Be the CEO of your Product but don’t Forget your Board of Directors

Note: This is a guest post by Josh Duncan.  If you want to submit your own guest post, click here for more information.

By Josh Duncan

I want to take a minute to talk about an issue I have with the “be the CEO of your product” statement.

Before I start, I highly encourage you to read Saeed Khan’s post, Product Management Metrics – Be the CEO of your product. This is an excellent presentation that covers a considerable amount of ground when it comes to operating as a product manager. Make sure to digest the product lifecycle slides and the objectives at the different phases.

Now, back to my concern.

The main issues I have with the “be the CEO of your product” statement is the fear that product managers will interpret this as, “I decide all things product”. This may be the case, but I would argue it is the exception vs. the rule.

Just like a CEO has to answer to a board of directors, product managers are not alone when it comes to making business decisions. Sales, marketing, support, finance, and other internal organizations are all part of the business and one way or another, will have an impact on your product and potentially, your career.

At larger companies, if you are the director or GM of your business unit, you may have a wide degree of control when it comes to product planning. Quarterly reports on roadmaps and launch plans may be all that are required to keep everyone in the loop.

At smaller companies, your “board of directors” may be your CEO and VP of Engineering that require monthly or even weekly reviews of your plans and releases.

The point is to recognize that every organization is going to have a different structure and like it or not, you are going to have to figure this out or risk losing support for your product (and career).

At an organization I worked at, we had reviewed our product plans with the major regions and received the go-ahead approval. Last minute, a junior finance lead from the Asia region almost torpedoed our product by raising red flags on our cost structure not being competitive. We had missed a financial review with the teamso the accurate data did not get shared to all of the teams. Thankfully, we were able to save the product by providing the missing information and suffering through several fire drill executive reviews.

Product managers need to get buy-in and support before plans can be finalized. Finding out who’s on your boards of directors ahead of time will make sure that everyone is aligned when it comes to making product plans.


Image Credit:  EMSL

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The Perils of Poor Product Positioning

By Saeed Khan

First of all, apologies for the alliteration in the title of this post, but I just couldn’t resist. 🙂

Positioning is one of the most fundamental aspects of product management, yet there are so many cases of companies who miss the boat completely when they launch products.

Positioning is about acquiring (or defining) a space in the mind of the target customer that helps them understand your product relative to other products they know about or are thinking about.

Companies, particularly those in high-tech often fail to understand the very basics of positioning when launching products.

Take a look at these two products, the Samsung Note and the Dell Streak.

Both are pretty similar looking smartphones. They are  roughly the same size, with similar sized screens, both run Android etc. The actual specs of the Samsung Note are definitely better than the Dell, but what’s really different is how they are positioned. Watch this commercial on the Dell Streak.

Now watch this commercial on the Samsung Galaxy Note.

Notice anything different? While I do find both commercials somewhat lacking, the positioning of the Note is clear. The Dell Streak looks like any other smartphone – social media, maps, whatever.  The Note looks like a really useful tool that goes beyond standard smart phones and can be used to do real work.

Yes, there are technical differences between the two, but if I had to choose between the two, based on what the vendors themselves told me, the positioning of the Note, wins hands down.

This is a very simple example of positioning, and while poor positioning alone may not have been the reason Dell discontinued the Streak, it had to be a significant factor for the quick demise of the product. The Note, on the other hand, seems to be enjoying success with a second generation model planned for the fall of 2012.


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You are a Startup Marketing Failure, So Now What?

Note: This is a guest post by Josh Duncan. This was originally posted on Josh’s blog A Random Jog, and has been reposted here with his permission. If you want to submit your own guest post, click here for more information

Chris Dixon wrote a post last week titled, The default state of a startup is failure, that I think is a must read for startup marketers. Chris shares the following ideas around building something new,

On the flip side, first-time entrepreneurs often fail to realize that when you build something new, no one will care. People won’t use your product, won’t tell people about it, and almost certainly won’t pay for it. (There are exceptions – but these are as rare as winning the lottery). This doesn’t mean you’ll fail. It means you need to be smarter and harder working, and surround yourself with extraordinary people.

While aimed at entrepreneurs, I think there is an important take away here for startup marketers as well.

No one cares about your slick UX and new features. It doesn’t matter how great that data sheet is or how fancy your new logo looks. Your snazzy email marketing is going right into the spam folder and your web site traffic is a joke.

The fact that nobody cares about your product is something that you need to embrace. It needs to be something that you are not only aware of but also motivated by. You have a challenge in front of you but also the opportunity to do something really special.

Where do you start? Here’s my recommendation:

  • Add marketing from the start – building a great customer experience doesn’t happen by accident. Plan to add “remarkable-ness” at the beginning.

Once you are finished, figure out what worked and get ready to start again. It’s an iterative process that’s never done.

That’s my take on how to get started. Anything to add?


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Product Management Metrics – Be the CEO of your product

By Saeed Khan

I was at ProductCamp Boston this past weekend. While it was a beautiful, sunny Saturday outside, about 300 product people decided to spend the better part of the day inside learning, networking and teaching. I saw some familiar faces, such as Steve Johnson, Gopal Shenoy, Jason Micelli, and others, and met a number of new people as well.

One surprise  was meeting Peter Cannon. You probably don’t know Peter. But Peter is a long time reader of this blog and I’ve spoken with Peter previously, but have never met him. What a surprise to meet him in Boston, as he is based in Utah.  And I thought I had come a far distance to attend the event!

I gave my talk on Product Management Metrics to a good crowd and there were a lot of questions and discussion. The presentation is below and I’ve included links at the bottom to some posts I did a while back on the topic.

Thanks to everyone who attended my talk and kudos to the ProductCamp Boston organizers for putting on a great event. But, given the numbers, I think they’ll need a larger venue next year! 🙂

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Please let me know if you have any questions and if you use this model in your company, tell me how it worked!

BTW, you can download the presentation from our Downloads page.


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Worth Repeating: Differentiation

I was looking through some of our old posts — a bit of nostalgia set in given we are 5 years old this week — and I stumbled across this post from Ethan from several years back. It put a smile on my face, as I pictured Ethan channeling Stephen Colbert as he presented the case for this blog at the Battle of the PM Bloggers back in 2009.


Last week I participated in the 1st Annual PMEC Battle of the Bloggers. Out of a field of about 10 contestants, I placed second in the competition. Curse you April Dunford! I can honestly say you phoned it in, but somehow you won.

And while I’d love to find video of the actual event [hint hint to anyone who was there with a video camera!], here’s the next best thing. It’s a recording of my presentation for your viewing and listening pleasure. It’s not quite as good as being there, but then whose fault is that? 🙂

NOTE: Make sure you have the sound on otherwise it won’t make a lot of sense.

NOTE: Make sure you have the sound on otherwise it won’t make a lot of sense.

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