Measure Cut, Cut Measure

This is a theme that is growing in my mind lately. At first I was describing the to a group how Agile methodologies in development differ from the business functions. If development has good market data they are a measure cut function. We give them a firm goal in story form and they in short order deliver product or prototype.

The remaining functions of a business act more in a Cut Measure mode. We observe or discover, then probe or create hypotheses to test. Those test results are inspected and a new hypostasis is created that may require more testing or is put into development and market.

Product management has been pulled into the Agile Development world so far that I see PMs losing their identity as problem solvers and business side gate keepers. When Sales and customer service fill your back log then you work that you are being assimilated into the development team!

Let me get clear I am a big proponent of Agile methodologies and soon to launch a  web service that connects the dots between proper Policy Governance in board and team management and Agile methodologies.

You see whether you call it a story or an ends statement it is still a clear unit of deliverable and accountable work that adds value to stakeholders. How you create strong productive scrums code delivery is also how you deliver a growing profitable company.

It is Newt Rockne football, ten yards at a time! Just there is a difference on the business side, when you need to cut first then measure. Work units change in time and unit in/ unit out of work is defined in words or research. Documentation still exists because the work unit is often communication and variable. An answer can be 5 rather than 3, Done is rare.

Even in marketing campaigns success is based on not a single mail but a trend line that often is relative as to when to jump of, if things are strong great but as they soften the rate of decline and the readiness of a new concept determine sunset activity. Agile for the Business is a cut measure and can be supported by core Agile concepts, Let’s figure this out together

Be here now!

Years ago I worked at a large wireless carrier and one of their management development programs for the year centered on a key phrase, “Be Here Now”.

We were seeking leaders who had the natural ability to be present in any situation.

At that time Mobile phones were just beginning to be persistent in any business environment and folks struggled not to answer all calls. Yes they checked their phone rather than focus on customer or co-worker conversations. The result is we found we were missing details that were shared but not noted in any manner. How to tick of a customer is not listen.

Today you can walk through a restaurant as see business and social groups where at least one person is checking their smart phone or carrying on a separate interaction than the one they are physically involved in.

This has gotten through a pain cycle and more people are waking up to the power of “Being here now!”  Yesterday was the first time a person wearing Google glasses engaged me in a conversation while wearing the glasses. I asked him to take them off while we spoke, he was shocked. I explained that I was having two issues: first was my time is important to me and if not to him then he should move on, Second was that I was not sure what was begin recorded by the glasses and would like to know if the conversation was “On the record?”

I am an admitted tech geek, device lover, early innovative adaptor, no one will argue that! This was the most intrusive feeling I have ever felt.

Bad List Call Marketing

B2B List calling is tough enough without making it stupid. I remember 30 years ago when I did a year where Sales and marketing consisted of a phone and a phone book. Even with a product that most businesses we curious about, it was tough!

Today we have tons of cheap data sources out there and the internet in general so there is no reason for completely Blind calling. It is rude to call me and not even know what I do or how large the company is!

There is little value to you interrupting my day, not listening and just pitching. Trust me I love to pitch and sell so I feel for newbies but please pick up a book on sales, telemarketing or at least have my website up so we have something to talk about.

Disrespecting the prospect and bad list calling is the thing that gives sales a bad name. Selling is a noble profession and one not easily mastered, it takes a balance of product and customer knowledge plus a large amount of social skills.

Companies that send folks out blind and measure results in a call/hour metric ruin the perception of B2B sales. If you can’t figure out how to train and arm you call marketing properly  Please use a professional meeting setter. Buy a marketing department, and learn targets and value propositions.

Marketers you can add value to the world by buying a book and staying away from companies who don’t respect you trying to do something right. 10 seconds on the internet should give you an industry level awareness of a prospect before you dial. Marketing should provide you a value proposition for that industry in you deck of call scripts, and finally be polite when you call, say Hi, then rate your material against the call reality back to marketing so the company learns.

Something great is about to happen!

I have not been writing since my return from a month long trip to Nepal for a reason. I have been in learning mode fulltime. In less than  a month I launch a new web service built on years of experience and learning in my professional life. Months ago it dawned on me over a few months that two areas of my life that followed separate strong concepts and methodologies actually were very similar.  It took some work to build the middleware mental roadmaps between the words but now I have something Great!

As with all things I start small and pragmatic with a simple service site that does two simple things that deliver high value to a very familiar segment. But the road map is broader and I will ask my customers to join me in the journey.

As Bowman said to his mom at the end of 2010 Space Odyssey, “Something Wonderful is about  to happen!”

Short Term Thinking in a Long Term world!

Humans seek long term relationships as a general rule. We like ancestry, marriage, fraternities, old friends, pets, homes nesting, seniority and so much more.

New companies in this start-up tech world challenge that seemingly swimming upstream. However reading today about a new 3yr old start-up selling to a giant for unreal amounts of cash and stock I also see that most of these Lottery ticket start-ups are in the social communications area, not a core skill of humans!
Bad communication is what drives marketing innovation, we are always seeking new ways to say something or get the right targets to understand that we can help them.

Taking the same principles of agile and short term rapid value creation to the longer term realities of product adoption by businesses can be a conflict that ends poorly. B2B marketing needs to “Catch the eye” and attract new prospects however the customer often needs to invest in this relationship significantly. We choose a new CRM vendor hopefully 1-2X in a company lifecycle for example. This is one of many processes that impact multiple areas of our companies.

SaaS vs. installed software has shifted risk to some degree from customer to vendor and enabled customer churn if the relationship goes bad, Software version of no fault divorce. That said we don’t get married to get divorced! This is a long term world, however many marketers are short termed in their messages. For business reasons ROI calculations and on boarding training need to pay off rapidly like speed dating but that is where it ends.

How does your marketing and sales show your customer you are ready for the long term? Are you an innovative and fast following feature adopter? Are you set up to support them in outages or as their business pivots? There is so much still to the old “IBM” purchasing mentality that we need in our B2B vendor customer relationships.

Long term value, short term pain, rapid ROI, today and next month! Here lies the challenge!

Marketing with Authenticity

There is much commentary today on personal authenticity as the key to business leaders success in leadership. (Forget Politicians, the media and federal workers they gave up on this long ago) Truly authentic leaders are clear and dependable, honest in their communications, strengths and weaknesses.

When I look up the word there is a thread of words like; Not false or copied, known facts, proven, trusted, reliable…  We can all understand the concept and clearly this is one of those “know it when you experience it’ concepts.

Most will not think of attributing this very high moniker on any activity in marketing but still reserve the right to get very angry or disappointed when the messaging shows no intent to be authentic. Lately there are a number of e-mail marketing tricks and techniques being used that step over the line of false familiarity that they push prospects away rather than toward.

Start with the RE: or FW: in the subject line then add the over familiar greeting or personal request from my boss. This is how it goes, Tim, Bob Smith asked me to ensure your presence at the event, he is very focused on your joining us.

Really? The funny thing is I got one of these and Knew Bob Smith, When I called him he was so embarrassed by the false inference that he fired the vendor and content marketer.

Today there is a tendency to try anything and find the next technique that increases pull through. Frankly most are going to far and risk tarnishing the company brand before the market even finds them. My challenge is on your campaigns think of this going to a strong business contact that you want to keep in your corner. Be authentic in how you reach out and what you state. Offer to teach and to learn, engage in a conversation not manipulation just to fill a pipeline!

Dynamic Market Conversations

Change as you grow, move over the chasm, become the leader on Main Street and begin your journey into the Sunset.  Think about the areas of your marketing and communications in the sales process as you pass through each area of the product lifecycle and how the market and your customers’ needs from you as a provider change.

Many companies understand the get it going and get it viral chatter, new cutting edge, innovative, a must try, everyone is turning to us. This is easy stuff frankly. The more difficult marketing comes as you grow when the market is not deciding as much about your value as when is right for them to move.

We have all experienced management changes as companies grow, the 0-$5 million or $5 Million to $500 Million teams. Well there are similar marketing trends. As your product grows and becomes more accepted or main stream the thinking needs to shift from bright shinny objects that early adopters like to plug and play instant ROI tools that Main Street likes.

Additionally early marketers like t o0 flame or ignore distractors in the market where as main street teams learn to use their jujitsu with the understanding that a mature product has as many lovers as haters today. This is why it was so effective for Samsung to use the fad effect against Apple.

Then there are marketers who understand that a company with multiple products in multiple lifecycle phases need to shift to the company messages as much as the product massages. Displaying the company heritage of success is powerful to new or established markets. Sony now is pushing into the personal SLR market where the brand is not been known so they are reminding the audience that they have led in the audio and Television markets including always being the king of broadcast video historically.

Marketing and communications is a coordinated symphony of product messages, segmentation messages and the overall company messages. Consumers today are as eager to hear about who as what. Churn is easy between vendors but disruptive and costly at best so customers care about who they are partnering with and is this a relationship that can serve both parties.

The last sentence is one for your entire team, everyone needs to present a congruent face to the market without infighting or internal finger pointing. No longer can sales hunt and customer account teams service, the market requires a continuum of skills and contact.

The Affordable (your industry) Act

This is not a political rant but an observation of our societal potential to be obtuse. As many know I work with the medical products and IT industry even teach product management and marketing at the university med school.

The other night I was sitting with a fair size group of very accomplished Lawyers, Investors and Entrepreneurs who were all touting the wonderful Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). After listening to them read off their political toking points on both sides, I asked them if they ever tried to see it from the Doctors point of view?

The core question was How would you feel about the government setting pricing that defined what you could earn? After the mixture of “That is not what it does comments subsided and reiteration of how it helped the less fortunate” we got into a market dynamics discussion.

If the primary vendor in any industry establishes a base market fee for a service does that not set a market Value for that said service? Yes but there is a quality issue outside Medical care right? Oh so the premise is that cheap fees deliver cheap service everywhere but medical care?

Well as Dr, Ezekiel (Father of ACA) says you can pay a premium for better! So ACA medical care is acceptable low quality?   Think it through folks! The medical industry lives and dies by reimbursement rates, you get what you pay for but in medical the doctor can be sued for errors and people die!

That led to the A__A act conversation I titled this with. Affordable Lawyer Act (ALA), Affordable Capital Act for investors capping returns on those big IPOs, Affordable Your profession Act? It was enlightening for all.

Why do we as a society not see Doctors as business men? It is just easier? Does the insurance industry allow you to see them as the bad guy rather than any other? In the Auto industry we do not regulate providers even though there is a standard book of fees. We do however choose good providers over others when the insurance is paying the bill.

Doctors need to step up and scream that their earning potential is being artificially capped. And If you think your profession is safe wait for the Affordable Legal Act, because everyone deserves the right to sue those who offend us and get 95% of the settlement not 66%.

Beyond the Mechanics

Product management is much more than stories and backlogs. The art of the profession comes from understanding business and people. Carrying a sales bag is a skill that defines many Product leaders as they learn to drill down through what people say is the problem or need to the true core of the problem.

The mechanics of running roadmaps and releases can be mastered in months on the job. Getting into the field and learning to contextually interview and observe is where the great things happen. Sales are there for a completely different reason and this includes folks in the C-Suite. You as a product leader have the ability and responsibility to connect with the user, become their advocate, become the trusted conduit that has no agenda but to make their days better!

So outside of field work how does a PM gain these skills? Like most things Practice, Practice, Practice. Training in how to question or interview helps, I also like training that prepares focus group leadership, mediation, or facilitation. Strong pundits often miss the messages people give off as they present ideas and visions. There is a time for vision but customer interaction is not it.

If you are presenting a vision to a customer there better be a sales exec to follow through or approve of your ideas and how they align with the sales strategy for the account. I have seen PMs lay out a road map and the prospect say “ok I will wait for version 3 in the fall!” Ouch!

As a Product pro you are a sponge, there to soak up data and probe what you hear and say, your are the new advocate and the customers personal envoy to the vendor. You can walk a mile in their shoes, feel their pain and help them find that innovation. You help them become raving fans and own a piece of the roadmap.

Product pros develop a keen ability to project empathy while seeding ideas or testing hypothesis. You create deep friendships that produce referrals for others and call you first before the account churns. Your allies in the market are your best tools when building roadmaps, then you respect sales or customer service who have the responsibility for revenue.

Elevate your game don’t step on others!

Dreams and Realities

As Product professionals and innovators we are dreamers. We believe that anything can be accomplished with Time and Money!  The reality is there is no unlimited money and time is short, always short!

Time is bounded by environmental concerns of competition and destruction, Money, well not endless and there needs to be a pay back and product value.

These truths do not change, they only vary.

More later as I have been short on time and need to earn more money!