Tag Archives: product marketing

3 Videos Every Product Manager Must Watch

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Being a product manager is tough work. You’re constantly balancing out the needs of the business, the needs of the users and the capabilities and bandwidth of engineering to move the product forward and to make it more successful. It takes a lot of smarts, enthusiasm, communication, persuasion, editorial skill and courage to do the job well. (There are other traits, but those strike me first.) Products need strong product managers to thrive and succeed. Product managers need to have a clear vision of where the product needs to go and what resonates with users to reach that success. The product manager truly is their brother’s keeper.

Over the last day and a half I’ve watched three impressive talks from some of the smartest product people in the world and I wanted to share them with you here.

Fred Wilson‘s 10 Principles of Successful Web Apps

This is a great talk where venture capitalist Fred Wilson (investor in Foursquare, Twitter, Delicious, others) outlines the 10 essentials to making a successful web application. Every product manager should be considering how their product stacks up to these ten things.  His ten essentials are:

  1. Speed
  2. Instant Utility
  3. Software as Media
  4. Less is More
  5. Make it Programmable
  6. Make it Personal
  7. RESTful
  8. Discoverability
  9. Clean
  10. Playful


Fred Wilson at the Future of Web Apps Miami 2010

Jack Dorsey: 3 Keys to Twitter’s Success

In this talk, Twitter co-founder talks about the four keys to Twitter’s success (he says 3 but then throws in a bonus fourth at the end.) They’re powerful tools for any product manager in the product design and definition phases as well as the ongoing evolution of the product itself.

His 4 keys to Twitter’s success are:

  1. Draw, get your ideas out of your head and in front of others.
  2. Luck, understand when the market is ready for your idea.
  3. Iterate, take tons of feedback, edit like crazy and refine your product.
  4. Know when to stop, know when a product is finished instead of adding feature after feature.


Jack Dorsey: 3 Keys to Twitter’s Success from 99% on Vimeo.

Kathy Sierra on Creating Awesome Users

Kathy Sierra gives a great talk on how our focus can’t be on our product, service or company; but rather on our users and how we can move them from frustrated first-timers to passionate advocates who spread our product effortlessly to their social circles. Here’s her recipe for creating awesome users.


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What’s the problem?

As a marketer you always need to be asking yourself “What’s the problem my [product/service/company] is trying to solve for the customer?” This is the simplest, easiest way to figure out the best way to talk about what you do in terms of providing a solution for your customers. It’s easy to look at your product and say it solves whatever is the opposite of what it does. But that is company-centric thinking, not customer-centric. You need to solve a real problem from the customer perspective, not just a problem that that matches up perfectly with your product/service. Stop short of identifying that and you’ll be trying to identify where all of your sales are.

But not every product or service solves a problem you say? You point to the iPod and say that it was just a well designed gadget. You point to Starbucks and say that it was just an overpriced cup of coffee. I say you aren’t looking hard enough. The iPod serves a very real problem brought on by the digital music revolution. It elegantly solved the problem of purchasing and managing music from your computer to your MP3 player. Starbucks solved the problem of making people feel connected to one another and their community. They solved the problem of a communal meeting area where people were free to lounge, converse and share experiences over coffee.

Both were problems that aren’t easily visible. Both probably aren’t the first problem that come to mind. And that is the second challenge.

The problem Starbucks solved wasn’t that there wasn’t any good coffee out there. If they just went after that one they would’ve found themselves in a commodity industry, fighting with Dunkin’ Donuts over the cheapest mega-sized coffee they could offer. Instead, they solved something much more important and were rewarded because of it.

As a marketer you have to dig for the essence of the problem you’re trying to solve. Often times your customers can’t even consciously identify the problem, but when they see the solution they know they needed it all along. And some problems they don’t even know they have at all until you present it in a way that grabs their attention and spurs them to action to resolving this suddenly very real problem.

So what is the problem your product or service solves? And is it really what it seems to be at first blush, or can you dig deeper and get to something much more profound and important. Because without a problem, there is no need. And without a need you severely cripple the demand for whatever you’re selling.

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Are you high fidelity or high convenience?

In his book, Trade-Off: Why Some Things Catch On, and Others Don’t, (affiliate link) Kevin Maney examines the importance of being either exceptionally convenient or exceptionally high fidelity if you hope to resonate with consumers.  If you’re somewhere in the middle, look out.  You’ll get clobbered by one end or the other.  As a marketer it’s important to evaluate your product and see where, on that continuum, you fall.  And if you’re in the middle you need a product plan to get the hell out of there or suffer the consequences.

Maney got this idea from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings who saw that consumers would trade ultimate convenience for less quality, and vice versa; but were unwilling to settle for the middle ground. To continue this example, Netflix is the ultimate in convenience, movies are mailed to you or streamed right to your TV. You don’t go anywhere, they come to you.  On the other end is IMAX, stadium seating movie theaters.  This is inconvenient.  Movies play at prescribed times that you have to plan for, you need to drive to get there, and you pay an exceptional premium for the privilege.

But guess what?  Both parts of the industry are thriving.  The super-high end and the super-low end.

Guess what’s getting killed?  You guessed it.  The middle.  The Blockbuster Video and Hollywood Videos of the world.  Things that are a little more convenient than the theatres – you can take one of many movies home with you – but not so convenient – you still have to drive there and back – and it’s not so much better than watching a movie on HBO in terms of fidelity.  This middle ground is what is killing Blockbuster.

The recipe for failure today? A little convenience,  a little fidelity.  The market no longer has room for moderation when it comes to new products and services.

So what can you do to move your product one way or the other?  That answer may be the difference in making your product or company a success or making it one that we wonder what happened to it.

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The Problem with Minimum Viable Product

If you work in the online space long enough you run across the idea of “minimum viable product” (MVP).  The MVP is the minimum product design/functionality that you can launch with that will give you the learning you need about your customers with the least amount of time and resources poured into the project. It’s an important concept that stresses speed to market, agile development, and iteration on the  learnings to build toward your ideal product.

Eric Ries (who I can’t recommend reading enough) has an excellent description of the MVP:

The idea of minimum viable product is useful because you can basically say: our vision is to build a product that solves this core problem for customers and we think that for the people who are early adopters for this kind of solution, they will be the most forgiving. And they will fill in their minds the features that aren’t quite there if we give them the core, tent-pole features that point the direction of where we’re trying to go.

So, the minimum viable product is that product which has just those features (and no more) that allows you to ship a product that resonates with early adopters; some of whom will pay you money or give you feedback.

The problem with the MVP is that too often companies launch the MVP and then don’t build the roadmap to come back and take it to the next level.  The business demands leave you with a string of unfinished, unpolished products. And while they meet the basic requirements of the early adpoting users they hamstring you trying to jump the chasm to the mainstream audience.

If you don’t have a road map in place to come back and continue to iterate on your MVPs you create a series of unpolished products which stop meeting the demands of your audience as more people outside the early adopting crowd try your product or service.

As you’re running you end up with an island of misfit toys which ultimately frustrate your customers.

While the MVP is a great concept, and keeps you from waiting too long to launch (and overdesigning for a non-existent audience) it can come back to bite you if you don’t consciously build a road map to improve it after the launch.    So if you’re launching a new online service or product and you’re using the MVP approach do you have the time line, road map and resources lined up to take it to the next level once you learn what your customers really want?

More on the MVP here, here, and here.

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