Product Marketing for Start-ups

When do you need to bring product management and product marketing into a new start-up? According to April Dunford, understanding customers and building products to meet the needs of the market are key from the very beginning of a company’s existence. These skills are as important for entrepreneurs as getting funding and knowing how to sell.

In this episode, Michael and April discuss product marketing topics for start-ups, including: how to take products to market from the beginning (when you have no products and do not understand the market); the role of product management in a startup; what go-to-market strategies are necessary to grow revenue and take your product into the broader market.

April talks about the three phases of a start-up (from a product marketer’s perspective):

  1. You have an idea — You need to understand the market before you write any code. You are starting a dialog with the market about the problem.
  2. You have ‘some code’ and a few early adopters – test solutions and find out how to scale. You are fine-tuning what you will need to scale the business.
  3. You have a product people love – it’s time to scale the business. You now need to maximize the money you are pouring into the company.

April and Michael conclude the podcast with a discussion on the effects of social media on product marketing and product management. April shares insight relevant to start-ups and big businesses alike.

You can read more about product marketing and contact April on her blog at Rocket Watcher.

The Business of the Product

What is the best way to bring teams together to have a common view of product direction? In this episode Michael discusses this topics with Steven Haines, author of the book The Product Manager’s Desk Reference and president of Sequent Learning Networks. Product managers need to understand the importance of managing products as if they were their own business within the company. The mindset of a product management professional within the company — the “CEO or general manager” of the product — is key to the long-term success of the products and the company.

Steven provides astute advice to help product managers and product marketers foster relationships with their teams and customers. He provides insight to help you stay “market focused” in your work and earn credibility with coworkers:

  1. Understand that people on different teams might see (or understand) things differently than others, including you as the product manager. Remember that different views can push you to increase the value of your products.
  2. You — the product manager — have the responsibility to understand prevailing views (from executives, sales, marketing, engineering, etc.) of your products.
  3. As the product manager, you need to work with the groups to assure they come to a common view of product direction. You must not dictate what will happen but help them understand what will make the products successful and get their buy-in.

Steven and Michael discuss other topics such as finding the right mentors and advisors, strategic vs. tactical planning and building the product management community. Steven also highlights key takeaways from his book.

Agile Product Management

How do companies best respond to changes in their markets? According to Scott Sehlhorst, agile is the key. Agile is not only a better way to develop products, but also a foundation for companies to develop a DNA that responds rapidly to changes in their markets. In this episode, Michael and Scott discuss how agile product management sets the foundation for more than just sound software development: it increases a business’ ability to adapt to changing conditions and helps the sales team react quickly to change.

Scott and Michael also discuss the importance of understanding the conversation ecosystem – the world where attention, permission and trust drive customer engagement. Gaining a deep understanding of the conversations people are having about your products is vital for success in today’s economy. They also discuss outside-in vs. inside-out software development. Focus on the problems being solved and for whom they are being solved, and use that information to identify other problems those people are facing. That will potentially open up a new world of opportunity.

You can read more about agile product management, the conversation ecosystem and other great topics on Scott’s blog Tyner Blain.

Cranky Product Management

What is needed to make your products successful? That is one of the topics covered in the high-spirited discussion with The Cranky Product Manager (a.k.a. CPM). In this interview Michael talks with the CPM about several interesting topics. Although the CPM writes and talks in third person, she has a wealth of knowledge about product management and marketing.

Michael and the CPM discuss four key areas of product management:

  • PMs are “the product entrepreneurs” within the company
  • It doesn’t matter where PMs report in their organization
  • The “sales droids” are important to your organization; CPM said: “I love sales”
  • Product management is a leadership role in your organization.

The Cranky PM knows how to make PM fun and will keep you engaged (even if the voice you hear is not quite here own). Take a listen and let us know what you think.

Business-Driven Product Management

Understanding business objectives is key to successful product management. In this episode Michael discusses business-driven product management with Peter Hanschke. Peter talks about the importance of aligning product strategy with company goals and objectives. To do this effectively product managers need to balance the needs of different teams and communicate effectively. Peter describes the three key business objectives for product managers as follows:

  • Market expansion: Expanding into new markets and growing your presence in existing markets
  • Customer satisfaction: Assuring customers have a positive experience with your products
  • Technology innovation: Taking time to keep up with your existing technology (e.g. new database version) and using new technology (e.g. social networking tools)

Michael and Peter wrap up their discussion with the benefits of focusing on the business objectives.

You can read more about business-driven PM on Peter’s site at Ateala.com.

Focus On The Market

Sharp product managers appreciate the need to understand their markets and focus on the activities that will position their products to meet the market needs. In this episode of the Product Management Pulse, Michael talks with Stacey Weber about how to ratchet up your success as a product manager during difficult economic times. Stacey talks about the importance of staying focused on the market, talking to customers, and listening to what they have to say. Those who do will be well ahead of their competition.

Michael and Stacey also discuss important ways to classify your markets (customers, evaluators and potential buyers) and strategies for obtaining information from each. Ultimately, the more you know about your market, the better prepared you will be to succeed.

You can contact Stacey at Pragmatic Marketing.

Predictive vs. Reactive Product Strategy

Creating sound and profitable product strategy is a key responsibility of product management. Because they deal with inputs and information from so many sources, product managers must proactively seek out and refine information that will lead them to create products their markets want to buy. In this episode of the Product Management Pulse, Michael and Ivan Chalif — the “Productologist” — discuss three keys to successful product strategy:

  • Listen to your market
  • Proactively plan for product success
  • Create a vision

Ivan also discusses the importance of usability design, especially for product managers who work with B2B software. He also gives a fresh perspective on what executives can do to improve product management in their organizations.

You can follow Ivan on Twitter and read more on his blog The Productologist.

Delivering Products to Market

Delivering products to market in a way that delights customers is an important role of product marketing managers. In this episode Michael talks with Dave Daniels about the key role of product marketing manager. Dave discusses the roles of product manager and product marketing manager and how they can work together effectively to help their products succeed.

Dave and Michael discuss the following important trends for product marketing managers:

  • They need to figure out how to sell what they already have
  • They demonstrate how their product(s) will help sales people meet their quota
  • They refresh/reposition products when necessary.

Dave also gives you what he considers the most important tool for product marketing managers.

You can follow Dave on Twitter and read more about product marketing and product launches on his blog Launch Clinic.

Elevate Your Presentation

The ability to make your point, and make it powerfully and effectively is key to being a successful product manager. In this episode Michael talks with Dave Gunby about the importance of solid presentation and communication skills. Dave tells how the first time he gave a public presentation he “failed miserably.” He rebounded from that experience to become a thought leader in business communication.

To improve your ability to present effectively, practice the following:

  • Always have speaker notes to which you can refer
  • Finish your thought, then repeat it for emphasis
  • Move with a purpose; work on a specific and purposeful stance
  • Paint the picture with your hands
  • Practice, practice, practice.

Dave and Michael also discuss idea mapping, a method of capturing thoughts and ideas in a way that more closely reflects the way our brains remember things. The technique is useful in preparing successful presentations.

To learn more about successful presentation skills check out MINDimensions.com where you will find Dave’s contact information, and where you can sign up for his monthly newsletters.

Understanding Your Market

Understanding your market(s) is one of the most important jobs of a product manager. In this episode of the Product Management Pulse Michael talks with Jim Holland, the man bringing sense to Market Sensing. Jim discusses the importance of understanding your markets to do better validation and make better decisions. Both internal and external communication is key for product managers to to succeed.

Jim and Michael discuss the social aspects of product management. New technologies such as Twitter and Facebook give product managers a new reach to customers; it also gives customers and prospects an inbound route to communicate directly with product managers.

Finally, Jim tells a great story about “the name on the building.” Every product manager needs to hear this story.

You can connect with Jim on Twitter to keep up with all the latest in market sensing and product management.