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How to Leverage Product Usage Data to Improve Your Marketing Campaigns

by Rachel Sprung

Data. It’s everywhere. It’s how we make our decisions. It’s how we see whether or not we are successful. And it’s how we predict whether or not our future campaigns will be successful.

The interesting part about product marketing campaigns is we aren’t just working with data about how our leads and customers are engaging with our website and its content. We aren’t just working with data about what channel someone used to find out website. We are also working with data that shows us how our customers are actually using our products. With this information we can better market to them by answering these two questions.

  • What features should my customers be using that they are not already using?
  • What new features that are on my roadmap would be most valuable to my current customers?

Here is how you can get started incorporating usage data results into your next product marketing campaign.

1. Initial Research into Your Usage Data

research-ice-cubeBefore you get started pulling your usage data, you need to take a step back and think about the data you have at your disposal. What do you actually want to find out by looking at your usage data? What information could help you tailor your next campaign?

Here are some questions you can ask yourself when doing some initial research to find out what data you have to start working with:

  1. How many customers are using the different parts of my product?
  2. Are there certain points in the product where a customer stops using the product?
  3. What product tier are they on / how much are they paying me for the product? (Note: You may need to cross-reference your product database with another database for this one.)
  4. How long has the customer been with my company?
  5. Did a customer test out my product in the trial process?

Asking yourself these questions and more will help you get started thinking of all the characteristics that will make someone a good fit for a product you want to promote.


Why You Need to Divorce Your Products

By John Mansour

divorceThis divorce isn’t a case of irreconcilable differences. It’s a case of “love is blind.”

Your unconditional love for your products is making you blind to the real needs of your target customers. A swift and simple divorce benefits you and your products. No need to split the assets though. You’ll be back together again soon.

If you’re a product manager, this will feel unsettling.  After all, you’re raised to be the champion of your products.  Lead! Be passionate! Be the market expert! Inspire marketing and sales! No argument there. Product managers need to be all those things and then some.

The Downside

There’s just one downside, and it’s a big one. Product knowledge is encumbering and it becomes a huge liability when product managers are reading the markets to identify unmet needs. The love-is-blind condition hits product managers hardest because they’re usually the most knowledgeable on their products. What’s a product manager to do?

Divorcing your products is the only answer. The good news – the divorce is temporary. When you reunite, you’ll live happily ever after…until you need to do it again. And you will need to do it again, and again.

B2B Product managers get pulled into a variety of situations involving prospects, customers, analysts, etc. Most of those situations usually require product managers to dispense product information, but there’s also no better opportunity to flip the switch into discovery mode.

The needed conversation

When you’re on a highly important date with a customer or prospect, turn the focus away from your products and ask the following three questions.. They’re fair game for any audience, any level.

  • What are you (the customer or prospect) trying to accomplish?
  • Why are those goals important?
  • What are your biggest obstacles to meeting those goals?

No matter who you’re talking to, answers to these specific questions define unfiltered needs because they have nothing to do with your products.  They paint a big picture view of market and business dynamics regardless of whom you’re conversing with. You’ll be amazed at the needs that surface when the conversations don’t revolve around your products.  Consider the dialogues with the following roles.

 Senior Executives

Senior executives usually answer these questions relative to the strategic objectives and goals of the company. Expect to hear things they perceive to be the biggest obstacles to growth and profitability and how they plan to attack those obstacles.

Senior Managers/Department Heads

Senior managers will give you more of an operational perspective relative to the departments they manage, alluding to operational goals and metrics their senior executives deem critical to the overall goals of the company.

Managers & Staff

They’re typically the users of your products and the conversations revolve around activities and tasks happening in the trenches. Regardless, the questions are fair game and yield critical information on process flows, bottlenecks and productivity issues that are critical to improving the performance of the departments they work in.

In B2B, buyers and users of your products/services are rarely the same. If you understand the business goals and obstacles of your buyers (senior executives and senior managers), building a coordinated series of product capabilities (for your users) that collectively remove those obstacles is the easiest way to deliver high value business solutions. Divorce your products to uncover the needs. Remarry to deliver the solutions. It’s a cadence that benefits you, your products and your company.


Tweet this: Why you need to divorce your products  #prodmgmt #research

About the author

John Mansour is a 20-year veteran in high technology product management, marketing and sales, and the Founder of Proficientz, a services company focusing on product portfolio management.

Is Microsoft HoloLens the next Microsoft Surface Table?

by Saeed Khan

Microsoft created a lot of buzz recently with the announcement of the HoloLens display. See the video below for an overview if you are not familiar with it.

It’s an augmented reality headset that includes numerous positional/directional sensors and is accessible via APIs for developers to build applications on it. Sort of a Google Glasses but on steroids.

The YouTube video above shows a number of proposed commercial (e.g. design) and consumer (e.g. gaming or father helping daughter repair plumbing) applications.

While I can see some benefits in the design and obviously in the gaming use cases, it’s pretty hard to fathom a consumer buying and using the HoloLens for a household repair job or anything mundane for that matter. Remember the fad of 3D TV that occurred a few years ago? Where is it now?

If we won’t wear very light 3D glass for something passive like watching a movie, why would we wear larger, clunky glasses for more complex and involved tasks?

I can’t help it, but the HoloLens reminds me of this scene from the movie Johnny Mnemonic. Watch until 46:15 – or watch the whole movie if you have time. :-)

Perhaps if the headset could be replaced by contact lenses…..

Remember the Surface Table?

Back in 2007, Microsoft was touting the Surface Table. See the video below.

While Apple was launching what would become the most successful phone ever, Microsoft was promoting a $10,000 coffee table.  I played with the Surface Table in 2008 or 2009 and it was definitely cool technology, but really didn’t solve any problems people had. After all, coffee tables are not very mobile. Someone actually created a very good spoof video of Surface Table.

I see similarities between Surface Table and HoloLens. Unfortunately, they are not positive ones.

  1. Lack of availability — When Microsoft announced Surface Table, you couldn’t buy it. Right now, you also cannot buy HoloLens. It’s not clear when HoloLens will be available — even in beta.
  2. No compelling use cases — Surface Table didn’t solve, and HoloLens today doesn’t solve problems or deliver new capabilities that people really need.  Surface Table’s use cases were: organizing photos, spinning them them around, viewing maps and finger painting? Really? Similarly HoloLens’ use cases don’t look very compelling either.
  3. Size factor — HoloLens would definitely be fun for gamers, but the headsets are too big and obtrusive for more general use by the public. Surface Table was also big and obtrusive.
  4. Hype — There is far too much hype and not enough substance here.  Microsoft’s use of the word “hologram” to describe what HoloLens projects is wrong. Let’s be clear,  HoloLens does NOT display holograms. It’s augmented reality using the visor.

When marketing starts sounding like science fiction, the benefits are likely fantasy.tweetit

What do you think? Do you see value in HoloLens?


Tweet this: Is Microsoft HoloLens the next Microsoft Surface Table? #prodmgmt #hololens #windows10

About the Author

Saeed Khan is a founder and Managing Editor of On Product Management, and has worked for the last 20 years in high-technology companies building and managing market leading products. He also speaks regularly at events on the topic of product management and product leadership. You can contact him via Twitter @saeedwkhan or via the Contact Us page on this blog.

4 Rules for Better Customer Visits

by Saeed Khan

We all visit customers. There are many goals to such visits:

  • to gain deeper insight into how they are using the product
  • to understand what benefits they are seeing
  • to identify what issues they are facing
  • to convey product direction
  • to learn about the problems they need to solve (and thus enhancements they need)

Getting the most out of customer visits takes planning and thought. Experience also helps. :-) I know that my firs customer visits were fraught with mistakes, making them far less valuable than they could have been.

Here are some rules to follow to help you get the most out of those visits.

Rule #1 – Know thy customer

customer_visit_rule_12-seal-penguins  right-arrow-small


Ever had a customer visit go bad? It’s happened to me once or twice. If the customer has a blocking issue with your product and it’s causing them a lot of grief, expect an earful. There may be other reasons that the visit is not a good one, but if your company has information about the customer that is relevant to the meeting, then you need to know about it.

It doesn’t matter to your customer that Support cases are difficult to access or that the account manager doesn’t share information with you. That’s  your problem to solve.

Tweet this: Rules for Customer Visits – Rule 1 – Know thy customer #prodmgmt 


How to Nail Your Pricing and Launch a More Successful Product

By Jim Semick

set pricingLet’s get this out of the way: Pricing a new product is hard. There is so much written about validating product features, but precious little help is available for pricing new products.

In my experience — and most product managers I talk to agree — pricing is often an educated guess, frequently guided by a bit of prospect feedback, some spreadsheets, and gut feel. Getting it wrong carries huge risk.

But pricing doesn’t have to be a total shot in the dark. After validating the pricing for several B2B software products I believe that it’s possible to nail your pricing model and pricing very early in the product development process.

In fact, through this process I’ve discovered pricing models that were innovative and market differentiators for new products such as GoToMeeting, AppFolio, and our own product, ProductPlan. Here’s how I did it.

It Starts and Ends with Customer Value

When researching a new product, I typically conduct a series of 20-40 in-depth interviews as part of the discovery and validation process. A good portion of each interview is spent understanding customer problems and the potential value of solving those problems.

By deeply understanding the value that your concept provides you can begin to zero in on the pricing model long before beta testers start using your software. I often think about value in these terms:

  • Pain relieved – sometimes hard to quantify, but often a purchase motivator
  • Cost savings – often quantifiable in terms of dollars or effort saved
  • Gain created – might be subjective (such as lifestyle benefit) or concrete (new revenue generated)

I’m not a believer in working backwards from your costs, conducting surveys, or evaluating competitive pricing. These tactics have their place, but in my opinion, it starts and ends with customer value.

An Example: GoToMeeting Pricing

When I validated the features and pricing for GoToMeeting, it was open-ended questioning that helped us understand:

  • The lifestyle benefit that remote meetings could provide – for example, being able to conduct remote meetings while taking care of a sick child at home has huge value.
  • The cost savings from reduced travel. For example, we could quantify the timesavings that sales teams could achieve by conducting online demonstrations rather than traveling.
  • The frustration with the complicated per-minute pricing models of existing conferencing solutions. Buyers didn’t understand how much they would be paying and couldn’t budget month-to-month.
  • The fear of overage: people using existing solutions would avoid inviting some people (or not hold the meeting) to avoid overage charges.
  • The frustration of using other solutions that were complicated to use and feature-bloated.
  • The cost savings that our proposed solution could create versus expensive competitive solutions.

You get the picture. By understanding their problems and the value from solving it, we developed our “All You Can Meet” flat rate pricing (an industry-leading innovation at the time).

Ask the Right Questions

??????????????????????????????When you are conducting interviews to determine pricing, it’s easy to fall into the trap of simply ask them what they will pay – this might give you some insight, but may also lead to false results. You need to build up to it first by having them walk you through the value that they would receive with your product.

  • How much time or money is saved?
  • How are their processes improved because of your product?
  • Can they save any headcount because of your product?
  • How is their business improved because of your product – can they quantify it?

I suggest you ask open-ended questions to get the best, most insightful answers.

You’ll also need to understand the cost of their current solution (even if it’s pencil and paper). If they are already using a competitive software product, have them walk you through the pricing of that solution, including maintenance fees.

Your goal is not only to understand the hard cost of the solution, but also to understand how they feel about it. Is it a source of frustration?

Validate the Purchase Process

As I’m validating new products, the later interviews often end with discussions about pricing. In fact, I often think about these later interviews as sales calls (the main difference being that I have no product to deliver if I get a “yes”).

The interview should be conducted with the decision-maker. You need to be speaking with the people who have purchase authority.

You’ll also want to understand the purchase and budgeting process. Make sure you have the decision maker walk you through how a purchase would work. Do they prefer annual pricing? Where would the budget come from? Who else needs to sign off?

It would be disappointing if you validated the pricing only to find out that your sales cycle is 12 months because of budgeting issues or other decision-makers that needed to be a part of the discussions.

Alternative Pricing Models

Plan a und Plan BYou now understand the customer problem, the value that your solution provides, the current solution cost, and the purchase process – now you can start floating trial balloons of pricing with the customer. You might start by suggesting a total annual price – this is probably easier because if you and your customer have done the ROI calculations this number will be easier for you both to grasp.

You can then ask follow up questions like “do you think that is fair?” It’s these follow up questions that let you know if you are on the right track.

Finally, you can start to nail down the pricing model. Is it per-month-per-user? Is there a different model that makes more sense? Any time you can align your pricing model with the customer’s goals, you’re far better off.

For example, at ProductPlan (product roadmap software), we created pricing that charges only for editors of data – the viewers of the data (often executives) pay nothing for licenses.

Because the product managers want to widely distribute the product roadmap to stakeholders, this model benefits the customer while getting ProductPlan wide exposure in the organization.

In another example, when I validated the pricing for AppFolio (property management software) we proposed pricing based on the number of rental units managed ($1 per unit per month). This pricing model resonated because our revenue would increase as the property managers increased the size of their portfolio. It’s easy to understand and makes sense and aligns with customer goals.

Once you have the interviews under your belt you can now work into the actual pricing. I’ve found that the final pricing will be hard to nail down and will require a lot of discussion with the team and with customers.

But early on (even before developing the software) you can be in the ballpark with pricing that makes sense for both the customer and your business model.


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Jim Semick is co-founder of ProductPlan, product roadmap software. Prior to ProductPlan he validated several new products including GoToMyPC, GoToMeeting, and AppFolio. He writes at