Avoiding the checklist monkey

by Prabhakar Gopalan

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Last week, Jim Holland talked about avoiding flying monkeys.  There’s another kind of monkey you want to avoid becoming one – the checklist monkey.  The checklist monkey is a creature of habit in the product marketing profession.

How often have you walked into a new product marketing position and found a ton of stuff on the intranet or network share but  a) don’t really know where to start, and b)struggle to make a systematic plan for future product marketing content? Part of the problem is the checklist.  The checklist is the response to get a lot of things done by volume, but not know how to track and measure success qualitatively.    Try this  simple idea instead – build a content map to avoid the checklist monkey trap.   Turn your checklist marketing into impact marketing.

1) Map stages in the buying process

The first step in building the content map is outlining the stages in your sales process, from a buyer’s perspective.     Consider an enterprise software product.  A typical enterprise software  product may have a lengthy buying cycle of 6 to 18 months over multiple stages.  Having a clear understanding of the buying process will shine a light on many product marketing decisions that are made routinely in vacuum with little validation (e.g. make demo videos that a) intended buyer doesn’t watch or b) you don’t have a system in place to track sales leads from the video content to know if it was effective at all.  But hey, ‘demo videos’ was in the checklist!).  How do you figure this one out?  Talk to your sales teams and your customers.  Schedule interviews with your sales team to know how they are actually selling your product and your buyers on how they are buying.  My colleague at ONPM, Alan Armstrong,  has a number of posts on Win/Loss analysis as a great tool to uncover the buying process.  So step 1, plot the stages on the X-axis of your content map.

2) Identify Personas and channels they use in the buying process

The second step in building the content map is identifying the personas in the buying process.  Different personas may enter the sales cycle at different stages and these personas may demand content in different channels.  In the technology product example above, a CIO might check your product website briefly and attend a 30 minute executive briefing in the opportunity identification phase, while a software engineer would  want to try/download a trial version from your website and test it in the qualification phase.    (Check out a source like Adele Revella’s Buyer Persona Institute for more on this).  Plot the various buyer personas in the different stages of the buying process they enter.  Some appear early in the cycle, some later, and some throughout.  But whow are they? What information do they need?

3) Align content for sales workflow along the buying process

The final step is to align your marketing content against the workflow from the steps 1) and 2).  Figure out what is the minimal content you need to help the buyer make a favorable decision to help you move along each stage.  That answer to that minimal content isn’t the checklist.  It is a specific piece of impactful information.

(click to enlarge)

Using a simple content map described above you can build an effective content strategy for your marketing initiatives.  Another secondary benefit of this structure is, when someone comes to the marketing team to develop new content, you can show this map and ask the requestor where in the buying cycle that content is going to be used and by which persona.  There will be no monkeying around with that map.


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Guest Post – Remember, Product Marketing Comes First

NOTE: The following is a guest post by Jennifer Doctor. If you want to submit your own guest post, click here for more information.

Aren’t the marketing automation tools great?

They help you develop target lead campaigns that automatically respond to a “visitor’s” action depending on what they do. This is done without human interference or effort, moving the potential buyer through the elements that have been pre-determined to be the right marketing piece of collateral or action at the time. How did business ever do this before, given how time and labor consuming these efforts can be?

But there is a flaw. And it can ruin your efforts.

Simply put, if the campaigns are developed without thinking about key aspects of product marketing, they will likely fail. And those aspects include:

  • Understanding the market – from the problems they face to the tools they use
  • What they do and don’t like and why
  • Their buying process including budget and authority
  • What will motivate them to action
  • They have created the buyer personas that help others in the organization truly understand the buyers’ goals, attitudes and behaviors.

Tools Empower
Tools empower and enable, but too often, they do so at a cost. And, they often may empower the wrong team at the wrong time.

It starts when marketing teams create their campaigns in a vacuum. In order to effectively aid marketers in fully understanding customers and subsequently developing a strategic marketing plan, marketing automation tools provide information across all phases of the marketing process, including:

  • Demand Generation
  • Lead Management
  • Lead Scoring
  • Lead Nurturing
  • Lead Generation
  • Campaign Analysis
  • Lead Qualification
  • Sales Effectiveness

However, this vast amount of work that the tools can perform has created a false sense of security for the marketing teams. From my experience, without understanding the buyer first, even the best demand generation effort will not work as effectively as planned. And, there is no amount of clean up afterwards that will recover the lost time and effort.

Let’s Bring it Back to the Beginning

First, you can’t outsource the campaign or the copy. While many marketing teams will hire agencies to work with them on copy, the copy will only be effective if the right information about the intended market – the targeted buyer – is understood. It is never a good business practice to outsource a strategic element that is at the core of your business. Understanding the buyer is the job of Product Marketing.

Once your Product Marketing team has shared the buyers’ goals, attitudes and behaviors, and personas, it’s critical that they work with Marketing to create the triggers for the automation tool. The Marketing team and agency can help define the steps, the campaign flow – whether it be three or ten steps – and explain the goal.

The Product Marketing team should have definitive answers on what will motivate the buyer to move through the process eliciting the response for the next automated trigger to occur. Despite what many people may think, it isn’t a great pitch or giveaway that attracts buyers – it’s about making content meaningful to the buyer so they act in a positive way.

Product Marketing makes it meaningful by truly understanding the buyer’s motivation and properly communicating this motivation to all internal parties.

Product Marketing Shouldn’t Own This

I am not advocating that Product Marketing own the automation of the messages or be in control of the process. In fact, it should be the opposite. Once the strategy is set, the buying cycle is understood, messages crafted, the flow mapped out and the calls to action created by the Marketing team, Product Marketing should assume an advisory role.

The actual implementation of campaign management, tracking and administration ownership rightfully belongs in the Marketing team’s control. If buyers change unexpectedly at any point in the buying cycle, Product Marketing should be brought back as the advisor and recommend modifications to the campaign.

Looking in from the outside, if product marketing doesn’t plan and prepare to help our marketing counterparts, then we aren’t helping them understand where and why we add value. And, if we don’t add value, we need to accept the marginalized role that the automation tool will place us in.

Tweet this: @onpm Remember, Product Marketing comes first. http://wp.me/pXBON-2rQ Guest post by @jidoctor #prodmktg #prodmgmt


Jennifer Doctor, a strong advocate of ProductCamps, is an independent product marketing and management consultant, working with companies to help them understand their markets, buyers and how to better enable sales teams to deliver results. She maintains her own blog – The OutsideIn View – and can be reached at Jennifer dot doctor at gmail dot com.

Are Product Camps Missing the Mark?

I’ve never been considered a heretic, so this post may give me that appearance. For product management and product marketing, product camps have provided a sales-free environment to learn and network. It’s also a great place to commiserate and may be the largest therapy sessions held for a profession.

In the past twelve months, I’ve attended several camps located in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Seattle and Silicon Valley. There’s been a lot of energy, enthusiasm and effort put into making the product camps happen. Kudos to the volunteers, sponsors and those bringing ideas to share.
One of the questions I like to ask attendees is, “What was missing at Product Camp?” While the answers vary, I consistently hear from senior product management and product marketing folks,  “Where are the discussions, and rich dialogue on strategic and leadership-oriented topics.”

“What were you hoping for” I ask?  I’ve heard:

  • Elements of a good business case
  • Effective upward communication (with executives)
  • Techniques for influencing product strategy
  • Building Product Marketing roadmaps

In a conversation this week with Tom Grant, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research and champion of Product Management he asked me, “What were your impressions of the recent Product Camp?”

My response? While product camps are serving a wide audience from MBA candidates, to new product managers, to senior leaders guiding product marketing, we are not staying true to the spirit of open space or unconference formats. And yes, we aren’t bringing the strategic content.

If you attended the first Silicon Valley product camp (in 2008), it was filled with variety open discussions, dialogue, panel sessions and impromptu gatherings where topics of interest were surfaced. I believe we’ve lost the spontaneity and variety. Take a look at the sessions from 2009, what do you see? Variety and topics that offer almost all personas a day filled with new ideas and learning.

I recall other P-Camps where topics such as Agile, Product Management 101, Strategy and Product Marketing were well represented. What’s happened?

I’m not sure. Have we lost the unconference tenants? Do we need to revisit a conference format works for any type of persona? Do we need leadership oriented product camps?

I have some thoughts, but I’d like to hear yours.

It’s my opinion that we need to get back to the basics and revisit the true unconference format. Perhaps we suspend the advance voting or create categories of areas that meet the needs of a broader audience.

Might I recommend that each product camp organization conduct a retrospective and then offer some ideas to address the issues.

At the end of the day, I will continue to attend product camps when I can, and volunteer my time. However, as a community we’re missing the mark. If we are to continue to build value in our profession and in the organizations we work, we need to address this.

If you like the post, please tweet it. – Are Product Camps Missing the Mark? – a new post for #prodmgmt #prodmktg and #leadership to consider. http://wp.me/pXBON-2r3

Open Question: How can Product Managers and Product Marketers work better together?

by Saeed Khan

Here’s a question that I’ve heard asked in other venues, but I’d like to hear your thoughts?

How can Product Managers (PMs) and Product Marketing Managers (PMMs) work more effectively together?

What changes should be made functionally, organizationally, or in other ways to better align those two roles and deliver increased value for the company?

Or looking at it from another perspective, what’s not working today (in companies) that needs to be fixed so these roles can be more effective together.

Do you know of any companies that do this particularly well? If so, how do they do it?

I’ll start with one suggestion:

1. These two roles should be part of the same organization and have common product related goals. Unfortunately in a lot of companies, Product Managers are part of the “products” organization and Product Marketers are part of Marketing. With different goals and objectives, this is a reason they don’t work closely or well together.

Any other ideas? Over to you…please leave your thoughts and comments below.


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Defining Business-Oriented Metrics for Tracking Product Success

by Saeed Khan

Last week, I wrote about a Model and Metrics for Track Product Success.

Just to recap, there are 4 major areas I defined for tracking product metrics. These categories are:

  1. Business
  2. Go-to-Market
  3. Organizational Readiness
  4. Product

This week, I’m going to discuss how to define business-oriented metrics, and provide a simple way to track and report them.

What exactly is a “metric”?

The word “metric” is a bit of an ambiguous term. The dictionary definition doesn’t really help. The best general definition is:

n. a standard of measurement. A system of related measures that facilitates the quantification of some particular characteristic.

What we really want is a definition of a business metric.

n. A business metric is any type of measurement used to gauge some quantifiable component of a company’s performance.

Note, that even this definition covers a lot of ground. i.e. “any type of measurement”, and “some quantifiable component”.

3 rules for defining metrics

Metrics are only valuable if they either provide insight into an important aspect of your product, or are a leading indicator of potential problems ahead. Here are a few rules to help define useful metrics.

  1. Define metrics to align with key goals and objectives for your product. e.g. obvious business goals relate to sales or customer acquisition.
  2. Ensure that you can put programs in place to change those metrics if needed. i.e. there’s no point in tracking something if you can’t impact it in a meaningful way
  3. The actual metrics will be a combination of numeric values, as well as empirical evaluations of important situations.

And now for an example

The following is an example of some key business metrics for an early stage product. For this example, it is an enterprise software product that has been on the market for about 1 year and is starting to build traction in it’s target customer base.

The status (traffic light model) and comments are all that is needed for someone to get a clear understanding of the business state of that product.

The next obvious question for the yellow and red metrics is “Why?”

For example, why is the Deal Pipeline low? Is it lack of lead generation activities, or has there been proper follow up on generated leads to convert them into opportunities? Is it a lead quality issue? Or something else?

Other common questions are “How” or “When”?

For example, for the Channels/Resellers metric, although they are currently waiting for more traction, how much more traction is needed or when will there be enough traction to get the resellers interested? And then what is the plan to enable them?

The objective is to provide some clarity for tracking, evaluation, analysis and action for the product on a regular basis. This is a core aspect of product MANAGEMENT.

Next time, I’ll look at Go-to-Market and Organizational Readiness metrics.

Let me know what you think.


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