fingers" for Product Management vs. "two fingers"
for Product Marketing
This article shows you how to avoid a revenue-killing "trap"
that a high-tech
vendor can easily fall into: How you manage your Product Management
priorities internally vs. how you set your Product Marketing messages
First, two definitions for the purpose of this article:
1. Product Management is defined as the systematic, inward-driving
process by which your firm sets and manages its product development
priorities. As a high-tech product or service vendor, your Product
Management team starts by collecting market-driven information about
the shifting problems that
customers need to solve. Then the team determines how effectively
your products (and competitors' products) solve those problems.
Next they decide what high-priority new product capabilities will
better enable you to compete. Finally, effective Product Management
goes on to manage the process
of specifying, scheduling, and developing those new product capabilities.
2. Outward-facing Product Marketing, in contrast, focuses
on presenting to customers (and to the larger marketplace) your
messages about how your products solve top customer problems. This
is an ongoing, outbound marketing process that is conducted at both
strategic and tactical levels. Effective
Product Marketing teams continually refocus these messages in light
of your new product capabilities, and based on competitive moves
by others and on broad market conditions.
(Note, by the way, that many firms -- especially startups -- combine
these two functions into one management team. While that can be
very appropriate for a small firm, these are still two different
functions that must be thought of separately if you are to avoid
a revenue trap for New Business
Development, as discussed below.)
One way to visualize this distinction is to hold up your hand with
all five fingers extended.
Think of these five fingers as the five most important new capabilities
that your inbound Product Management team has determined must be
included in the next release of your product. All of these top capabilities
are important if you are to solve customers' problems as effectively
as possible -- and for you to meet and beat competitive pressures.
Now close your thumb and the two smallest fingers, extending only
two fingers. Think of these as just two of those five problem-solving
product capabilities. These should be two key product capabilities
that are most likely to immediately "grab the attention"
of potential customers. Each of
these two product capabilities may be on the "top two"
list from a Product Marketing outbound message point of view for
a wide range reasons, such as:
- The capability is genuinely new -- it solves a well-known
customer problem far better than in the past.
- It "shuts down" a competitor's claim to equality
with you, or to their superiority over you.
- You have a solid customer testimonial -- really strong, and
published or publishable -- about the importance of this product
- Every time you show this capability to a customer or prospect,
it brings out great responses such as, "That's just what
we need to solve this critical problem."
Avoiding the "Trap"
"But our product does more than just two things!" you
Very true, but the "trap" here is that a buyer's "attention
range" is limited. Just like all of us, they are continually
scanning the highly complex business environment to determine where
they should focus their buying attention.
If you try to use all five of your top Product Management capabilities
in your initial selling messages, you just add to the complexity
that customers face as they scan for "what's new." Your
pitch tends to "blur in" with all the other complexities
they see out in the marketplace.
On the other hand, when you pinpoint all your "headline level"
marketing messages initially on just the "two fingers"
of Product Marketing -- two top problem-solving capabilities --
you can better "break into" their process of scanning
the environment long enough for them to listen to you. You can get
them to stop and focus their buying attention on you.
In everyday practical terms, this means is that you must "lead"
clearly with just these top two Product Marketing messages everywhere...
...On your website Home Page.
...In your first few Powerpoint selling slides.
...Within the headlines in your printed collateral.
...In your sales seminar / webinar invitations (especially in the
e-mail subject line).
...In your other selling information for sales reps, partners,
In this way you can use focused outbound Product Marketing to effectively
"draw in" the buyer so they will pause long enough to
consider how important these two solutions can be for them.
What about the "other three" fingers?
The good news is that this approach still fully values the importance
of the inbound Product Management point of view -- the "five
First, the customer still needs all five top capabilities of your
product or service to fully solve their problems. Assuming an effective
inbound Product Management process, each capability is included
for a good competitive reason -- and likely there are five or ten
more new capabilities "waiting in the
wings" for a later release.
Second, the beauty of initially targeting your outbound Product
Marketing messages on the top two capabilities is that the engaged
buyer will want to know more! You'll still include information about
the "other three" capabilities on your website, later
in your selling or webinar slides, and in
your collateral, answering their more detailed questions. But you
don't lead your outbound selling messages with "all five"
because that approach is less likely to catch their attention as
they scan the crowded competitive marketplace.
When you use this approach and more effectively apply your team's
strengths in Product Management vs. Product Marketing, you will
be better positioned to succeed in New Business Development. You
will be more effective in first catching buyers' attention, and
only then will you show them the complete
capabilities of your products or services -- what they need to fully
solve their problems. That puts you in the best position to close
a deal with them for new revenue.
Rob Elmore, Marketing Expertise on Contract (firstname.lastname@example.org)
works with high-tech firms to identify key customer problems, define
solutions the vendor provides, determine top market opportunities
and challenges, and clearly communicate the value of the vendor's
solutions -- and thus drive revenue growth. Results are delivered
through contract consulting services.