A 2015 New Year Resolution

By Prabhakar Gopalan

Many of us make New Year resolutions.  I don’t know the conversion and retention metrics of New Year resolutions but that’s not what I’m going to talk about.  I’m going to share with you one New Year resolution that is worth deliberating.

Someone took a leap of faith and offered my first product manager job.  Another gave me the opportunity to run product marketing.  Yet another gave me the opportunity to work on corporate strategy.  One person flew me all the way across countries, and offered a job and relocation. Some of these were small.  Some, life changing.  But the count, too many.

One of my resolutions for this year is to take that leap of faith in others more often in a deliberate way.  How about you?

Happy New Year!

Why are there so many solutions looking for problems?

by Saeed Khan

Problem for SolutionIt’s 2015, and people are still investing enormous amounts of time and money into products that, quite frankly, are doomed to fail. This year’s Consumer Electronics Show is but one venue showing examples of doomed products.

I have never attended the Consumer Electronics Show, but that didn’t stop me from tracking it on the Web and looking for some signs of intelligence in all the product announcements coming out. There were some interesting announcement, but a lot of weirdness as well.

It’s strange, but companies, big and small, spend a lot of time and money to attend shows like CES or Comdex, fight all the ensuing noise in order to be heard, and then announce products that make little sense and have seemingly no chance at success.

  • Who are the target audiences for these products?
  • What problems are they solving or what new capability are they providing?
  • Are those problems important enough to their target audience for them to actually care?
  • Are the products differentiated enough from other alternatives to be noticed by people?

Basic questions we all think about in our jobs, but it’s not likely anyone asked these questions for these products.

They really need some Product Managers who are worth their salt!

I may be wrong, but check out the following examples, you really have to wonder what the makers were thinking.

1. Lamborghini 88 Tauri phone

lambo-phone right-arrow-small



Why is this bound to fail?

  1. It costs $6000. — Yes six THOUSAND dollars. For nothing more than any other Android phone, except for the Lambo logo.
  2. Not a real status symbol — It’s not as expensive as the Virtu Signature which starts at $10,300, so shelling out $6K doesn’t even give you bragging rights for having the most expensive phone available
  3. Nothing extra for the money — Virtu phones give you a live attendant (for 1 year) who can book tickets, make reservations etc. You get NADA extra with the Lambo phone.

Next >>>

Tweet this: Why are there so many solutions looking for problems? http://wp.me/pXBON-4hv #prodmgmt #CES2015

5 phrases that need to be banned in 2015

by Saeed Khan

I don’t know about you, but there are some very annoying phrases that have become hackneyed and overused, to the point of becoming meaningless.  They need to be banned and replaced with something better and meaningful. Let me know what you think.

1. “Move the needle”

 move-the-needle right-arrow-small

I hear this one all the time. “Does it move the needle?” or “It doesn’t move the needle.” or “We need to come up with something that will move the needle.”

Usually spoken in the context of an idea or proposal  or feature/enhancement to a product, the phrase really asks if there will be a significant impact from if that idea or proposal etc.

The reason, I hate it, is that it’s such an ambiguous question. What is the person measuring? And what is significant? It’s such an ambiguous question that if one tries to answer it, it leads to equally ambiguous and pointless debate.

Better alternatives are “How does it help meet our goals?”, or “How can we measure the impact of this?”

Tweet this: “Move the needle” and 4 other phrases that should be banished http://wp.me/pXBON-4hb #prodmgmt 

>>> Next

Three Flavors of a Product Manager – Who should you hire?

by Rivi Aspler

3-flavoursHaving both interviewed many product managers, and also interviewed for management roles myself, I’ve learned about the different “flavors” of the product manager role.

In my experience, there are three flavors of a ‘product manager’ role, and they depend on the product that is being developed and sold. I describe them as follows:

  •  An off-the-shelf product requires a product manager that is able to gather information from multiple sources (competition, partners, prospects, users etc.), analyze it all and come up with the detailed definitions that will build the best possible product for the target market.
  • A customized solution requires product managers to set direction, to position a competitive advantage and to act as thought leaders. Yet, as soon a contract is signed, the account specific business analyst or solution expert will get into the picture and define a customer-specific solution.
  • A hardware product requires a business oriented marketing (product) manager, who is much closer to sales people than she is to the R&D teams. Defining pricing, sales targets and nurturing partnerships, the hardware (HW) product manager is much less of an engineer and much more a business specialist.

This may seem like a non-issue, but the differences between the three flavors are quite large and hence hiring one type of product manager, when you actually need another type, may cause both sides to be frustrated at the very least, and end up with a separation at the worst (though maybe that’s a good thing !).

One could also see the half-full glass of it all, saying that hiring such diverse capabilities can enrich the organization and the hired person with new points of view and new skill sets, but that should be a conscious choice, rather than a trap, you simply fall into.

Before looking into the table below, I would like to define this blog post as a baseline for a joint discussion, as I’m not sure that my experience can be translated into a global, ‘best practice’ kind of recommendation.

Maybe my sample of ‘data’ (i.e. number of interviewees)  isn’t representative of what you have come across. Maybe my conclusions are not the ones that you would have reached.  Let’s discuss it together.

So, creating a matrix of tasks per product type and aligning these with the list of skills that interviewees have claimed to master, one could draw the following tables of inbound and outbound activities and the differences between these 3 flavors of product manager.


What do you think of this categorization?  Is your experience validating or contradicting the above notes?


Tweet this: Three flavors of Product Manager – Who should you hire? http://wp.me/pXBON-4gl #prodmgmt

About the Author

Rivi is a product manager with over 15 years of product life-cycle management experience, at enterprise sized companies (SAP), as well as with small to medium-sized companies. Practicing product management for years, Rivi now feels she has amassed thoughts and experiences that are worth sharing.

How to Gain Buy-in From Your Cross-Functional Team

By Jeffrey Vocell

hero team-smallIf you’re in product marketing it’s likely you interface with virtually everyone in your company regardless of their department or role. From executives to engineering, and sales to support each department provides a unique cross-functional role that you need to be successful. However, without any authority it’s sometimes difficult to see a clear path in how we build these relationships and find success in our roles.

So today I will cover steps on how you can gain buy-in from colleagues across your organization, without any of the authority by treating it like a product launch.

Start with a Plan

Like any good launch, we should create a basic plan (or at least have a roughly thought out idea) of everyone in the organization you want to meet and reasoning behind it. This plan will serve as the basis for your launch of gaining trust, and buy-in from colleagues internally which will immeasurably help any product launches or other efforts you have planned for 2015.

If you have a standard launch checklist or launch template internally, start with that.

Influence begins with knowing and caring about others

Whether you are just starting a new role, or have been in an existing role for a number of years it’s crucial that you not only know key people around your organization but look out for their best interests as well. There are 4-primary aspects of influence when it comes to your colleagues

1. Role and challenges

Everyone you meet with plays an active part in your companies success. Try to better understand their role (especially if you have not done it before) and the challenges they face in that role. For example, scheduling a product launch meeting for the end of the month with sales on a monthly quote may not work very well for stakeholders in that organization.

2. Goals and aspirations

Although this may seem the same as above, understand where they want to be in 1, 2, and 5 years. If the person you are speaking with is in support but wants to move to marketing, try offering feedback or making connections internally to help them do so. Understanding their goals and aspirations gives opportunities to team members that benefits the whole organization.

3. Communication style

You don’t talk to everyone in your life the same exact way, do you? So why would you talk to others with different communication styles the same way? As product marketers we live with framing conversations and messaging around our product, customers, and market – so this should simply be an extension of doing that for an internal colleague.

4. Strengths

Knowing the other individuals strengths allows you to have more relevant conversations and interactions with them. For example, if the person you are meeting with is really strong in project management and you are not you can ask them questions about how they handle multiple deadlines, how they keep others on track, and more. The point is, this helps you frame the discussion to ensure it’s successful.

There are a few easy ways to fit these aspects into your day-to-day schedule, such as:

  • Read Strengths Finder 2.0 and take the test at the end. Share what you found with others at work and encourage them to do the same.
  • Spend 5-minutes before meetings to write simple positioning statements that are tailored to different individuals for information they need, or information you need.
  • Consider the impact your request will have, both organizationally and personally to the recipient. If you have a project that is high impact to the organization and the person, frame your request around the benefits to them.

Develop Trust

When you commit to a project or campaign, ensure you meet deadlines and are personally building trust with your colleagues. Trust is central to our roles in product marketing as mis-timed messaging, last-minute releases, and accidental errors can sneak in at anytime and require collaboration from your cross-functional team.

Here’s a few ways you can build trust throughout your cross-functional team:

  • Share product, sales, and release information with them as is relevant
    • For example, if you are part of an organization that has roadmaps this roadmap should be accessible to all the members of your cross functional team at anytime. If you have a central resource such as a intranet or wiki, consider posting the resource there and simply pointing individuals to it.
  • Become the expert in your products, and turn everyone you work with on the cross-functional team into evangelists.
  • Regularly update stakeholders (such as sales) on changes to the product, pricing changes, and any competitive information that is relevant to them in accounts. At HubSpot we use a central wiki for all this information and regularly keep it updated so anyone can find more information about how to sell a solution, positioning, or product launches

Be The Expert

Product marketing is different in many organizations. If you do not have a clear-set expectation of what product marketing is responsible for stop reading this and go write it. Ok, done? Good.

Seriously, understanding where your expertise is required so you can prioritize and focus all of your time around those areas.

There are a few general suggestions on becoming an expert, regardless of product marketing’s responsibilities:

  • Sit-in on sales calls and be available for demo’s as necessary. In addition, knowing how your sales team is compensated can help you give more relevant recommendations.
  • Sit-in on customer support calls, or shadow a customer support rep for a few hours
  • Regularly speak with customers about how they are using your product, where they are coming from, and why they chose your product
  • Conduct win/loss analysis

As we approach 2015, ensure you are developing this buy-in from colleagues across your organization to make the most of your influence and launch successful products and campaigns.

Let me know in the comments how you have built internal alliances and trust from other team members.


Tweet this: How to gain buy-in from your cross-functional team #prodmgmt http://wp.me/pXBON-4gt

About the Author


Jeffrey Vocell is a Product Marketing Manager at HubSpot. Jeffrey is passionate about aviation, startups, and product marketing. Connect with him on Twitter @JVocell.

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