Browsing Tag

product marketing

ProductCamp Austin – March 27, 2010

So what is more fun that being in Austin in the spring?  Not much, which is why I’m going to meet some folks for the first time, catch up with old friends and chat little bit about Product Management.   The ProductCamp momentum is amazing so far this year, looks like Silicon Valley went past the 500 mark, Atlanta approached 250 and new ones are popping up like ProductCamp Chicago and other ones around the globe.  I’m making a personal goal to make it to 4 this year, hopefully it is something I can do, since each one has a little different flavor and different people to learn from.

ProductCamp Austin should be a great event for all the local and not so local Product Management, Product Marketing, and Marketing folks to learn from and network with each other.

Hopefully I’ll see some of you at the AT&T conference center on Saturday, March 27 from 9 AM – 4:00 PM.

You wouldn’t even read your own case study

Image by spatiallyrelevant via Flickr

Case studies have always been an interesting pain point for most technology organizations and marketers.  You always need more (according to sales), they are difficult to push through to completion and no one in sales uses them once they are done because many times they are fact free, devoid of numbers and generally represent a feel good piece about your product or company which doesn’t help a buyer decision anything or discern why they should further evaluate your product/solution.

Sales Has Some Needs, Ideas and Some Candidates For You!

The typical case study process starts with a sales feedback session and as you would suspect — they need more stuff.   We can always debate if they ACTUALLY need more stuff, but why wouldn’t you want more case studies anyhow, right?  After all, sales is kind enough to give you a handful of companies to talk to, but 99% in the list can’t do one due to some corporate policy or other lame reason like being too busy, but y’all luckily find that 1 which says “yeah we can do a case study if you want”.

It may not be the one you wanted, it’s in a corner case industry for your product, but it’s the one you got and the next time you talk to sales it’s like: “Victory! We have a case study in progress and MARCOM is working with the customer”.

Ready, Set, Write!

So it’s off to the races and it’s a pretty straight forward process for the person in MARCOM who’s been assigned to get it done:

  • Interview the contact
  • write a little
  • work the approval process with the customer
  • 3-6 months later you may or may not have case study.

Providing you are lucky enough to get final approval,  you probably have  some watered down document which doesn’t work for sales or the marketplace at large and looks something like this from a flow perspective:

  • Generic statement that “we worked with big or not so big company to do stuff”
  • Customer Company overview with Logo
  • Perfectly reverse engineered problem statement
  • Quotes about how nice your product is in sidebar call outs from Jeremy,  the Project Manager
  • Your company’s boiler plate

There could be any number of reasons why this happens, the contact wasn’t the the right one, we asked the wrong questions or we just couldn’t get the cool content through their legal – some competitive differentiation/advantage thing.   While, it would be great to think our products do actually provide a competitive advantage, most case studies aren’t discovery sessions around how well the implementation went, it’s a checklist of questions which MARCOM  goes through like case study best practice robots.

Asked, Answered and Outta Here

In many companies it’s MARCOM which works the checklist of obvious questions with no real involvement from Product Marketing or Management and the main reason is they have a list of questions which they have used historically and the cookie cutter questions typically get the job done.  Pretty formulaic stuff for most technology companies.   In fact it is so formulaic that MARCOM may even outsource it, because it so easy – after all we have the corporate communications template, the style guide and a list of questions we can hand off to anyone.

Once we get the answers to the questions we have a case study right?  Probably not, more than likely we have yet another document which sales won’t use and buyers won’t find any real benefit from.  So what can you do to improve the likelihood that you will have something of value when done?  Notice I didn’t say case study, since not all customer stories are really case studies.

Qualify the Case Study

While case study candidates are hard to find, fluff pieces immortalized in Adobe aren’t that helpful to most sales people or buyers.  Try to better understand why someone/a company might want to do a case study.   It’s not that hard, just ask them “So why are you looking to do the case study?”  The types of answers will vary, but might look like:

  • Hey our marketing guy thinks it will improve our SEO
  • To fulfill some contract term which got slid in for a 55% discount.
  • We reduce cycle times by 12%, increased utilization by 3% and lowered costs by 8% resulting in an additional $18M in profit in the first 6 months.
  • I selected the solution, I think it’s implementation will improve my career, so let’s put it in print – k?

So there are lots of answers you could get back and other drivers than true partnership with your company or success with your product which could make a organization want to talk about their implementations.  It’s these type of nuances which makes MARCOM and definitely an external third party probably not the right resource to work the process via a hand off from sales.   In fact, why does sales often represent the starting point for case studies and not professional services?

Conversations, not Case Studies

So as you have probably guessed it might be best to not go in search of case studies, but to have regular conversation with recent implementations and find out how folks are using your product.  While having these conversations you just might find a real case study, a customer focus blog post or other quicker to write (and get approved) web content piece which would help buyers in the discovery process better understand the problems solved by your solutions/product.

I know — sales still wants case studies, but I betcha they would be really cool with video testimonials though.  It also just might be easier to get big brands with a video approach.  How?    Have MARCOM setup a video camera at the next users conference and solicit participation in quick 60 second testimonials around your products, after all everyone loves your product at the user conference and you can slip in some “right to post/tape language” in your click through license for the online conference registration.   Just an idea…..

Product Marketing in 24 Crowded Little Slides

So while I was unable to make the sound work, these 24 crowded little slides provide a well rounded baseline for use around one’s organization, at least without the audio. Fairly easy to digest regardless of ones familiarity with product marketing. Product Marketing and Management requirements definitely vary by organization. Product Marketing, Management, Program management and Project Management in technology companies can be a little more blurred.

Betamax Wins! An interview with Jim Foxworthy

Are you new around here?  Spatially Relevant, not only is about sharing the things we find from cool people, but also sharing/identifying trends in marketing, branding and how product managers can change a business with technology, such as social media.  Stick around and add the rss feed to your reader or follow on twitter.  Now on to the article.

Ok, so those of you around long enough know this isn’t the case with Betamax and we are now all upgrading to that blue thing, but the important part is Beta.    If you have been around product management long enough you know that processes and methodologies come and go, but best practices stay the same.  In technology one of the perennial milestones is going Beta.  While a technical feedback loop, it more so a market feedback loop.   It’s this step in any process where most of us get just a little nervous with the launch process, but hopefully not if you had launch in your mind since concept.  So like most product managers, my technical background and experience historically saw the close of beta and launch as milestones, rather than an ongoing process which started with the market requirements.

After leveraging the folks at Pragmatic Marketing to understand best practices in product management for almost a decade, I’ve come to see launch as an integrated process which parallels most of the development.   So I was glad to hear they were adding dedicated course on launch to the training catalog and was SUPER excited to participate in the beta.

Yup, Pragmatic Marketing is launching a new course on Launch Essentials and I had the opportunity to beta it onsite with the whole team – Product Owners, Technical PM’s, MARCOM and Product Marketing.   During the day I was impressed not just by the content, but the beta engagement process.  By being part of the process I was able to learn new things and share feedback with the instructor, David Daniels, and Graham  Joyce which is the goal of any beta, but the structure and measurement of the feedback is integrated into the process real time for the Pragmatic team.   Just as with any beta process, the team was looking to ensure as they launched a “product” to market it which actually meets the needs of their target market.   During the 1 day workshop we addressed the typical problems/pitfalls in launching a technology product to market profitably and the team challenged the pragmatic folks on how to ensure our Agile processes and launch methodologies were synched from concept to launch.

So with a little extra access to the team, I decided to see if I could ask some questions of Jim Foxworthy, the VP of Product Marketing at Pragmatic Marketing and Jim was kind enough to participate, as you can see by the title of the post.    The goal of the interview below is to get some insights on their beta process and the types of folks they have in their business.    I have similar interviews of two other pragmatic folks (David Daniels & Steve Johnson) to read which validate the varied backgrounds and common view of successful product managers which are echoed below by Jim’s answers.

Many thanks to Jim and best of luck to the team on the launch of the new course, with the standardize beta process, measurement and market engagement I’m confident it will be a success!

Q. What Roles have you had in the industry prior to joining Pragmatic Marketing?

I started in technology in 1975, so the ‘roles’ list would be a bit boring and long! But suffice to say that I worked in IT shops until 1983 doing operations and some development, then independent vendors until 2001, then joined Pragmatic Marketing as an instructor. During my years with vendors, I did customer support, client training, sales, and product management.

By the way, not that you asked, but while carrying a sales quota was not the easiest gig for me, the experience paid big dividends. On occasion we get a laugh at the expense of our sales brethren, but knowing what it takes to close business made me a much more effective product manager.

In 2002, while continuing to teach for Pragmatic Marketing, I started a consulting practice focused exclusively on implementation of the Pragmatic Marketing Framework. Over the following five years I worked on nearly 100 implementations.

Q. As you were with the other companies did you use the framework in other roles?

I was a student the first time Pragmatic Marketing offered the “Practical Product Management” seminar in 1993. I had both successful and unsuccessful implementations of the Pragmatic Marketing Framework between 1993 and 2001. I prefer to think of my mistakes as ‘opportunities to learn’, but some of them were unpleasant!

Q. I recently participated in a Beta process with you and the team and it appears that you not only eat your own dog food, but have a tightly defined beta program, expectations of the participants and adjusting the product in response.  How is this different than you have worked beta programs previously?

Thanks for the compliment! Being the product manager here at Pragmatic Marketing doesn’t give me much latitude to ‘stray’ from what we teach. The other instructors are NOT shy when I do (smile)!

In many ways our Beta process is not that different from programs I have run in the past. Our ‘product’ is our seminar, and the source code is in (believe it or not!) MS-PowerPoint. So, when the ‘code’ begins to look pretty close to the requirements and the positioning (we do those, too) then we know it is time to get some market validation. Beta testing gives us that, plus one more thing that we cannot duplicate in the ‘development lab’ — real teaching time. There are some things about the delivery of seminars that you can -only- learn on your feet, working with a live audience.

Q. How are the emerging development agile methodologies impacting the framework or the way PM’s need to look at the market?

Agile development methodologies are having a big impact on product managers! New artifacts and job titles are emerging that can be confusing, and there is an enormous about of pressure to spend more and more time with development. Yet the need to discover and validate market problems has NOT changed. Pragmatic Marketing recently launched a new seminar titled, “Living in an Agile World” to address these very issues. (If I had my go-to-market hat on, then I would write) For more information, please go to