Monday, October 3, 2011

The Value of Knowing Who Cares: A Quick Case Study

Hello again!  It's been a while since I last posted <insert litany of lame excuses/valid reasons here> but I'm back.  For now.  Really.

"If you don't know where you're going, you will wind up someplace else."

My friend Larry McKeogh wrote a blog in response to my August 25 Product Management Talk on eliminating MABUSHI from your marketing. Larry's point is that knowing who the most important customer is and what is driving them goes beyond the product launch phase.  He's right.  In fact, knowing who cares and why that's important to them is the core premise of your product feature set, your messaging, your go to market, your collateral strategy, etc.  That information should live with all stakeholders for the entire product lifecycle so that anybody can use it when they need it.  If you don't have it, then someone may have to resort to MABUSHI to make a dealine.

A Short Case Study

I had started a new position at a company that had seen a lot of changes just before I joined.  A new ancillary product was launching within a week and I was asked to put together a datasheet for it.  I asked Product Management for insight and background and got the use cases right away.  They were easy enough to understand but I wanted to know the business drivers for the customers.  That's when I discovered that previous PMs either didn't document that information or never gathered it in the first place.  Like I said, there had been a lot of changes.  It was shipping that Friday so there was no time to talk to customers to develop persona information.  The field and our customers needed something quickly.  This was the first time I had to write something about a product I didn't know and before I had a chance to talk to any customers or prospects.

Rather than write up some cool-sounding gobbledygook that no one would read or understand I pidgeonholed the interim PM for an hour.  He finally decided on five points that "resonated with customers" when he spoke to them about it.  At least there was SOME market validation in what he said.  The datasheet went out on time but I did go back and update it later - after I had validated it with real customers. 

Key Take-Aways:
  • If everyone knows Why We Are Doing This and For Whom, then anybody can easily step in and create something relevant.
  • Write it down and keep it where everyone can find it.
Next Up: Grey-Haired Product Management

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