Month: May 2011

Rethink your performance plan

 by Prabhakar Gopalan

Tweet this: @PGopalan: Rethink your performance plan #prodmgt #career

Two plans for 1 measure

The prevailing managerial approach in corporations to promote, measure and reward employee growth primarily consists of two plans – a performance plan and an individual development plan – 2 plans for 1 measure i.e. growth.  Every year, employees fill out a performance plan against which they are measured and rewarded e.g. with an annual bonus, at the end of the year.  Then there is a second plan called the individual development plan that has things you want to do in the long term but are not tracked, measured, and rewarded or penalized if you miss, with the same zeal as the performance plan.  It simply remains a wish list.  In other words, it is ok to miss development goals.  You wonder why?

Here’s an idea to rethink this disconnect between individual performance and development in the corporate setting.  Because these two are interdependent and key drivers for growth, shouldn’t  they be in the same plan?  And if they are indeed in the same integrated growth plan, how should the plan be structured?  To answer these questions, let’s look at insights from successful corporate strategy.

Insights from corporate strategy

Enduring companies balance their portfolios in a 3 horizon approach – operate successfully in the short term, develop the vision and incubate technologies, products or services for the long term, and build for executing in the middle term.  A good way to think of this is how Apple approached the market with iPod, iPhone and iPad products less than 10 years.  Apple had the right product marketing mix for the iPod when it came out, worked on the iPhone while iPod was still bringing a lot of cash, and made plans for the iPad much before any competitor even thought of a mass market touch tablet.  Many even questioned if a touch tablet with a form factor between a smart phone and laptop would ever succeed in the market.  What we know now is a different story.  This meticulous 3 horizon planning isn’t unique to a consumer electronics gadget maker like Apple alone.  In The Alchemy of Growth, Mehrdad Baghai, Steve Coley, David White and Stephen Coley write about a 3-Horizon approach for corporate strategy in building the enduring enterprise, citing examples from many industry verticals.  If enduring corporations plan their growth in 3 horizons, and have management processes to measure and reward growth in 3 horizons, shouldn’t employees too have the same 3 horizon growth plan for themselves?  Why would growth for an employee be any different from growth for the corporation?

How to model a 3 Horizon individual performance plan

So, what would be your considerations for a 3 Horizon individual performance plan?   Three things come to mind. First, figure out what would be a 3 Horizon timespan for your business.  For example,  if you are in information technology, it is probably a shorter timespan than a mature industry vertical.   Second, determine what priority or reward percentage you would allocate to each horizon in that timespan.  You could come up with many models for determining this priority (more posts on this in the future).   You could have a 70-20-10 mix if the business needs all the momentum now,  or a 50-30-20 if you already have the momentum going on (e.g. a blockbuster product or plan for the current operating term) and most growth opportunities for the company are in the medium and long term.  Finally, identify drivers in each horizon and how these align your individual growth plan (development needs) to corporate growth opportunities.  For employees this gives true opportunities of growth within the company and for companies there is no better way to retain employees than prepare them for future growth from within.

Innovative companies like 3M, Google, Atlassian give employees the choice to spend their time on projects not necessarily in their job description or performance plan. As Scott Berkun points out, it is more of an attitude and culture at these places than a rule with a manager tracking how much an individual spends time on his projects. But the underlying idea is simple and clear – to build enduring corporate growth, let your employees grow the same way as you’d want the company to grow.  Counting hours on a timesheet worked for the factory age.  It doesn’t work for knowledge workers.

I would love to hear from readers on what kind of management processes their companies have that reflect the managers’ interest in the long term growth of not just the corporation, but also the long term growth of the employees.

 – Prabhakar

Tweet this: @PGopalan: Rethink your performance plan #prodmgt #career

Worth Repeating: Do This or Die!

Given it’s Memorial Day in the US, here’s a small trip down memory lane. I originally posted it a couple of years ago, it’s definitely worth repeating While the manifesto about the need for truth in advertising is from the 1960s or 1970s it’s every bit as true today as it was back then, perhaps even moreso.

Enjoy, and for those in the US, have a great holiday.

dothisordie1A couple of days ago, I recommended one of my favorite radio programs — The Age of Persuasion — to all of you.

I also mentioned that that one of my favourite episodes is entitled “Do this or Die“.

The title of the episode refers to a print ad written back in the late 60s or early 70s that called the advertising and marketing industries to task for talking down or talking at their intended audience. It was a call to action to speak truthfully and to market products that are worthy of being marketed.

Today, there is a lot of hype around social media. YouTube, FaceBook, Twitter, MySpace, blogs, flickr, podcasts, viral videos, online chat, you name it. There’s a lot of options out there. I actually heard a site referencing their corporate voicemail box as their “audio blog”.

People are claiming that all the old rules of marketing are changing. The names vary: social marketing, inbound marketing, viral marketing, word of mouth marketing etc. There are “new rules” for the “new media”.

I’ve even seen articles that use the phrase “Marketing 3.0“!


New media? Yes.

New rules? No.

New tactics? Absolutely, where necessary.

Read that great print ad from almost 40 years ago (text is below). Listen to the audio program from the Age of Persuasion.

They’re both great reminders that the fundamentals of marketing have not changed. The new media is an opportunity to remember and restore the old rules!

My favourite line from this manifesto?

Telling the truth about a product demands a product that’s worth telling the truth about.

What a great line. No pigs with lipstick allowed!

Here’s the full text. Enjoy.


Is this ad some kind of trick?

No. But it could have been.
And at exactly that point rests a do or die decision for American business.
We in advertising, together with our clients, have all the power and skill to trick people.

Or so we think. But we’re wrong.
We can’t fool any of the people any of the time.
There is indeed a twelve-year-old mentality in this country; every six-year-old has one.
We are a nation of smart people.
And most smart people ignore most advertising because most advertising ignores smart people.

Instead we talk to each other.
We debate endlessly about the medium and the message.
Nonsense. In advertising, the message itself is the message.
A blank page and a blank television screen are one and the same.
And above all, the messages we put on those pages and on those television screens must be the truth.
For if we play tricks with the truth, we die.

Now. The other side of the coin.
Telling the truth about a product demands a product that’s worth telling the truth about.

Sadly, so many products aren’t.
So many products don’t do anything better.
Or anything different.
So many don’t work quite right.
Or don’t last. Or simply don’t matter.

If we also play this trick, we also die.
Because advertising only helps a bad product fail faster.
No donkey chases the carrot forever.
He catches on. And quits.

That’s the lesson to remember.
Unless we do, we die.
Unless we change, the tidal wave of consumer indifference will wallop into the mountain of advertising and manufacturing drivel.
That day we die.

We’ll die in our marketplace.
On our shelves. In our gleaming packages of empty promises.
Not with a bang. Not with a whimper.
But by our own skilled hands.

Doyle Dane Bernbach Incorporated



Guest Post: Product Marketers, Where Do You Belong?

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

Do you work in product marketing? Have you ever tried to explain what you do, to someone who isn’t familiar with product development and management? Ever want to pull your hair out after the conversation?  It probably goes like this:

“What do you do?”

“I’m in product marketing.”

“Oh, so you develop those flashy ads we see all over?”

“No. Product marketing, not advertising or marketing communications.”

“Oh. So what do you do?”

“I make sure that the messaging of my product is something the market will understand, and then work to communicate that to people who want to buy my product.”

“Oh. So you create the sales leads?”

“No. I create the product positioning, work on the launch strategy and help the rest of the marketing teams do their job better.”

“I get it. You’re in marketing.”

“No. I am on the product team.”


It is established that product marketing is a vital and necessary role within any product organization. (I’d go as far as to defend that means that it is necessary in EVERY organization since every company is selling some sort of product.) Yet, too often, product marketing is forced to explain its own value. And, this starts with needing to justify its role and what it is that you do.

Start with understanding what you do

Taken at its core, the basic level, product marketers work to get the “products off the shelf.” … The role works with product managers who are about getting the product on the shelf.

And, product marketing is a partner to marketing services, who drive the lead generation and marketing communication who design the various artifacts that support the product. Yes, these are very basic definitions, but they do separate the responsibilities. There are defined lines that are distinct.

Here is where the challenge comes though. It makes sense, in the majority of organizations, to have the marketing services and marketing communication in the same organization. They are dependent upon each other. And product marketing? Both of these teams depend on the product marketing team effort to do their jobs.

So, some put the product marketing team within the marketing organization. Bad idea.

When you put the product marketing team with the marketing team, the role is challenged to deliver on its true value. Instead, the role becomes one of a tactical delivery vehicle responsible for data sheets, webinars and sales training.

It’s about adding the right value

In an ideal world, the role of product marketing should be aligned in the same team as the role of product management. The two are inseparable since they are both about the product first. Both of the product roles require an outward view to the market at large. Both roles need to work together on the product roadmap.

There are differences too. Product management listens to the market. Product marketing talks to the market. Product management is about getting products ready to be available to the market. Product marketing needs to understand how to position the product so that the buyer is interested. Both teams add significant value to the product. Both teams are necessary to the success of the product. True, together, the work they perform flows to the partnership formed with their marketing brethren. But, separation from product management means splitting the product’s market voice.

Looking in from the outside, where product marketing sits as a role within the organization matters. It matters a lot! If you are seeking to add product value, then align the role to where it has a fighting chance. If you are depending upon the role to deliver a market voice about the product, then align it with the product.


Tweet this: Product Marketers, where do you belong? New post by @jidoctor #prodmktg #prodmgmt #leadership

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.

How can Win/Loss Analysis help you find untapped markets?

By Alan Armstrong

This week had a very smart CEO pose a great question to me:

What are we missing in terms of opportunities where we aren’t even considered? Frankly I worry (like all paranoid startup CEOs) that this may be the biggest opportunity for growth.  Do you have any hypothesis on how to dig in to that category of clients that have not heard of us?

One of the problems with Win/Loss Analysis is the focus on accounts where your company is already engaged. Can this analysis help you find untapped markets, or accounts where you are not being considered?

This is a crucial question for anyone concerned with product or corporate revenue – investors, product managers, sales VPs, marketing VPs.

I give my answer below, but first, here is a quote from Donald Rumsfeld that explains the problem more fully. Rumsfeld took a lot of heat for this quote, and perhaps it was overly obtuse or intellectual for the press. But if you listen to what he says, it’s remarkably insightful:

In marketing / sales terms, here’s what Rumsfeld is describing:

  1. Known knowns: These are accounts that you know how to go after. This is your sweet spot in the market. Hopefully you have one or more of these!
  2. Known unknowns: If you are paying close attention to your company’s deal flow, there will often be deals that are outside of your sweet spot. Even by accident, your customers will use your product in ways that you hadn’t imagined. You have to be paying close attention to notice these, but when you see one, you should take note of it and dig in to their business need, how they found you, and whether they need any additional capabilities. These accounts present a potential opportunity to expand your market. When you profile these accounts, pay very close attention. Once you notice them, you can use their profile to size the market, and if it appears attractive enough, create a pilot marketing/sales program to go after a short-list of these accounts.
  3. Unknown unknowns: These are the potential opportunities that you and your customers haven’t thought about yet. Are these potential accounts buying your competitors’ products? Perhaps your competitors have discovered them before you, or maybe they are just struggling with a problem that you could solve, but no one has put two and two together.

Back to the CEO’s question: How do we find the Unknown unknowns, the untapped markets?

I call these markets “hidden market segments”. So how do we find these hidden segments? Here are my suggestions:

Pay attention to patterns in your deal flow

One possible difference between #2 and #3 above is that in #2, you are paying attention, and you notice the anomalies in your deal flow. It takes an intuitive person to notice such anomalies. But it should be a priority for everyone paying attention to the deals. If you need to get started, Win/Loss analysis is a great technique. Unfortunately many people don’t do a good job of win/loss analysis. (I wrote about some bad techniques earlier. Steve Johnson covers his views on Win/Loss here. ) You need to ensure that you are studying the whole buying process, speaking directly to buyers, not accepting the reasons given by sales. Too often companies note just the final reason for a win or a loss, but you need to avoid that temptation and look at the whole buying process.

What about the Unknown Unknowns?

The problem with the bucket #3, customers that you don’t know about, is a bit circular! Philosophers would call this an episemological problem … it is an unknowable thing.

While it is difficult, much of the difficulty can be solved in two ways:

  1. Turn #3 into #2 by consistently profiling your wins and your losses. See above. (If you need help, contact me. I do this for a living.)
  2. Look for hunches: If your deal flow is too large to profile consistently without huge sampling bias, start by interviewing people internally. Look around for hunches. Frame the question as I have done above. Start by profiling your sweet spot, and find some really smart, market/customer-centric people inside your company. Explain to them that you are looking for people outside your sweet spot. Once you find some potential anomalies, start your Win/Loss analysis with accounts similar to the anomalies. With 5 wins and 5 losses, you’ll have a good start.
  3. Look at your competitors successes: Are they winning outside your sweet spot? Are they attending tradeshows or hosting events for use cases that you hadn’t considered? Can you find lost accounts in your past that represent cases like these?
  4. Brainstorm and Sell: What are the potential uses for your product in markets where you’ve never (knowingly) won a deal? Can you put together a pitch deck identify 5-10 sample accounts, and go after them with a SWAT team? You need BD-type people, not sales-types for these markets because you are breaking new ground.

In the end, it all boils down to finding a new profile of customer. You need detective skills, market knowledge, buyer knowledge, and sometimes good luck, but it can be done.

– Alan

The Product Management & Product Marketing Backlog

by Jim Holland


In the Agile world, the key to product success and a driving cadence is the product backlog.  If managed well, the backlog balances strategic initiatives and tactical features. What would happen if product management and product marketing professionals adopted and used backlogs?

Will a backlog drive strategic thinking and provide clarity?

It’s my hypothesis that product management and product marketing teams can be more effective, increase strategic actions and build cadence when they identify, prioritize and build a backlog focused on their roles.

From a Historical Perspective
Whether you work in an organization where Agile or Lean principles (SCRUM, Kanban, etc.) have been adopted, I’d bet most of your product management and product marketing thinking is still list or task-driven or formulated on-the-fly.

And forget about priorities. They change with the whim of the organization or the latest Flying Monkey.

Most product management practices, training and tools are focused on non-iterative actions. While their tenants and intentions are good, it’s been my experience that product management and product marketing mask their organizations engineering process and it cascades into their thoughts, actions and focus.

The Hypothesis
My hypothesis was to test this with a diverse group of product professionals (preferably ones I didn’t know) and together surface where we’re spending our time and build a backlog of new thinking.

I attended the DFW Product Camp and led a session of 26 people. The session was represented by the following categories:

  • Product Management (8)
  • Product Marketing (4)
  • Marketing (8)
  • Those leading Product Management and/or Product Marketing (3)
  • Other (Included a CEO and consultants) (3)

The Exercise
With limited time, we decided to choose Product Management to test the hypothesis. In a PowerPoint-free zone, (thanks Seth Godin) we began by identifying four themes that included:

  • Planning and Strategy
  • The Now Product
  • Communications
  • Tools and Process

In each of these areas, I asked the group to identify and write down topics where they spent most of their time and post them under the themes.

It’s no surprise that topics such as; Crisis Management, Tools Implementation, Sales Demos, Customer Issues and Product Features surfaced most often. The picture below represents the number of items that appeared.

I then asked the group to think about and prioritize the areas they would (and should) spend more time. From the image to above, it’s evident that more strategic areas focused on Strategy and Planning, as well as The Now Product were desired.

The highest number of votes included:

  • Strategy development and alignment
  • Market definition
  • Clarify strategic vision
  • The Compelling Why
  • Market Research
Creating a Balanced Backlog
In his article Product Backlog Rules of Thumb, Chris Sterling describes several rules for successful backlogs. For product professionals, I would recommend the following:
  • Keep your backlog simple
  • Define both strategic and tactical areas
  • Prioritize your backlog (The most important is where you start)
  • Select one to three items to focus and work on
  • Infuse these in your daily schedule (If you have to block time, do it)
  • Look to peers for knowledge and help
  • Infuse your strategic actions into your culture

The Results
While the hypothesis is yet to be validated in a live organization (I’d like to hear from the attendees in the future), it shared consistent ideas and challenges. Product Camps are a great place to gather input and test ideas like this. Have you committed to attend a PCamp in 2011?

As a product professional, would a prioritized backlog improve your thinking and execution?

I welcome any experiences as well as comments. If you’d like to post this on Twitter or LinkedIn, please share:

Tweet or Link this: The Product Management & Product Marketing Backlog a new post for #prodmgmt #prodmktg #leadership