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Avoid a "Trap" in the Priorities of Product Management vs. Product Marketing
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"Five 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
externally.

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 capability.
  • 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 may protest.

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, and distributors.

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 fingers."

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.

Bottom Line

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 (robelmore4@aol.com) 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.

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