Marketing is Dead (long live product marketing)

I gave the keynote presentation at ProductCamp Amsterdam over the weekend.  It was an amazing trip.  The intelligent and charming organizers (shown in the photo left to right Xavier, Vladimir, Mark,  Jelmer, and Kevin) not only shuttled me around and fed me good food but they also put me up in by far the largest hotel room I have ever stayed in (below is a shot I took from the loft. Yes, it had a loft).  The venue (kindly donated by the folks at Backbase) was fantastic and the crowd was full of smart startup folks that asked really good questions. The talk I gave was one that I’ve wanted to do for a while.  It was on the changing nature of marketing in a world where buyers are much more in control and traditional marketing tactics are not only ineffective, but down right annoying. The talk is called Marketing is Dead (long live Product Marketing). I want to thank the organizers again for inviting me and for being such good hosts.  And if there are any other European conference organizers out there reading this I’d like to say that in addition to Amsterdam I like London, Paris and Berlin very much…. Here are the slides: Marketing is Dead (long live product marketing) View more presentations from April Dunford. If you enjoyed that, you should subscribe!  You can sign up for email updates, subscribe via RSS or follow me...

Competitive Intelligence Startup Style

Big companies with products in established markets worry about the competition. In fact, at the larger companies I’ve worked at we’ve had entire teams dedicated to figuring out what the competition was up to.  Startups on the other hand often spend way too much time worrying about the minute details of features and functions that their competitors deliver.  In my opinion the only way that startups should look at their competition is through the eyes of their customers. Customers Will Give You The Big Competitive Picture In the very early stages of a startup looking at competitors is a distraction from the job at hand, which is figuring out if your offering is a fit for a particular market.  If the focus is on customers, you’ll hear first-hand what customers see as the alternatives to your offering.  This list usually will contain a couple of companies, along with some more difficult competitors like “do nothing” or “build it ourselves”.  The list is interesting because it tells you what category your customers place you in, what budget they will pull from to buy you, what existing products they might replace with yours.  It doesn’t of course tell you what exactly to build. The Small Stuff Doesn’t Matter for Startups In mature markets many products get bought based on nothing more than company reputation (including the customer’s history with that company) and a feature/function checklist.  Almost by definition, startups don’t make it on the list and if they did, they would lose the checklist war.  Less mature markets are a whole different ballgame – reputations matter less and the checklist changes...

Value not Features – 2 Stories from the Trenches

Product Marketing and Product Management are disciplines where the theory is easily understood but practical execution is really hard.  I asked Tim Johnson, (who frequently leaves smart comments on this blog) to share a couple of his “from the trenches” stories.  What I love about both of these is they illustrate perfectly how shifting the focus from “product features” to “value to the customer” can make a huge difference.   Enjoy! If you are like me, you hate getting into price wars with your competitors – or letting your sales people get into them.  When you have a similar  feature/function set, it’s hard not to fall into the trap.  The best way to avoid ‘buying the business’ is to keep the conversation focused on what is REALLY driving the buyer: the pain they are experiencing, how that is disrupting their business and how it impacts them personally. You will have a different, more significant conversation with your buyer that gives you an advantage and will help preserve your profitability. Know your buyer’s metrics and you will know what you have to say to them. I know this is Buyer Persona 101 stuff for a lot of you but I will illustrate with a couple of stories – and I love telling stories! Story 1 – Focus on Value to Stop Going over the Discounting Cliff Back in 2002, I was a solution architect for one of the big systems management companies.  The SA group was a tiger team that was called in to help close and architect significant deals.  I was the only non-techy on the team because I...

Product Marketing: Increasingly Important

Product marketing is misunderstood.  When most people think of “marketing” they don’t think of product marketing – they think of branding and communications or advertising.  However as companies increase their spending on social media and digital marketing it may be time to invest more in product marketing.  Here’s why: Product Marketers have deep market knowledge – Prospects are looking for helpful information online and do not want to be “sold to”. Product marketers have a deep understanding of the problems that people in a market face and are great at creating content that can educate and help prospects. Product Marketers have deep solutions knowledge – One of the key things that separates Product Marketing from other forms of marketing is the depth of understanding of products/solutions.  This deep level of understanding is critical when it comes to working with customers in a more interactive way like through social media.  It’s not enough to just have to skills to communicate canned messages, you’ll need someone who can answer questions, react on the fly and generally be as helpful as possible.  Product marketers are great at this. Product marketers focus on customer value, not technology/features – this is the part where I pick on traditional product managers, who often officially “own” product marketing but ignore it.  Product management is a big job and often product managers can be so focused on feature development they can’t put themselves into the shoes of the customer when it comes to communicating why someone should buy.  Customers don’t care about features or technology or anything else that represents how you do what you do.  What...

7 Startup Customer Discovery Questions

Folks at startups have different levels of experience when it comes to working with customers.  At the early stages when you are identifying the problem to solve, the key features of the solution and the customer segments that are the right fit for the solution, you’re spending a lot of time with customers trying to tease out as much information as you can.  Last week I was asked by a new founder what types of questions he should be asking in these meetings.  Here are a few suggestions: What does your typical day look like? – This one is especially useful at the earliest stages when you are still trying to get a deep understanding of the space, the customers and what the key pain points are for those customers. If you could change anything at all, what would it be? – This is a good one to get at the most pressing problem that a person is experiencing with a particular task or process. What is the biggest pain you have today? – This will have to be framed within the context of the broader space you are looking at of course. The key with this question is to probe around the characteristics of the pain.  Why is it painful? What is the measure of that pain (time, effort, etc.)? How are you solving this problem today? – Again, try to ask a lot of open-ended questions around this one too.  When was the solution implemented?  Why was it done like that? Who made the decision? What is this problem costing you? (lost revenue, lost customers, increased service...
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