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Increasing Product Management Productivity

Posted on 26 June 2015 at 1:56 by Adrienne

As Product Managers we’re often pulled in so many different directions and it can be difficult to decipher the “Important” from the “Urgent”.

Which should we do first? Respond to the CEO’s office about a customer complaint or spend time figuring out if our Roadmap will deliver the intended value to our customers?

The Problem

Product Managers are:

  • Time poor
  • Under resourced
  • Provide lots of tactical support
  • Trying to convert Strategy into Execution

This problem isn’t new. Any search for ways of being more productive will result in hundreds of tips and life hacks about how to stop wasting time on distractions and how to get better at email.

I’ll skip the usual productivity tips, like switch off your email, be firm, say no, go for a walk, set goals, write a to-do list, and more. They all have their place but once you have cleared away the noise, Product Managers are faced with an even scarier problem.

What do you do now?

Converting Product Strategy to Product

“Developing a strategy and implementing it are often viewed as two distinct activities – first you come up with the perfect plan and then you worry about how to make it happen. This approach, common though it is, creates a disconnect between what the company is trying to accomplish and what employees do on a day-to-day basis.”
– Simple Rules, D.Sull and K. Eisenhardt

Product Management is a business function that links Organisational Strategy to Operational Execution. Unless some aspect of the day-to-day work done by a Product Manager is inching closer to meeting the strategic goals then the day has been wasted. This is the hard problem that most Product Managers face when it comes to productivity.

However, in day-to-day Product Management, there aren’t established processes and practices to guide us in our everyday efforts. When we don’t have a project to anchor our work efforts and activities to, the “Urgent” becomes the “Important” very easily, and when the “Important” becomes “Urgent” it is too late to be effective.

Productivity Through Cadence

So here’s my secret… In order to be productive on a day-to-day basis, we need a work cadence and a work flow.

Cadence is the rhythm of work and flow as the output of work. When operating with cadence, the question of “What do I do next?” is answered by the workflow process, a process that incrementally creates value towards a strategic goal.

This idea of Cadence can be observed in Agile development methods, where fixed time boxes (e.g. sprints) provide a team the timing structure to keep a product/project moving closer to completion, and constant planning cycles break larger tasks into smaller ones. Yet when the product is launched, this cadence comes to a crashing end as the product moves into day-to-day lifecycle management. We have to ruthlessly create the cadence and flow when we are managing and growing our products, not only when we’re designing and delivering new products.

Developing Product Management Cadence

You can create your own structure and schedule for working but we’ve developed a cycle of linked activities, where a little bit is done at a time and then actioned in the next activity. You need to dedicate time to these activities each day.

1. Learn

Spend this time to learn about your customers, your market, the products financial and lifecycle performance. Document what you learn and use it to help develop and refine longer term Planning.

Different ‘Learning’ activities can be performed at different times of the month depending on the depth of information required.

2. Plan

Review and synthesize our learnings, reflect and plan for the future of our product. This may take the form of a Product Vision and a Roadmap which is regularly reviewed, updated and communicated to stakeholders. The Plan will provide direction on what to do next and outline the activities required to stimulate Innovation.

3. Innovate

A static product in this market place is a dead product. Schedule time to bring your insights and plans to bear. For example you may want to create and validate a problem hypothesis or product canvas and begin conceiving innovative solutions for valuable customer problems.

These activities will represent the seeds of new product or marketing ideas. Once these ideas bear fruit and we have identified a feature or product worth pursuing, then the existing Product Delivery process can kick in ensuring that the project has a cadence of its own.

4. Lead

We need to actively lead our product to success either in big or small organisations. This may translate to scheduling regular meetups with internal and external stakeholders to share the product’s long term vision or provide an update on the growth metrics.

Getting Started

It’s usually difficult to change mindset and adopt a new practice. To get you started, consider spending a minimum of 2 hours per day on these activities or about 20% of your week and book them into your calendar at the same time each day.

Tagged in:product management, productivity

Buyer Persona – Don’t go to market without it

Posted on 28 May 2015 at 9:34 by Sean Richards

Buyer Persona

Addressing the top five questions about one of the most important go to market resources ever – Buyer Personas.

1. What is a Buyer Persona?

Buyer personas are examples of real buyers who influence decisions about the products, services or solutions you take to market. At the same time they are a powerful tool that builds confidence to persuade buyers to choose you rather than a competitor.

2. Where do Buyer Personas Come From?

Buyer personas are created by Product Marketers who perform primary, qualitative research – also known as talking to your customers. If you are responsible for go to market activities and do not talk to customers and prospects then shame on you. There is every chance your market messages and value propositions are internally driven, assumption-laden, feature-centric bin-liner. Just sayin’.

A buyer persona is the manifestation of good quality market research. It is evidence that you KNOW who you are selling to, what they need, what engages them, how they buy, what their priorities are and who they trust. Product Marketers are typically responsible for creating and maintaining buyer personas.

3. Why Do I Need a Buyer Persona?

Buyer personas are an essential ingredient for a great go to market plan. When buyer personas are combined with value propositions and buyers journey, your go to market plan has every chance of success — because it is well grounded in the needs of the buyer.

You need to know your buyer before you can connect with them. Every piece of marketing material created to attract, qualify and convert prospects into customers needs to connect with what the buy needs, when they need it. Knowing the buyer is the first step on that buyer journey.

4. Is a Buyer Persona the Same as a User Persona?

Not necessarily. A user persona, typically owned by Product Managers is a representation of those that USE a product or service. A buyer persona is a representation of those that BUY a product or service. Sometimes a user may be the same as a buyer. But, that should be proved/disproved through research. The use of these personas is different. Read more about user personas here.

5. Where to From Here?

To learn how to make buyer personas, along with other essential ingredients for a fantastic go to market plan then I invite you to join the other beautiful people attending the Brainmates Ready, Set, Go to Market product marketing training course in Australia.

“Buyer personas are freakin’ awesome!” An enlightened professional who recently completed the Ready, Set, Go to Market training course.

I may be biased about the course, because I run it. Hope to see you there for the next scheduled session.

When not creating new buyer persona friends, Sean is espousing the virtues of great go to market practice through the Brainmates Ready, Set Go to Market product marketing training course in Australia and launching compelling solutions to tackle the worlds biggest environmental challenges at Mandalay and naus.

This post was originally published on Medium.

Tagged in:buyer persona, buyers journey, Go To Market, product management, Product Marketer, Product marketing

The #mockstock movement

Posted on 27 May 2015 at 11:31 by Sean Richards

#mockstock

How novel techniques, like #mockstock can improve sales enablement programs and enhance go to market execution.

It has been a few months but I am sure all those in marketing circles would have noticed people like Guy Kawasaki and Vince Vaughn and team use mock stock (#mockstock) as a means of playful promotion. You know, when they pose in those cheesy settings that look just like marketing stock photos.

Sure, it looks funny. But I say…. POSERS! Late to the game posers! I am the originator of this movement and it is called #mockstock. Before these glory hounds jumped on the #mockstock bandwagon I was forging new ground. Defining a new phenomenon — the #mockstock movement.

#mockstock posers

Before these glory hounds jumped on the #mockstock bandwagon I was forging new ground. Defining a new phenomenon — the #mockstock movement.

The Challenge

The year was 2009. I, with my killer squad product marketers and product managers were mulling over how to get our sales enablement resources to be more effective. We had the value propositions; the competitive reviews; the webinars; the case studies; the testimonials; the regular updates. All of this on an Intranet – back when Intranets were cool. But, getting adoption from the sales team was a struggle.

All of this on an Intranet — back when Intranets were cool.

Those that bothered to look up the product home on the Intranet said they found some of the content dry. For others, well it was just easier to ask a product marketer for help any time they needed it; that was the path of least resistance. For the rest….. well I am convinced there were sales brochures from before I was born in those leather-bounds.

We needed an idea to greatly improve adoption of the sales enablement resources. Sales enablement, part of the ‘build buy-in’ process is a responsibility of product marketers and go to market professionals. It is one of the three tenets of product marketing: Build Business, Build Brand, Build Buy-in.

Three tenets of product marketing: Build Business, Build Brand, Build Buy-in.

three tenets of product marketing

The Three Tenets of Product Marketing

As an APAC operation we had people scattered across the region. I had product marketers in different countries and product managers in different states. Providing support to an equally scattered sales organisation was a challenge, especially when many of the team had never met the people they were supporting.

1:1 sales support was chewing up valuable hours in the team. This was not a sustainable model across several time zones. We had to ensure the whole team was getting the latest enablement resources – to help improve opportunity-to-sale conversion rates. We had to find a way to cut through — to make the content more palatable, to get more of the sales team enthused and to convince other sales people to get on board.

The Solution

Product marketer Sam – being a bit of an English smart-mouth, jokingly suggested we create our own stock image library to convey our value propositions and market messages. He suggested that there is no meaning in having some constipated-looking, suit-clad model associated to our value propositions. Why not mix it up. Let it be us whom are the subjects in the picture and have a bit of fun with it.

The boy was a genius! Over the next 15 minutes we had formulated the shoot location and locked in the schedule for the first shoot.

I know — on the surface this looks like little more than a distraction: a few product marketers fart-arsing around and losing focus. However, this could potentially solve a number of the challenges we had in a novel way. I will come back to novelty in a moment.

Getting broad adoption of the product home on the Intranet was paramount. Everything the team needs is in one spot and that would be the only spot to get enablement resources. We had a large portfolio of products to cover, from different lines of business, from around the world. It was critical we drove all enablement activities through the one home page; to avoid content splintering.

This #mockstock idea was potentially a unique way to create a vibe around the product home. I was pretty sure it would go viral internally. It was time to channel our inner Vogue….. with a side of cheese. I have provided some of the teams fine work here, but without branding and propositions.

#mockstock showcase

 

#mockstock: channel your inner vogue, with a side of cheese.

The results were great. The product home totally ‘owned’ the Intranet: it was by far the most visited part of the Intranet within days and ongoing. Everyone was talking about how cool (read dorky) the team looked. The key being, they were talking about it. The team in Sydney got to know a little more about the guys in Singapore and Beijing. And, you know what? The product team felt chuffed. This was great profile for them and they had a blast.

#mockstock stacks up

By using #mockstock as a way of communicating market messages and value propositions we were able to resolve some challenges with our sales enablement program. Content got noticed, shared around, used and was driving traffic to the product home.

What this was really about was tapping into the novelty factor. We decided to mix things up to improve our sales enablement program. That is the real lesson we took away. Product Marketers should be prepared to look for fresh ideas to build business, build brand and build buy-in. As soon as you settle on a ‘formula’ you will go stale. Try new things: iterate what works and trash what doesn’t. Be creative and have some fun.

Try new things: iterate what works and trash what doesn’t. Be creative and have some fun.

#mockstock is no silver bullet for break-through product marketing, but it might be just what you need to mix things up and keep it fresh. If you try it out make sure you share your portfolio around, #mockstock.

When not posing for high-cheese #mockstock photography Sean is espousing the virtues of great go to market practice through the Brainmates Ready, Set Go to Market training course in Australia.

This post was originally published on Medium.

Tagged in:#mockstock, Go To Market, Go To Market Planning, Product marketing, sales enablement, three tenets of product marketing

Product Roadmaps, What Are They Good For?

Posted on 12 May 2015 at 12:54 by Adrienne

This is a guest post by Erietta Sapounakis who writes at Eriontheweb.

Erietta attended one of our Product Talks recently and this is a summary of a roadmap panel discussion.

The panelists during the event included:

  • Michael Pearson, Director Product & e-commerce at Expedia
  • Michael Bromley, Head of Digital Strategy and Chief Innovation Officer at SMS Management & Technology; and
  • Chrissie Zenonos, Head of Product at Mi9 (Channel 9)

While the panelists weren’t in perfect alignment they generally agreed on the following.

What is a product roadmap?

  • A communication tool
  • A list of priorities

What should a product roadmap communicate?

  • Needs, problems
  • Goals and objectives
  • The business value to be delivered
  • The vision
  • The capability

How should a product roadmap behave?

  • It should be flexible
  • It should accommodate a test and learn approach

What value do product roadmaps provide?

  • Provide visibility to different teams to enable them to align to a singular vision
  • Show how everything fits into a greater scheme, to provide context
  • Provide clarity to tackle ambiguity

What a product roadmap is not, or should not be or do

  • Should not be a features list
  • Should not describe granular detail
  • Should not explain how something is to be delivered

The aversion to product roadmaps was best expressed by Michael Bromley:

“Because I can’t predict the future I don’t try.”

And with technology and the market changing so rapidly its easy to see why people need to work in differently. What the panelists had in common was a way of working which was flexible, agile, and iterative, applying a test and learn approach. From what I could gather Michael Bromley, of SMS and Chrissie Zenonos of Mi9 could do away with the traditional concept of a product roadmap deliverable because they worked with co-located teams. They used walls of post-its and the business model canvas as alternative tools. Michael Pearson of Expedia, unlike the others was still an advocate for product roadmaps. He works with distributed teams of developers and needs to communicate the wider context and timelines to engineers and call centre channel teams who need to know when a feature will drop. His version of a product roadmap is a JIRA workflow where the hypothesis to test eventually becomes the code then the feature.

My big takeaway was realising that so much documentation—product roadmaps, feature lists, test schedules, project plans, even the business case—are really communicating the same thing. The challenge is rationalising tools that so many feel so comfortable with to avoid duplication, focus on communicating the vision, and work iteratively and flexibly towards achieving it.

Thanks Erietta!

Tagged in:Communicating Roadmaps, Product Features, Product Roadmaps

What is your Most Dangerous Assumption?

Posted on 23 April 2015 at 10:38 by Nick Coster

Any time you have a new product idea everything is an unknown.

  • Who is your target customer?
  • Why will they like your product idea?
  • What will the product do?
  • Will the market buy the product?
  • What will the product be competing against?
  • How much will it cost the business to make and offer the product?
  • How will the business make money and will it be enough to make a profit?

There can be hundreds more.

Some of these questions we may think we know the answers to, others you may have no clue about. It is possible and quite common to become overwhelmed by all the things that you don’t know. Fear of the unknown can cause an inertia that prevents action.

As early as possible we need to start trying to convert unknowns to assumptions and assumptions to reliable data points and facts to reduce the risk of product failure and to help develop confidence the idea. Continue reading...

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