obstreperous \ub-STREP-uh-russ\ adjective 1 : uncontrollably noisy 2 : stubbornly resistant to control : unruly Sound like anyone you know? Courtesy of.
When Daniel Shefer asks, "What's a feature?" the answer depends...
Thought leaders are the people that your customers look to for guidance. Yet when product managers discuss thought leaders, they often limit their considerations to the industry analysts. The thought leaders in your space may be instead your company visionaries or independent reviewers. If expertise is your company's distinctive competence, thought leadership should be one of your primary marketing vehicles. Your company experts should be speaking, writing, and participating in standards bodies in addition to (or instead of) working the analyst community. Otherwise, being endorsed by thought leaders is a great marketing technique. Thought leaders validate your vision or help cut through the noise of a crowded market with too many offerings. For example, my son's band is achieving exposure via industry thought leaders--the band,, is featured this weekend on , the best web store for independent music. Your marketing tactics should leverage your company's distinctive competence. What are you doing to accomplish this?
What does the cancellation of COMDEX 2004 mean? Is it that COMDEX is just too big, trying to appeal to everyone, while smaller shows offer more focus? Or is it because COMDEX itself is too expensive? Or have all trade shows become irrelevant for companies attempting to optimize their marketing spending?
Trade shows have always been a popular program in the marketing list. COMDEX was once a great show for computer manufacturers. It was started in 1979 as the Computer Dealers Exposition designed for hardware and software manufacturers to show their wares to dealers for the purpose of signing distribution contracts. But then IT people started coming, then consumers, and then anyone with a free pass could get it. In 20 years, COMDEX went from being a valuable manufacturers' business show to a consumer show-and-tell to an irrelevant expenditure.
In the 2004 study on Marketing Practices by, trade shows are the most utilized marketing communications tactic--used by over 75% of us. We use shows primarily to generate leads (69%) and build awareness (29%). While shows were rated as one of the top three most effective tactics by half of the vendors responding, almost one-third plan to reduce their expenditures in the future. We're realizing that trade shows can rarely be justified by the leads generated. And too often, we burden the show with secondary objectives such as meeting press and analysts, trying to close big deals, gathering competitive intelligence, and so on. But in retrospect vendors wonder if the money was spent wisely once show costs including shipping, travel, printing, and tchotchkes are added up--not to mention the opportunity costs of using the time and money for other purposes. Appearing at a show has the appearance of "doing marketing." Sales and Development see our participation at a major show and say, "Finally, Marketing is doing something valuable."
But savvy marketers today are worrying less about appearances and employing tactics in support of a marketing strategy. Checklist marketing has never been particularly effective. Instead effective marketing programs result from an integrated strategy to achieve a specific corporate goal by leveraging our company assets.
Jacques Murphy writes, "The ideal company grows in such a way that it contains a balance of all the various strengths it needs: marketing, sales, technical knowledge, customer service, and management. Each function, such as Marketing, has its inherent strengths and weaknesses. One function's weaknesses are balanced out by strengths from other functions. Well, that's the ideal, anyway. But we have all seen companies that are out of balance, due to a lack of manpower or ability in one of the necessary functions. This leaves them exposed to major failings. Product Managers are in a unique position to act as a counterbalance when they find themselves in a company in such a situation." Read Product Management as a Counterbalance.
My article in the recent newsletter generated lots of comments about advertising tactics. One email recommended the book Grounded in research, the book offers this advice: 1. Name the benefit. Be specific about it. 2. The product is the big benefit. Tell what it will do. 3. Make it easy for consumers to visualize the benefit. Keep your advertisements simple. 4. Emphasize the benefit as much as possible. 5. Don't obscure the benefit. The cute, the catchy, or the tricky won't work. 6. Get personal about the benefit, but don't get personal without a purpose. 7. The benefit is not always rational. These recommendations are directly applicable to positioning which, of course, drives advertising. Use this list to evaluate your positioning documents. Techno-jargon may make sense for reaching a technical buyer but even then the jargon must be articulated in a form that delivers benefit to the buyer.
Daniel Shefer writes, "A couple of months ago I discussed product management with a VP at a company that is moving from the 'tool space' to the 'enterprise application space'. As a result of that conversation, I asked myself, how is product management different for enterprise software vs. for desktop applications? This article is an answer to that question." Read Desktop vs. Enterprise Applications--The impact on Product Management.
For me, it seems as if everything is a marketing challenge. That is, I find myself thinking "positioning and persona, strategy and tactics" all the time. My son's band just finished their new CD, Over Your Shoulder. Interestingly, marketing this "product" is a little different. The CD isn't the product; the band is. The idea is for CDs to build a fan base to create awareness to get playing gigs, ultimately to spread their music virally until the "right" person hears the music. Rather than selling CDs as the revenue model, they're selling CDs as leadgen. They've put some tracks on their, their disc is available on , they're leaving sampler discs at the local music stores, and they're distributing something akin to a "lit kit" to the major clubs. Am I missing something? It seems like they're doing this ... right. Maybe the kids really were paying attention all those years to my marketing lectures at the dinner table.
I haven't thought about PowerPoint templates and branding in years. Cliff Atkinson writes, "When you put your corporate logo on every PowerPoint slide, have you done your job of 'branding' your presentation?" (Probably not, but everybody does it.) A quick fix here is to move your logo off the slide and onto your handouts. If your logo is sitting on your Slide master, move it to your Notes master. Now it's out of the way of your in-person experience, but it still resides on paper handouts when you're no longer present.
Johanna Rothman writes about an all-too-frequent occurrence : "I'm in conversation with a client about a possible project. The Big Guy wanted to meet with me immediately, but had constrained time, so I shifted my schedule and met with him. It was clear from our conversation that he didn't quite know what he wanted, but he did want a proposal from me. I sent in a proposal and waited ... and waited ... and waited. As I'm following up on this proposal, something is crystal clear to me: The Big Guy doesn't respect the project." Sound familiar?
Valley of the Geeks posts, "A lot of people wonder exactly what a product manager actually does. I have product managers who work for me and I'm still wondering. People question: What's it like to hobnob with marketing gurus and industry execs at high falutin' conferences? Frankly, I've puzzled over this myself." Read a somewhat disturbing view of product management at.
The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.--George Orwell in 1984
We are an industry that uses ambiguous language, thinking it is meaningful to others. Or perhaps it is as George said--that we are using obscurity as a subterfuge. Words like "scalable" and "user friendly" are never used in requirements because they are ambiguous. And they shouldn't be used in marketing either for the same reason. Peter Cohan explores the industry use of jargon in The Content-Free Buzzword-Compliant Vocabulary List.
Delayed releases are typically the result of "just one more thing" requests. Every time we add another requirement to a release, we delay the date. Some vendors find themselves in the position of distributing patches that are really undocumented and untested features, because a big customer or a sales person squawked. And some companies do this for months and months until someone finally shouts, "Enough!" Long release cycles are extremely de-motivating. Developers and product managers lose heart that the project will ever end. Sales and marketing want to talk about the exciting features in the next release. Customers are continually told to wait for a fix or a feature that should be shipping "any day now." One technique is to break a big release into smaller ones. Johanna Rothman writes, "One of my clients complained about ranking, 'We'll have hundreds of requirements. It's overwhelming.' If you're still doing big releases, ranking requirements helps you create smaller releases. (Take the first 10 requirements and make that a smaller release. You don't have to release to the external world, you can release to the test group.)"
We advocate this approach in Requirements That Work--build small releases focused on a specific persona or market segment, which may or may not actually ship to existing customers. But if a new or existing customer needs a key feature, we can deliver the latest release, assured that it's been tested and is ready to go. If your company has a "big" project, break it down into a series of small release candidates. These release candidates allow you to balance project time and feature set. And this approach allows the team to feel a sense of accomplishment, take a deep breath, and then start it up again renewed.
Jacques Murphy writes, "Of the many activities at a software company, customer support or customer care is one of the toughest to provide. Sometimes I think that to avoid burnout, you need to approach the whole business the way an athlete deals with a sport. Realize that it's a team effort, and that you will win some and lose some. In fact, you may lose by falling flat on your face some days. But a losing game is just one part of a longer season, and the support of teammates helps you pull through." Read The Sport of Support...
Johnnie Moore writes, "It strikes me that the relationship between CEOs and Marketing is frequently abusive. The CEO plays persecutor/bad parent and the Marketing Director plays victim/hurt child."
Here's an incredible analogy from Incipient(thoughts): "Picture a team--say, six people--arranged in a circle around a round manhole. Each person on the team is holding on to one end of a rope, the other end being attached to a four- or five-foot pole which dangles into the manhole. The team's objective is that the lower end of the pole should NOT, under any circumstance, touch the walls of the manhole, while keeping the upper end as high as possible. This is constructed as an exercise in balance. The team's collective responsibility is to keep the pole centered. If someone pulls too hard on their end of the rope, they will cause the team to fail just as surely as if they failed to pull hard enough. 'Work' in this metaphor is achieved by pulling hard. 'Value' is achieved by keeping the pole dead center and high. "
Laurent Bossavit comments in Hiring programmers: "I've met way too many people who were billed as 'programmers' but whose writing skills were so impaired as to cast serious doubt on their ability to perform their main job." My children seem to have lost the skill of using the [shift] key. Nor do they use much punctuation. It's Instant Messenger! For them, AIM is the killer app, the one program that they use constantly. Kids write their thoughts as they have them, instantly, without filtering or organization. Likewise, I've heard it said that salespeople think by talking--which perhaps is why they prefer to use the phone over email. The "instant" nature of phone and messaging makes everything seem urgent. So we forget all about the niceties of spelling, punctuation and logic. And coherence. Writing is indeed a key element of every technology job. Technology employees (in development, marketing, product management, sales) should be able to write a coherent sentence, essay, article. In particular, writings by marketers and product managers are constantly on display. They're in press releases, business plans, presentation notes, MRDs, and so on. Writing leaves a permanent record (for good or ill). Documents get forwarded, and forwarded again-- to Tech Support, Development, sales people, customers, prospects-- who knows? Your writing may be the only thing that people know about you. What impression does your writing make?