Month: July 2009

UniFlame understands the value of customer experience

As a former technical writer, it’s always disappointing to see the sad state of virtually any kind of instruction manual or guide. These documents are literally afterthoughts, included I’m sure, simply because laws require assembly instructions or usage manuals.

In fact, too often with goods made in non-English speaking countries, you end with documents like this.

So, when I come across a set of instructions that is clear, unambiguous and easy to understand, it’s worth a positive shout out.

Recently, I bought a rather inexpensive charcoal grill. It looks like this grill to the right.

Nothing fancy. It’s not from a major name brand. But whomever created the assembly instructions knew what they were doing.

First, here is a shot of the COMPLETE assembly instructions


(click image to enlarge)

What’s great about this?

  • 8 simple panels, shown clearly on a 2 page spread
  • All parts clearly drawn and all assembly pieces identified and labeled with a letter
  • Minimal text to read and (mis)interpret – i.e. no tab A in slot B silliness

Yes, this particular photo shows the French instructions (it came with similar English instructions as well), but to be honest, the words could have been in any language and it wouldn’t have affected the clarity of the diagrams.

Here’s a close up look at one of the panels.


(click image to enlarge)

Note the letters associated with each of the 4 items in the diagram (bolt, 2 different washers, and a nut). Why is this important. Well take a look at the next two pictures.


(click image to enlarge)

Every item required for assembly is clearly packed and labeled (!!!) for easy access and identification. How easy? Notice that items B, G, K, F (used in the 2nd image above) are actually packaged together in the picture!

They could have just put everything into little plastic bags, tossed them into the box,  and let me figure out what was what, like many manufacturers do. But someone (I don’t know if Uniflame has Product Managers) decided that would not be acceptable. And on top of that, they included the tools I’d needed — screwdriver and small wrench — to put everything together.

But that’s not all. Whomever designed this little package of assembly parts, went one step further. Here’s the back of the package.


(click image to enlarge)

Yup. The letters are also printed on the back. So why is this important? Because the back is where someone assembling the barbecue is going to access the parts. Note the serrations in the cardboard.

Someone actually thought through this little detail and decided to print the part letters on the back and serrate it for easy access. And believe me, it saved me a lot of flipping the package over and back to figure out where the parts were that I needed.

Now, this is not a complicated grill to put together. It could be done with poor instructions, but it does say to me that someone at Uniflame actually cares about customer experience.  None of the points listed above are big things, nor are they costly to implement, but in most cases, companies bypass the extra effort altogether, looking at them as expenses and not as value-add.

And because UniFlame chose the latter, I’m telling all of you.  So, if any of you are  looking for a good charcoal grill, go and get this one from your local retailer. It’s about 1/2 the price of the comparable big name brand, and it works really well.

So, hats off to you Uniflame. You’ve impressed one product geek enough that he decided to let a lot of other people know.


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Upcoming ProductCamps

ProductCamp New York was last weekend and it appears to have been quite successful. Alan attended and wrote up this post about it.

If you missed the New York session and want another chance to attend one, there are 4 5 more in the works in the coming months, starting with ProductCamp Austin in only a few weeks.

ProductCamp Austin
Date: Saturday August 15, 2009
Location: The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business, Austin
More details: click here.

Followed by one in September.

ProductCamp RTP2
Date: Saturday September 26, 2009
Location: Cambria Suites, Raleigh-Durham Airport
More details. click here.

And 2 ProductCamps in October.

ProductCamp Toronto 2009
Date: Sunday October 4, 2009
Location: Ted Rogers School of Business @ Ryerson University
More details: click here.

ProductCamp Seattle
Date: Saturday October 10, 2009
Location: Amdocs, 2211 Elliott Ave, Seattle WA
More details: click here.

And to round the year off, Boston is holding their camp in November.

ProductCamp Boston
Date: November 7, 2009
Location: Microsoft New England R&D Center, Boston MA
More details: click here.

For information on these events as well as other events relevant to the Product Management, Product Marketing and Product Development communities, check out our Events page. And if you know of an event we should list, let us know in the comments of that page.


pCampNYC: Kudos, controversy, and ideas for future pCamps

Well I have half recovered from PCampNYC. In a sentence: 8am start, an energizing day of meeting, interacting, presenting,facilitating, and … yes, eating. I give huge kidos to the event organizers, especially for the following heroic accomplishments:

  • Keynote by Jeffrey Hayzlett, CMO of Kodak. I personally found his talk inspiring. Some notes below. Congratulations to Debra Albert of Sequent Learning for scoring his speech.
  • Excellent Venue – the Down Town Association. Very old school club. For example, the mens’ washroom was about the size of your average restaurant in NYC, while the womens’ washroom (so I hear) was a single stall. I imagined I could still smell the pipe and cigar smoke.
  • Unconference done professionally: This team was very well organized. They had done their homework by talking to previous pCamp organizers.
  • 150 attendees: For an 8am on a Saturday in mid July, the turnout was great.
  • Great sessions. My personal favorite was Rich Mironov’s session on how Agile impacts Product Management. However there were several great looking topics that I check out to, but simply couldn’t because I was presenting or facilitating.
  • Lots of time and space for networking and digging into individual conversations
  • Drinks post conference.

Congratulations guys… well done. I give a lot of credit to Steven Haines and his team at Sequent Learning. As Hayzlett preached, they became “part of the story”, which helps their company without directly advertising. And they provided real value to an engaged group of people.


I was glad to hear that not everyone agreed with me about the points above, and had some interesting discussion/debate about certain aspects of the conference:

  • Structure vs. UNstructure: I heard the desire from a few people to have even less presentation material and more facilitated discussion. One of my fellow panelists in a session on innovation mentioned this desire. So we adjusted mid-stream in that session and turned it into a full-blown discussion. We solicited questions and issues from the audience, and tackled the topics together. There wasn’t really a defined “panel” or “audience” anymore, just a facilitated discussion among many smart people.
  • Keynote Content vs. Inspiration: IMO the keynote was awesome. Jeff Hayzlett was like a mix of Bill Clinton (ability to connect) and Lewis Black (dark humor and willing to say it). At dinner in the evening, we had a table-wide debate about the keynote. Several people said they found his talk to be “content-free”. Too oriented to PR. Too much about him and his ego. I disagreed and will write up what I took away from his talk.

Take-aways for future:

  • Always UNremember the UNconference UNstructure: We product and marketing types are used to actual conferences. We have to continually work at “UN”conferencing the conference. I thought pCampNYC did well at that. I heard others pushing for even less structure.
  • Forget great presenters: get great Facilitators! If you remove structure, you need GREAT facilitators. Group discussions without facilitation can be frustrating and lead nowhere. Great facilitators know how to set up the discussion, when to shift the topic, how to limit dominators, and when to get out of the way.
  • Keynote speaker matters: For me, the keynote speaker got things fired up. He was irreverant and high-profile. The stuff he talked about was larger than most people have dealt with before, but perhaps because Kodak is so visible as a company, I could relate.
  • Wifi and Twitter Tags: I was surprised that the twitter traffic was fairly low at the event. The organizers could have leveraged twitter. For example, if you are bored in a session but not ready to walk yet, check in on what’s going on in other rooms by checking the event feed … if others are tweeting, go find a session that sounds more interesting.
  • Session pitches: Word was that pCampNYC organizers heard from other pCamp organizers to NOT have session pitches… they drag out and consume valuable time. On the other hand, I am sure I missed some great sessions and presenters/facilitators because their topic wasn’t catchy enough. I also found myself in rooms with catchy title where the session leader was less than I expected. My advice: Have session pitches, but enforce a strict 30- or 60-second pitch policy. This would keep the time low but give people a sense of the session leader and the topic.
  • Food matters: Feed people and they will be happy.
  • Start time: This event started at 8am. Initially I found that to be rude. Some people were forced to come in from the suburbs on a 6:45am train. Ouch! However we had a lot of time for the event … so the early start had some advantages. In retrospect I’m mixed about start time, but I will confess that I was cursing all night Friday, and then moreso when my alarm went off Saturday morning. Maybe that’s why I liked Hayzlett so much … he cheered me up. I didn’t want content at that point … I wanted to wake up.
  • Cash bar after the event. ‘Nuff said.

OK Folks. I’m only in the city for about 6 more hours, so I’m going to get out and absorb some culture. I will write about some of the sessions in the next few days.

– Alan

Announcing ProductCamp Toronto 2009

The time and place for the next ProductCamp Toronto has been set.

It’s Sunday October 4, 2009 @ the Ted Rogers School of Business at Ryerson University in downtown Toronto.

This is the same location as the very successful first Product Camp in November of last year.

It’s a chance to come and meet, brainstorm, learn and network from your peers in a casual and engaging setting.

Here are some links to provide you with more information

We’ll keep you updated as things progress. Look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in October.


OnPM speaking @ pcamp NYC

Hi folks, Alan here. I can’t actually promise that I will be speaking at Product Camp NYC. Why? Because this is an unconference, and the participants will choose the topics and vote with their feet. I love the concept. How many conferences have you attended and wondered why you paid to hear these people speak? In this case, the conference content is determined by those who show up, not conference organizers trying to gauge interest months in advance.

I’ve pasted my abstract below. If you are not attending this event but would like to discuss this topic, please let me know and I will host a webinar in the future.

If you want to check in on what’s happening, there are a few ways to do so:

If you are attending, come find me and say hello.

– Alan

Presentation Abstract

You can’t fix what you don’t understand: A Practical Guide to Win/Loss Interviews

Buyers (wins and losses) hold keys that can help you diagnose and improve many of the most vexing problems in your business. Yet 90% of your peers – and your competitors – ignore this powerful source of market information.

In this session I will present some practical tools that you can use as soon as you return to work. Attendees will determine the specific topics, but I will be ready to discuss practical topics such as:

  • Where to start? How to focus your analysis by picking a high-impact problem to solve. Bigger Deals? Discounting? Competitive Intelligence?
  • Why sales should be banned from win/loss reporting
  • The final answer vs. Replaying the interaction
  • Discounting and Pricing Analysis
  • Selling to the whole buying circle
  • Who cares about Win Analysis?
  • What to do if you are not allowed to call accounts.
  • How to get lost accounts on the phone.
  • How to gain management support.
  • Competitive Intelligence using lost deals

Bring your questions!

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