i need a reality check

Jedi Marketing

Posted in Product by josh duncan on March 7, 2009


Very interesting interview in this month’s AMA Marketing News magazine (link not online yet but should be here) with the author of Buyology.

Martin Lindstrom discuss the science of neuromarketing and the science behind why people buy.

Some interesting quotes from the article:

The first step marketers should take is to realize that, most likely, the research studies they’re doing right now are insufficient because the subconscious mind is what’ driving [consumer behavior]

Bottom line, there was no discernible difference between the way the subjects reacted to powerful brands and the way they reacted to religious icons and figures

Lindstrom has been able to measure how the mind responds to a good story vs. a simple tag line .  He admits that there is no magic buy button in the consumer’s mind but with the right message, in the right context, the better chance you of have of getting it to stick.

Enough here to convince me that Buyology should be well worth the read.

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Vacation (with no cords)

Posted in Product, random by josh duncan on February 25, 2009

Have I mentioned I am way overdue for  a vacation (as I am sure most are these days)?

Unfortunately, the timing is crap.   There are a million things going on with my product, key launch dates are approaching, and there is an endless request for Power Points.

Nevertheless, the tickets are purchases and the rooms are booked.  It is only a short 4 day trip but I am going to do the unthinkable and not bring my laptop.  This will be the longest I have been off work email in three years.

I have to admit it feels good and terrifying at the same time.  The idea of not getting any red hot urgent issues for a few days sounds amazing.  The thought of coming back Sunday night with a thousand emails to read, not so good.

Anyway, I am off.  Will worry about that on Sunday.

Take care,


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Signs You Have Crossed The Line

Posted in Product by josh duncan on January 28, 2009

I received a few questions on my previous post, Can you be too passionate about your product?, wondering how can you tell when you crossed the line.  It’s a great question but usually hard to answer until after the fact.  Here are a few things I came up with.

You find your self saying any of the following:

  • What do you mean a billion users in the first year is too high?
  • I am sure that the usability feedback was wrong.  This thing is a breeze to figure out.
  • All we have to do is get 1% of the market.
  • 7/12 people in the focus group said they would buy this.
  • Developments first round of estimates look great.  I am sure that there will not be any changes.
  • Sales will come around, eventually….

or you are using any of the following assumptions:

  • You have decided not to use the low, medium, or high forecast estimate and are instead using the “Knock it out of the park” forecast.
  • You are fourth to market but hope to still be seen as a innovator in the space.
  • Your business case only makes sense when you capture 40% share from the market leaders.
  • You don’t have a business case….

What else?

Can You Be Too Passionate About Your Product?

Posted in Product by josh duncan on January 26, 2009

If you were putting together a skill set list for a product manager, you would probably end up with something like this (as a start):

  • Customer/market knowledge
  • Communication skills
  • Facilitation/collaboration
  • Ability to influence without authority
  • Subject matter expertise

And the number one thing to tie all of this together, passion.  Often during the development of a product, you have to be the champion to get things done and overcome obstacles.  Whether or not you are selling a new product concept to executives,  features/changes to your development team or working with sales to get to buy-in, you need to have passion to generate excitement.  If others feel like you don’t believe in your product, they aren’t going to find a reason on their own.

The problem here is that over time you can start to drink your own cool-aid and become too attached to your product.  How many times you have heard the analogy comparing product management to raising a child?  Once you get this close, you can have difficulty making decisions that are objective.  You can find yourself making justifications for your product even when the winds of change may be starting to point in another direction.

I am going to go ZEN here for a moment and borrow a bit from a great book, Seven Laws of Spiritual Success.  Chapter six talks about the importance of being detached in order to stay objective.  If you are too attached to something, you will start failing to see the big picture.

Therefore, I am going to submit that in order to be a successful (long term) product manager, you need to be:

Passionately Detached

You still need to be the head cheerleader but you also need to be able to make the tough decisions when needed.  It is really hard to have to change direction after you convinced everyone it was a good idea.  However, it will be better to make this decision the right way instead of getting it out on the market and having them tell you that you blew it.

What do you think?

Product Manager Manifesto? Oath? Something Else? Is It Worth Arguing Over?

Posted in Product by josh duncan on January 20, 2009


The 280Group blog has recently posted a Product Manager Manifesto.  The stated purpose was to help explain product marketing to people outside the realm and to express why the job can be a lot of fun:

In the course of managing my products there are thousands of small decisions that must be made and tasks that must be accomplished. The sum of these can add up to a phenomenal product. I choose to own the responsibility for making this happen.

I am an expert in all areas regarding my products: customers, the market, technology, competition, channels,
press, analysts, trends and anything else that must be taken into account in order to win.

Tom Grant on the Forrest Product Blog, not a fan:

In fact, some of the elements of the “Manifesto” border on self-loathing. I haven’t met a product manager who didn’t want to be “an expert in all areas regarding my products.” The problem, of course, is finding the time, when you’re already racing to answer the latest urgent request from Sales or Support, or you’re spending way too much time in meetings.

Tom is right that this really isn’t a call to action so, maybe it shouldn’t have been called a manifesto (note to self, don’t write a manifesto any time soon, it really seems to piss some people off).

However, I do think there has been some really great discussions over this article and lots of great comments (also see Pragmatic Marketing ).  Isn’t this type of discussion worth while to help us become better product managers?

At the end of the day, do you really think there are that many CEOs out there reading Product Manager blogs saying to themselves,

“Man, these PMs are clueless.  I’m just going to sit back and continue to make crappy products in the meantime.”

stabbed in the back – what to do when you lose internal support for your product*? – part I

Posted in marketing, Product by josh duncan on January 11, 2009


(*In order to protect the innocents, names and stuff has been changed)

To make a (very, very) long story short, I once had a very tough experience with a product of mine.  The product had been in development for almost a year and due to its controversial nature, had had to go through several executive reviews before getting final sign off.  These reviews were excruciatingly painful, but at the end of the day, they helped us really refine our strategy and internal communications.

During these meetings we covered:

  • Market conditions and growth trends
  • Competitor offerings and positioning
  • Marketing research (global conjoint and focus groups)
  • Product features, costs, and schedule
  • Sales forecasts (signed off by sales) along with rev/margins

It was a solid presentation (if I do say so myself) and it was a huge relief after the final review to hear we got the go ahead.  After all the this, I figured it was time to get back to actually working on delivering the product.

When it was time for us to start occurring internal charges, I started hearing rumblings that finance had concern.  Did I worry?  Nah, I had executive sign-off.  What could there be to worry about?  And then, everything came to a grinding halt.  Finance refused to approve the purchase orders since the risk was to high.  Without this approval, there was no moving forward.

Went went wrong?  How could this have happened after all the executive reviews we went through?  What do we do now?  So, before I tell you what I did, would like to hear some thoughts out there from other product managers on how they would have handled it?  Did I mention that if we were unable to get these orders approved we would most likely have to scrap the project?

What to do when you lose internal support for your product?

Have You Thanked Your Competition Recently?

Posted in Product by josh duncan on December 28, 2008


Its OK to admit it.  Most of us hate our competitors.  They are always doing something to make our job miserable.  However, two recent articles got me to thinking maybe we should be thankful for this constant pain in the ass competition.

From Seth Godin,

You can pretend that you are unique, that you have no competition and never will. Inevitably, this will create an attitude that, while fun for a while, will probably harm you later. The alternative is to acknowledge that the competition exists and in fact, to encourage it.

and the The Red Queen among Organizations takes this to another level with an academic discussion around the need for competition in order to survive:

If today your organization encounters competition, it will not perform as well as it might have otherwise. To meet this challenge, you will likely attempt to improve; you may even experiment with new ways of approaching the job at hand. If you succeed, now your rivals face stronger competition from you, as your solutions have become their problems.

Bottom line, you don’t have to like your competition but you should be grateful that you are in the game being pushed to make your product even better.