – toilet paper, pens, razors, water bottles, fishing supplies – you need to figure out a way to excite your employees. If they’re not excited, they can’t sell your company. If they can’t sell your company, you’re going to be out of business in short-order.

Tell A Story About Your Product

One of the best ways to breathe life into a boring product is to give it a story. It doesn’t always work, but most products do have one. Maybe your company started out of your parent’s basement. You were tinkering with your bedroom fan, and you figured out how to get those blades to spin 30 per cent faster.

You blew up a few test fans in the process but, at the end of the day, you had yourself the coolest room in the whole house. Later on, you decided to see if you could create massive fans for other people that would replace expensive air conditioning units. After several years – success.

Sound like a silly story? Maybe it is, but it’s the kind of thing really does exist out there. By the way, there is a company out there with an interesting fan story – it’s called “Big Ass Fans.” They make industrial and residential fan units that are unlike any other fan you can buy. Are employees excited about selling the company? You bet they are.

Create An Emotional Experience

Part of selling involves getting your prospects emotionally committed to your marketing message. If your prospects aren’t invested, they won’t care what you have to say. Creating an emotional experience can be tough, but one of the best ways to pull it off is to personalize your marketing messages.

Use surveys as a barrier to your email list. Make users fill out a short survey. Why? So you can provide customized advice about their problem. Most people are comfortable with answering a few questions, especially if the payoff is personalized service. No one wants to be “just another number.”

Another way to connect emotionally with your audience is to use high-quality video. Try to communicate your message with music and stunning visuals. Usually, this will win out over an obvious sales pitch. For example, the “embrace life” promotion is an ad that shows the benefits of wearing your seat belt.

The visuals are stunning and, even though there’s no dialog in the video, the message is crystal-clear.

Create a Personality For Your Company

How do you create a personality surrounding your company when you sell something as boring as contact lenses? The same way Apple creates its personality when selling something as “boring” as a computer. In the 1980s, no one used computers the way they do now. Apple was a key player in getting the marketplace excited about a hunk of metal, some plastic, and a keyboard.

The same can be said of Zappos. Who gets excited about shoes? These people do. Find something that you can use as a point of differentiation. Maybe you offer premium-quality products that are visually stunning. Maybe you have the best customer service in the world – and can prove it.

Whatever your angle, create a personality or “gimmick” surrounding your products and your company. It’ll make it a lot easier for our employees to get jazzed up about something that’s otherwise not very exciting.

Guy Ascher studied Marketing at the University of Newcastle in the UK. After years of working for marketing firms in Manchester, London and then eventually New York, he moved on to consulting small businesses on a their marketing needs. His articles focus on helping smaller businesses compete with well-established brands using new techniques or technology.


The Product Management Perspective: The key to making your product exciting is to make sure it’s the best product in the market. Focusing on sound product management principles will help you focus on this goal.


1 Comment

Leadership and collaboration

When you consider that success includes all the important aspects of life in aggregate, the most successful people focus first and foremost on making other people successful. They collaborate with others. When an opportunity arises they first consider its implications on the people they lead and the people they care about. When a problem surfaces they don’t panic and start pointing fingers; they work with the team until things are right again.

In a humorous and insightful article titled “The Princess Bride”: Movie or Mini-MBA? author Jim Foxworthy takes eight quotes from this classic movie and applies them product management. The first one relates nicely to leadership and collaboration:

“You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.” The lead engineer says the product will miss the release date by six months. You may want to strangle this person, but keep this quote in mind. You’ve got to collaborate with your counterparts in development, because what they do isn’t immediate. It’s not throwing a light switch.

Too often we get in a hurry and forget to work with those who can help us the most. Take the time to listen. Make sure you understand every situation before you make decisions. Work effectively with others and your success will accelerate up and to the right.


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers have to collaborate with many teams. None is more important than development…the folks who are building your products. You have to work with them, you have to be patient, and you have to be a team player. Take time to listen, look for ways negotiate and come to an agreement.


Leave a comment

Three Keys to Product Management Success

As product managers you have a significant responsibility for the success of your company. It’s easy to get bogged down in the countless tasks that are thrown your way every day. With all the meetings, floods of email, and requirements to manage, the thought of spending time on areas of strategic focus can seem overwhelming. However, with planning and a little effort you can make the difference. Start by focusing on three simple, yet powerful, keys to success:

  1. Know your market: Get a clear understanding of the market where your products compete, and work diligently to stay out in front of new trends and technologies. Make customer calls and customer visits often. Work with the sales team; understand how they sell your products. Know what works. Know the weaknesses of the products (and take action to correct them). Understand why people pay (or don’t pay) for your products. Be the voice of the customer to your company.
  1. Provide clear direction: One of your key directives as a product manager is to provide clear direction to the engineering/development teams. Spend the time to write understandable and timely requirements and prioritize them effectively. Provide solid product design (with the help of good designers). Give clear direction and project confidence and your full support to the work the engineering is doing. Earn their trust. Inspire them to do great things. “Have their backs” with the rest of the company (i.e. be their outspoken supporter).
  1. Launch successfully: You are in a unique position to facilitate successful product launches. Start with a tight, focused beta program; learn from the testers and change accordingly. Help product marketing set the proper tone for the launch by understanding the new product’s strengths. Work in tandem with the customer support teams to monitor product acceptance and make changes where necessary. Work with the sales team to make sure they understand the new product and hit the ground running when it releases. After a successful launch, monitor the product’s uptake and financials and make sure it continues to succeed. This, of course, loops back to knowing your market and making sure your product meets the needs of the people in your market.

These three practices cover the most important bases for creating successful products. You should plan time to focus on these elements on a daily and weekly basis. If you are in a leadership position in product management, take time to evaluate your team and make sure they are focusing on these key practices that will lead to product success.


The Product Management Perspective: see above


Leave a comment

Announcing new Product Management association

Announcing the Utah Product Management Association (UPMA): If you live in the Utah (USA) area we would love to have you join us for this upcoming event. If you live outside of the Utah area (which admittedly applies to most of you) please help us spread the word to any friends, colleagues or contacts you know in the area.

upma-banner3

Utah Product Management Association

Welcome to the inaugural Utah Product Management Meeting

Thursday March 26, 2009 6:00pm to 8:00pm

We are pleased to announce the formation of the Utah Product Management Association (UPMA). The UPMA is being created to provide education and networking opportunities for product managers and product marketing managers in Utah and surrounding states.

Glen Mella

Glen Mella

The inaugural meeting of the UPMA will feature Glen Mella, President and Chief Operating Officer of Control4. Glen has a rich history working for organizations such as TenFold, Novell, WordPerfect, Dial Corporation, and Frito-Lay/PepsiCo. Glen will discuss his product management and marketing background, how he got to where he is today, and lessons he learned along the way. His insights will go a long way in helping the attendees learn from his success in developing ideas from product concepts to entrepreneurial opportunities and into financially viable businesses. He will also share what key knowledge, values, and traits, are important to being successful in product management, and beyond as well as some of the best practices he has observed in product management.

We invite you to come and listen to Glen and network with other product management and marketing professionals. Expand your network and be a part of this new organization that will take Product Management to a new level in Utah and the surrounding states.

Please forward this message to all your friends and colleagues who might be interested in attending this event and participating in the UPMA.

Date: Thursday March 26, 2009, 6:00pm – 8:00pm

Location:
Noah’s
322 W. 11000 S.
South Jordan, UT 84095
(800) 696-6247

Agenda:
6:00pm – Registration/networking/refreshments
6:30pm – Discuss UPMA organization, solicit topic/content ideas
7:00pm – Glen Mella
8:00pm – Wrap-up/networking

More information is available at Utah Product Management Association

We look forward to seeing you at the inaugural UPMA meeting.

registernow


2 Comments

The leadership role of product management

Most technology companies are comprised of people and teams that discover, define, design, develop and deliver products to the market. Within these companies the role product managers play has become increasingly important to the success of the products and the companies; it has become increasingly strategic.

One aspect of the role of product management that makes it both enjoyable and difficult is the fact that, in most companies, the people on whom product managers depend to successfully release products do not report to them. Product managers have to act as the catalyst to drive unity and direction on the team without having management authority over the people (from other teams) they depend on for their success. This situation requires product managers to be leaders.

The following quotes by great leaders — while not written specifically about product managers — shed more light on the leadership role of product management:

”Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” - General Colin Powell

“A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.” - John Maxwell

”All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common; it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people…. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.” - John Kenneth Galbraith

”A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” - John Le Care

“Control is not leadership; management is not leadership; leadership is leadership. If you seek to lead, invest at least 50% of your time in leading yourself—your own purpose, ethics, principles, motivation, conduct. Invest at least 20% leading those with authority over you and 15% leading your peers.” - Dee Hock

Not all product managers will be leaders; they do not all need to be leaders. However, to increase their likelihood for success (with both products and careers), product managers will work diligently to become leaders in their organizations. For more information about this topic check out my recent article and blog post.

Join Steve Johnson and me July 11 for our webinar Tuned In Product Teams. Check out our featured article The Tuned-In Product Manager.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,257 other followers