Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Product Marketing Is For the Birds

Completely coincidentally, Josh Duncan wrote a blog yesterday about Product Launches over on his A Random Jog blog.  No, we didn't plan it but he did ask my opinion before he posted it.

My 9 year old son is a budding birdwatcher and last Christmas we got him a squirrel-proof feeder and 30 pounds of bird feed (Ace Hardware was having a sale).   The feed was general purpose but appropriate for the birds in our area.  The feeder has this clever mechanism on it so that birds of most size can feed on it but the weight of a heavier squirrel closes off the feeding ports.  This was a major item in the MRD because the squirrels in the neighborhood make a good living off acorns and other people's bird feeders so we weren't keen to contribute to their weight problems.

With such a deep and broad target market waking us up every morning, the TAM was vast and attracting buyers was going to be easy.  Afterall, the other players in the market (our neighbors) had plenty of buyers so it wasn't going to take much for us to establish a presence and attract our share.

Product launch went smoothly.  We hung the feeder on our nice, sunny and protected-from-the-neighborhood-cats patio and waited for the birds to arrive.  My son had visions of cardinals, tanagers and all manner of exotic or rarely seen birds flocking to our patio.  Nothing.

We waited some more, trying to socialize the concept of patience to our son.  And waited.  Maybe there was something wrong with the launch plan.

We checked the MRD and read the documentation on the bag of seeds again.  Yup, good for jays, finches, chickadees, wrens and all manner of local songbirds.

No birds.

Thinking it was a QA issue, we checked the feed itself.  With the rain we've had this year (twice the normal rate) the seeds may have gone moldy.  Nope, seeds were dry and fine.  QA recertified.

No birds.

Maybe the feeder was too close to the house making the birds shy.  Nope.  Feeder package said our positioning was right.

Still no birds.  More patience discussions.

A little Internet research gave up a tidbit that it sometimes takes birds up to a year to find a feeder and get used to it.  Whew!  The launch plan was sound and the product requirements were right for the buyer persona - just the timing assumptions were off.

Finally, after nearly four months a pair of Western Scrub Jays built a nest in the pear tree next to the porch and started helping themselves.  First to visit was Mr. Jay.  Two or three times a day he would flit in, grab some seed and take off.  Mrs. Jay would show once a day.  Then they started showing up more frequently as evidenced by the spillage all over the patio.

Then something interesting happened: they changed their buying patterns.  Mr Jay shows up frequently, grabs beakfulls of seed, dumps them on the patio then takes off.  Mrs. Jay delicately takes a few seeds at a time and leaves for a while.  When they come back they go down to the patio and eat the spilled seeds, flitting here and there taking one seed at a time.

I got tired of having seed all over my patio so to improve my customers' UX I swept the spilled seed into a pile right below the feeder.  If it was in a pile, they wouldn't have to hop all over the place to eat.  That was the assumption.

Mrs. Jay, as you can see, is content to sit in the pile of seeds and eat her fill in one spot.  Mr. Jay, however, still prefers to chase all over the patio picking up individual seeds he dumped on the ground during a previous visit.

The other buyers in the neighborhood?  Haven't seen a one yet.  Maybe I'll start a social media campaign and encourage Mr & Mrs Jay to start tweeting about it...

Key Take-Aways:
  • Sometimes it does take a while to get results, even though everything else was done right.  And even when there's lots of buyers around.
  • Even though they receive the same value, sometimes your customer's buy differently and sometimes they don't respond to an improved UX
  • Not all your personas are going to buy at the same time
  • Some buyers are tidy buyers, some are messy.  To get one sometimes you have to allow both.
Next up: Is it time to change the channel?

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    What Did You Bring Me, Daddy?

    A few weeks ago, Joshua Duncan, Scott Selhorst and I talked  on the Start With the Customer prodcast about getting value from trade shows.  We discussed goals, capturing value from shows and choosing the right ones in the first place.

    What we didn't talk about was tchotchkes. (cue ominous music)

    You can't plan an event, trade show or conference without asking, "What are we going to give away?"  My sons are now well-trained to expect a toy or a pen or a thingamy every time I go to a conference or trade show.  I always manage to come home with several doohickeys for them and for myself.  Some I've been using for years like the Leatherman Wave multitool I got from HP at a channel conference.  Most others, sadly, get tossed after a few days - just like datasheets.  The most interesting item I've seen recently came from the sharp folks at Ksplice when I was at Red Hat Summit in May.  More on that in a moment.

    There are two reasons to give something away at an event: drive traffic to the booth with the intention of engaging prospects or build awareness over time through sustained impressions.  If you want to drive traffic, have a giveaway that is unique or truly novel - something that makes people stop you and say, "That's cool.  Where do I get one?"  To get sustained impressions, make sure you choose something that is of real quality so it will stand the tests of time - just like your products.  Keep the quantities down, too.  You don't need to break the bank and not every booth attendee deserves to get one.

    With grocery stores paying 5 cents each time you bring your own bag, sturdy canvas totes, while a touch mundane, give lasting utility, reduce plastic waste and return a small financial reward.  I keep my Leatherman on my dresser and use it at least once a week for some quick repair around the house.  There's a nifty book light in my backpack I use to read on planes.

     Ksplice, went for booth traffic and engagement by going cool retro and gave out diskettes with their web site and tag line on the label.  When was the last time you saw a 5 1/4"  diskette, let alone used one?  Seeing one on their counter drew me to the booth like a moth to a flame.  I had a good conversation with them, took one and continued my tour of the booths.  About 10 minutes later, someone saw it in my hand and stopped me with, "A floppy disk?  What are you doing with that?"  We reminisced a few moments and I told him where he could get one of his own.  Mission accomplished.  And since Ksplice bought them on eBay for about $0.20 each (they were previously used), mission accomplished inexpensively.


    Key Take-Aways:
    • Quality and truly useful items WILL get used repeatedly.
    • Cheap giveaways (pens, pins, toys) cheapen your brand and don't differentiate.  Avoid them.
    • It's okay not to give something to everyone who shows up.  Spend a little more per item and give away fewer to get more perceived value.
    • Novel items related to your industry or product line will get you traffic.
    • If your offering and messaging are on target, why bother giving anything away in the first place?
    What are some of your favorite or most memorable (good or bad) things you've brought home from a trade show?

      Next up:  Product Marketing is for the birds

      Thursday, June 9, 2011

      A Company That Did It Right at Red Hat Summit

      Last time I took Accenture to task for a horrible presentation at Red Hat Summit.  This time, I'd like to compliment a company who did it right with very tight, clear messaging:  KSplice.

      In a world of "leading providers of next generation technology" it is refreshing - and encouraging - to see simple, clear messaging.

      Ksplice has a tool for Linux admins that lets them install kernel updates without having to reboot.  Wonder of wonders - they're sign says EXACTLY that.

      As I walked around the show, trying to figure out what the other vendors did, these guys stood out.  It's blatantly clear that this is for Linux admins and says exactly what it does.  The first question people ask when they walk up is, "How does it do that?"  And you have a conversation.  Non-admins or people who don't use Linux don't need to waste their time trying to figure out if it's for them.  KSplice doesn't need to waste time filtering out people who aren't potential customers because they don't use Linux.

      So that's what they said on their booth graphic.  No muss, no fuss, just for people in their target market.

      Simple. Brilliant.  Efficient.

      Key Take-Aways:
      • Know who you want to speak to at a show - and who you don't
      • Know what you want to say to those people
      • Say it
      • Simply.
      Next Up: More praise for Ksplice.

      Friday, June 3, 2011

      Accenture's Unheard $125,000 Commercial

      Thanks for coming back.  I've been busy recently and time for writing the blog has suffered, but now it's time to get back to ridding the world of MABUSHI.

      A while ago, I wrote about MABUSHI and the metrics you can use to spot it: the Huh?, Spouse, Who Cares? and Crickets tests.  These tests were done from the context of a presentation to a small audience, usually in a conference room or trade show booth.  I was at the Red Hat Summit in early May and saw a brutally illustrated example of another engagement metric - crowd noise - courtesy of Accenture.

      photo copyright www.photos8.com
      Accenture paid $125,000 to be a Visionary Sponsor of the show and got the privilege of delivering one of the three opening night keynote speeches.  General Hugh Shelton, Red Hat's Chairman of the Board, went first.  Osama bin Laden had just been killed the day before and everyone wanted to listen to what he had to say.  He kept it short, lively and with the right amount of humor and substance.  The 3000+ attendees kept quiet and listened attentively. Next up was CEO Jim Whitehurst, who introduced Red Hat's cloud strategy and key technologies.  It wasn't bad as CEO product presentatons go, but it was a bit longish.  Still, the audience paid attention.

      Then came the chief architect of Accenture to show why they were a "visionary" sponsor for the conference.  The audience gave him the chance to begin but it went downhill with the first slide.  The room noise went up and kept going until you could barely hear the presenter.  It was so painful to watch and listen to that I finally left in search of the buffet tables.

      $125,000 so no one could hear what you had to say!  Yikes.  I'm glad it wasn't my budget.

      There's been a lot written lately about PowerPoint presentations recently, including right here.  I especially like this one from Gizmodo.  Not only was About Accenture his first slide, it rivaled some of the worst I've ever seen.  Yech!

      To make matters worse, he said his Marketing Department told him he had to show this slide.  As if the audience needed to know who Accenture is!  And you're the Chief Architect, where does some schmoe in the Marketing Group get off telling you what you have to say?

      Not satisfied by coming off as a weenie, he then went into excruciating detail on every bullet point in eye chart that was the About Accenture slide.  Cue audience noise.

      Talk about blown opportunities.  Here were 3000 people waiting to hear what Accenture knew about their problems and how Accenture could help and all they got was 15 minutes of yet another clueless talking head telling everyone how great he was. Ugly.

      All I can say is that I'm glad it wasn't my money paying for that slot.  What a waste.

      Key Take-Aways:

      • If the audience is making more noise than you, they're not listening.
      • If you're going to follow a decorated war hero on stage, you better have something interesting and relevant to say.
      • Even if the "marketing department" says you have to show that slide, show some backbone, put it at the end of the presentation and talk about something interesting.
      Next Up:  Two companies that did it right at Red Hat Summit