Live from Product Camp Washington DC
During the second round of sessions at Product Camp, John Mansour of ZigZag Marketing, led a session on the topic of Strategic Product Marketing, which he referred to as "the missing link in a top-down product management culture." The session started off with common complaints that product management and product marketing have of one another. Typically product managers complain that product marketing managers don't have enough knowledge about the product. On the other hand, product marketing people believe that many product managers can only view the market through the lens of their product. But the underutilization of product marketing causes far greater problems across the company. In the session we discussed four types of challenges technology vendors face with product strategy:
#1 - Competing Priorities
John states that "Product marketing and product management have to be the conscience of the company," because different groups with a corporation have different priorities:
· Senior management seeks to please the board and the investors
· Marketing communications is focused on image and awareness
· IT/Engineering says let's build cool new technology
· Sales is just focused on winning the next deal to make their quota
· Service & support are worried about the existing customer base' satisfaction
Product management and marketing have to balance all of these competing priorities.
#2 - Product versus Market Segment Focus
Executives don't understand the difference between product categories and market segments. A typical response to the question "What are your market segments?" is "We sell security products to corporations." Too often we focus on product line profitability, when we should be focused on market segment profitability.
#3 - The Biggest Lie Wins
John asks "Has anyone ever seen a business case that looked like a loser?" In today's hyper-competitive tech-sector whoever can lie the best wins. The product manager, which promises the biggest contribution to revenue, margin and growth goals will win the resources regardless of whether it is the best long term strategy. Product Managers end up competing with each other for engineering resources and marketing programs spend. Competition is intensified in today's struggling macroeconomic environment.
#4 - We Sell Vaporware
Executives say that "We shouldn't let the lack of a product stop a sale." A common theme is "why can't we can take a product built for another industry and sell it to another segment." So the key question is - Why is it easier to sell vaporware than what we actually have? John states that when we have products we sell features. When we don't have a product we sell the vision and the user scenarios. And customers love it. Their typical response is "That sounds fantastic. How soon can we have it?" The end result is that you end up with customers who are not happy and sales people who are not happy either.
The root cause of many of these four problems outlined above is that "We way underutilize product marketing." The typical product marketing organization motto is: "Marketing materials R us. Can I help you?" Sales bombard them with requests like "Can we create a brochure that makes us look like we are in this market (higher education or financial services)?"
What is Strategic Product Marketing
So how can we get product marketing to be more than the brochure and presentation department? And how can they solve the problems outlined above? John recommends that strategic product marketing should own market segments and creates the profile of the segment. Product marketing becomes the internal market analyst who must socialize the market size and segmentation. As a result there is one baseline set of numbers for total addressable market and definitions of markets. Such an approach is very different than the traditional approach of everyone creating their own business case with numbers that support their own ideas. Specifically, John recommends that product marketing own a mix of strategic and tactical functions:
· Market assessment segment (strategic)
· Market segment strategy (strategic)
· Segment pricing and packaging (strategic)
· Segment messaging and positioning (tactical)
· Segment marketing plans and programs (tactical)
· Sales and marketing readiness (tactical)
· Sales and channel support (tactical)
What is Strategic Product Management?
John defines product management as:
· Category & best practice trends
· Strategic portfolio roadmap
· Segment needs & solutions
· Product release plans
· Product requirements
· Product design oversight
· Readiness & rollout support
Benefits of the New Approach
There are numerous benefits of the new approach. I few that I captured are:
· Both have higher value to the company, because you are uniquely qualified to set direction with segment, business and product expertise.
· There is one agenda for the organization. Market segments drive everything.
· Marketing and sales differentiation that transcends products
· Greater momentum – unplanned initiatives aligned to segment priorities
Follow Product Camp DC live on Twitter with #pcampdc. More posts next week on my marketing blog – www.outsideinmarketing.wordpress.com