RULE 13：Every “product” needs a product manager and a business case
In my experience, most B2B technology companies do see that all their products have a product manager. Sometimes the product manager winds up with multiple products— which is okay if they’re on the smallish side and in the same family. If the products are on the biggish side and not well related, it can lead to product attention deficit disorder. But, fortunately, most products tend to have product managers.
But those business cases…
Products start out in many ways.
Sometimes (especially in the software industry) they get developed by someone who thinks it’s a good idea and just goes ahead and does it. If that’s the case, the product manager may be tasked with creating a business case after the fact, trying to figure out the positioning and all that other good stuff that should have been determined before the product was created.
Sometimes a product starts out with a business case, but it never really gets evaluated—let alone updated. And if you don’t bother to regularly update your product’s business case—or create it anew—you run into a lot of dangers:
Missed market opportunities
- Missed product enhancement opportunities
- Pricing that leaves $$$ on the table
- Putting too many resources on Product X and too few on Product Y
- Hanging on to a product that really should be on an end-of-life path
We all know how easy it is to keep chugging along, doing the same thing quarter after quarter, year after year. If you’re a product manager, you probably know this drill by heart. You do your job. You cover all the bases: product requirements, project plan, documentation, product launch, sales tools, sales training, marketing programs, etc.
It’s so darned easy never to take the time to critically examine your product’s raison d’etre—and really figure out if there’s enough raison to keep the d’etre going.
Product managers, it’s never too late.
If you have products with a business case covered by a spider web, it’s time to create a new one. You may have some tiny little fear that a business case will end up putting your product out of business and your job at risk.
Truly, this is a remote possibility; and, in fact, the best way to make sure it doesn’t happen is to ensure that the product(s) you manage have a strong business case behind them.
As the saying goes, the unexamined life is not worth living; and, in the end, the unexamined product is not worth managing.
RULE 14：Look for opportunities to deliver the remarkable
I confess: When I first saw Pragmatic Marketing’s word remarkable, my initial thought was, “Is this one of those annoying words like passionate and personal brand that pop up from time to time to test my gag reflex?”
But that first thought was fleeting.
As product marketers and product managers, we should want to deliver the remarkable in whatever we do. Think about it for a minute.
If you settle for “good enough” in your product and don’t include at least a few “nice to have” goodies, your customers will greet the new release with “It’s about time!” And your prospects will greet the product with “Big deal—now you have what everyone else does.”
Is this the type of response you want?
No, you want your customers and prospects to have some sense of delight—something they hadn’t thought of…something that’s a bit out of the ordinary…something they’ll find really useful, or at least interesting.
It could be something as simple as a last-minute time- or troublesaving feature. Maybe it’s a smooth integration with an application everyone in your target industry’s using. Maybe it’s something all-new, first-ever, state-of-the-art—that everyone will soon clamor to own. Your remarkable “thing” could be a couple of hours of installation support thrown in—not because installation is such a bear, but because every environment’s different and anything can happen. Remarkable can be extending the number of seats the license will support.
You can be remarkable in your sales process by really and truly listening to what your prospects and customers are saying, and responding to them. You can be remarkable in your customer service process with a check-in phone call to follow up on whether or not last week’s problem has been resolved. Don’t forget the finance side of things, either. A lot of customers would find it quite remarkable if you contacted them to let them know you’ve discovered an overcharge, or that more attractive financing is available.
It’s a tough world out there. In order to get noticed—and to win business—you need to do something to stand out. And it really doesn’t have to be all that remarkable—just something simple for which your customers and prospects will love you.
RULE 15：With positioning, the focus is on what we do for the buyers
We love our products.
We’re proud of who we are and how we got here.
Yes, yes, yes…we know what went into developing them.
We want everyone to know about all the cool features.
But before we get too carried away, let’s focus on messaging that’s relevant to the people who are actually going to buy the product.
This rule is really resonating with me these days. I’m working with a new client, and there’s a part of their history of which they are rightfully quite proud. In fact, they’re so proud of it, that they pretty much lead off with it. Which would be fine and dandy—except that this little piece of information (which looms so mightily for “us”) is stunningly irrelevant to the customers they’re trying to attract.
At best, it’s of passing interest—like finding out that the woman in the next office was an Olympic pairs skater, or that the sales guy you did booth duty with at the tradeshow is related to the almostfamous actor with the same last name.
So, when you’re positioning your product, lead with what’s important to the person who might be writing the check, not with what’s near and dear to you.
I am not, by the way, advocating for positioning that excludes what the product actually does. I’m a strong believer that good positioning includes not just what a product does for the buyer, but what it does, period. I absolutely hate reading about how a product saves time and money, increasing your bottom line—and coming away without knowing whether we’re talking about accounting software or a Ginsu knife.
So save the off-message information for footnotes, conversation, or company background.
Yes, it’s interesting that your founder won the Pulitzer Prize. That your product was originally built to count hula hoops. That corporate headquarters is located in the old mill where Civil War muskets were manufactured. Nice to know…just not need to know.
Obviously, no one is going to make the positioning mistake of telling the audience what’s in it for the company selling the product (“We need this product to be a success so that we can stay in business!”). But it’s pretty easy to slip into talking about what’s of most interest to us, rather than to focus on what the customer really wants to learn.
Sure, there are two sides to every transaction, and the buyer knows that there’s something in it for us. But let’s face it; all buyers really want to know what’s in it for them.
RULE 16：Positioning should be complete before you start developing
Anyone who has spent more than a few days in technology product management, product marketing, or development is familiar with that scariest of creatures: The Continuously Morphing Set of Requirements.
Everyone can be guilty of feeding this particular beast by coming up with a last-minute feature request. Even if you have stellar positioning, you still might have light bulbs go off in your head right up until the second the product is supposed to ship. But if you have solid positioning completed before product development begins, you should face no major surprises, because you will already have considered:
Who exactly will be using this product?
- How many different constituencies are there (worker-bees, managers, partners, customers of your customer, etc.)?
- For what specific purpose will each of these groups be using the product?
- What does each of these groups need in order to truly adopt the product?
- What does each of these groups need in order to derive maximum benefit from the product?
- How will the product be deployed?
- How will the product be sold?
- What does each channel need to effectively sell the product?
- Who will be implementing this product?
- What do they need to easily deploy it?
- Who will be supporting this product?
- What do they need to effectively support the product?
- Where will this product be available?
- Are there any regional/country differences to consider?
This list might seem “duh-simple,” but you’d be surprised at the “must-have” requirements that show up at the last minute if you haven’t answered them.
If you haven’t thought about your sales force, you may forget to mention to the developers that you need a web-accessible demo. That decision to market overseas may have significant implications. You may not have considered the possibility that management doesn’t want to use the product every day, but still wants to see high-level information on a dashboard.
The more precisely you’ve defined your positioning, the less likely you are to have any last-minute surprises—or even post-lastminute surprises, when you’ve launched the product, only to find it comes up short for any number of reasons. Reasons that you could have easily avoided if only you’d answered all the questions!