i need a reality check

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

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(*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?

Worth The Read

Posted in worth the read by josh duncan on January 8, 2009

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Lazy marketers love to have the leading product in a market because they just need to maintain the status quo.  A great marketer likes the challenge of winning with a product that doesn’t necessarily win on all of the features.

But regardless of what you call these new sources of news and information, the indisputable fact is that in 2009 there will be many social media examples to point to where the quality is as good if not better than traditional media sources.

Some businesses will be doomed from the start if you don’t know where to put them. English roses are beautiful. I’d be an idiot to put English roses in Austin because we get a fraction of the rain they get.

Unexpected information about your product or company always comes out when talking to people in person. You learn things about people when you look them in the eyes. They gain trust in you, which increases the trust you have in your own ability to make tough decisions.

Did You Know That 70% OF Consumers Have Used Social Media To Get Info About A Product?

Posted in marketing by josh duncan on January 6, 2009

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Media Post recently reported on a  DEI Worldwide study on Word-of-mouth marketing.

The study showed that 67% of consumers are likely to pass along information from an actual (“real live”) brand representative to other people, and 57% are likely to take action based on that information

Consumers don’t put much trust in corporate blogs or social network profiles, but will readily listen to people–even if they are employed by the company selling the product–provided that they are open about their mission and relationship to the company.

This is a very interesting stat for social media and could lead you to jump to some immediate conclusions.  However, if you really want WOM marketing to work you need a complete story (see Made to Stick)

The Brand Experience Lab has a really good post on the subject and sums it up perfectly here:

WOM is not a tactic or strategy by itself. It is the outcome of doing something really well.

Bottom line, it all comes back to your companies brand and product strategy.  If you create something that has an authentic story behind it, people will love talking about it.

It’s OK If Its Not OK!

Posted in marketing by josh duncan on January 4, 2009

Short and simple post from Seth’s Blog, Is everything okay?:

No, everything is not okay. Not in a growing organization. Not if your company is making change happen, or dealing with customers. How could it be?  And yet, that’s what so many managers focus on. How to make everything okay.

This is hitting a soft spot with me.  Sometimes you need a good swift kick in the arse to get moving and this is as good as any I have seen this year.

So, here is what I am going to do starting as of now (let’s call these semi-New Year Resolutions):

  • Stop Complaining  – its just wasted energy
  • Focus – fire drills seem to be taking way to much of my time.  Need to make sure I am putting my energy towards that 20% that will have the biggest impact.
  • Deliver – 2009 is going to be a big year, hopefully on multiple fronts.  Now is the time to make sure that I am not sitting here at this time next year with a case of the “should haves”

Its tough when things aren’t comfortable but in the long run, we will be better off.  So, what about you?

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Did You Know 14% of U.S. Adults Qualify As Foodies?

Posted in marketing by josh duncan on December 31, 2008

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Media Post has an article this morning discussing recent research by Packaged Facts that found that 31.2 million–or 14.4% of U.S. adults–qualify as foodies (like trying all kinds of food and willing to pay above average).

There is all sorts of information that was interesting in the article.  Here are a few of the findings:

The foodie culture is “an essentially American phenomenon” that has emerged in reaction to this country’s “uniquely malleable and marketer-driven” food culture, say the PF analysts. While other nations or regions have distinct cultures surrounding food and its consumption, the U.S. generally lacks such a culture, and foodies are on a mission to fill this void, they explain.

Their eagerness to experiment makes them receptive to F&B product launches, but their restlessness poses challenges to fostering enduring brand loyalty.

The most interesting pieces of this article was that the research found that while gourmet food was important to the Foodie, more important was that it was “new and preferably authentic“.

So, let me get this straight, Foodies like

  • New/fresh
  • Authentic
  • Not being labeled
  • Spending time on the Internet
  • Trying new things

This sounds very applicable to other up-incoming segments don’t you think?

Read the full article here.

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Worth The Read

Posted in worth the read by josh duncan on December 29, 2008

Have You Thanked Your Competition Recently?

Posted in Product by josh duncan on December 28, 2008

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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.

Are You In the Top 5% Of The Twittersphere?

Posted in resources by josh duncan on December 23, 2008

Did you know?

Only 5 percent of all Twitter users have more than 250 followers.

and

70% of Twitter users joined in 2008 (for more facts see  The State Of The Twittersphere (HubSpot Edition) )

I joined Twitter earlier this year during the first ProductCampAustin. The conference set up a Twitter account for everyone to follow during the event.  It was a great way to keep track of all the comments during the sessions and to keep in touch after it was over. From there, I was hooked.

So, if you are on Twitter, why did you join?

Would You Pay to Advertise on Digg.com?

Posted in random by josh duncan on December 22, 2008

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TechCrunch ran a story over the weekend with a review of Digg’s financials and it is not looking that good (also on Silicon Alley).

The first three quarters of 2008 Digg had revenues of $6.4 million and losses of $4 million. That implies total 2008 revenue of $8.5 million, with $5.3 million in losses.

The big question that TechCrunch asks is what are the estimated 35+ engineers working on at Digg?   With a smaller staff, their massive web traffic (estimated at 16 million worldwide unique monthly visitors)  should enable them to squeak out a profit of some kind.

The speculation is that they are trying to build some sort of advanced advertisement platform similar to Google’s AdSense that will enable them to insert targeted adds into their user generated posts.  In the theory, that sounds like a good idea, but will it really pay off?

I am a fan of Digg and visit the site daily (If you don’t know much about Digg and their founder Kevin Rose, Inc.com recently published an overview).  It is one of the best places on the web to find all the current popular news, stories, and latest gossip and follies.  But that in itself is the issue.  “All” is a very broad market to target on the web and Digg hangs it all out there to see.

Here is a sample of a few of the stories on the front page today:

  1. Independent Investigation: Special Olympics Fixed (A farce from the Onion.com)
  2. The Wine development release 1.1.11 is now available (Software for running Windows on Linux)
  3. Kids Say The Most Existentially Terrifying Things (A cartoon from Cracked.com)
  4. Warner Brothers Pulls All Videos from Youtube (a news story update from cnet.com)

This is the best part of Digg.  Right next to serious social/political issues are irreverent, silly, outrageous, and sometimes, offensive posts.  That’s great for users of Digg but make a tough sale for corporate advertisers.  Now, I am not saying that corporate advertisers will not post ads on Digg.  In fact, right now there is an ad for a Ford Flex featured in the top right banner.  But note, this is right above the ad from GIftCardFreebies.com (view screen shot here).

There are a lot of brands out there that are not going to like having their products squashed between jokes on Marijuana and SMBC comics and these brands have deep pockets.

So what about Google then?  They have targeted ads and they can have much more offensive material on their site so, why are they such a success?  Because Google search starts with a blank canvas and you give it a target.  It knows that if you are searching for Teddy Bear vs. Teddy, what is acceptable and what is not.  Plus in situations where there is ambiguity, the lack of banner ads help keep the site neutral.

The hardest part of this for Digg is that even though they helped drive this GroundSwell of user generated content, they don’t control it (see HD-DVD encryption fiasco). Any effort to mainstream the site or push edgy content off the front page will not be met with a quiet response.

Thoughts?

Worth the Read

Posted in resources by josh duncan on December 21, 2008