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Showing posts from April, 2007

More on iPhone Predictions

I noted in March that Laura Ries predicted the iPhone will flop. Her reason is that she believes it is a convergence device. In a comment, my friend Brandon boldly disagreed with Ries and predicted that the iPhone will be a huge success. Now Seth Godin has joined the fray with his prediction: My take is quite different. I think the iPhone is going to sell 2 million units in 2007 and more in 2008. There, I said it. Meanwhile, Laura Ries stands by her prediction that the iPhone will not be successful. I respect the willingness of Laura, Brandon, and Seth to go on the record with their predictions. I don't yet have a prediction. I see the success of the iPhone hinging upon what Jack Trout and the elder Ries (Al Ries) call "the battle for the mind". Is the iPhone really a convergence of product categories, or is it merely a convergence of technologies ? Whether it is a convergence of product categories depends on how Apple will market it, and how consumers will eventually

"How Are You Doing?" Questions

When you are facilitating a meeting, it's a good idea to periodically ask "How are you doing?" questions. Some meeting participants have a lot to say but keep quiet, because they don't feel "safe". All of the participants who are vocal may agree on something, making those who disagree reluctant to share their contrary opinions. One of a meeting facilitator's responsibilities is to make all participants feel safe. How about asking: What's up, Paul? Do you have any thoughts to contribute? or It seems we have a lot of agreement that . . . . How about some contrary opinions? What do you think, Jane? How about you, Justin? Monitor the participation and body language of the meeting attendees. Proactively solicit contributions from those who aren't participating or who look like they have something to say.


Oh, Laura, thanks for your thoughts about descriptive names: One of the most tempting and logical but ultimately disastrous naming strategies is using a generic descriptive name. While you think you are giving your brand an advantage by describing exactly who you are and what you do. You aren’t able to build a powerful brand. Generic names are filed in the mind in the lowercase. To have power, brands need to be filed in the uppercase. An example? Seattle’s Best Coffee, might tell people that you have a high-end coffee shop from the Pacific Northwest. But when I ask people what Seattle’s best coffee is the answer is always the same: Starbucks. The best way to come up with a good brand name, in my opinion, is to sit in front of a computer typing candidate names into Google. Find ones that have close to zero search results .

Brand Resonance

Seth Godin recently advanced the following definition of "brand": [Prediction of what to expect] times [emotional power of that expectation] I have previously defined "brand" as A set of associations imprinted in the mind of a customer. Either way, a brand exists in the mind of the customer. And Daniel Sitter elaborates : [Godin] also suggests that focus is also an important factor for companies to remember when marketing their brand. If a company has diversified into many industries, their brand often becomes diluted, forcing confusion into the mind of the consumer, and a confused mind does not buy. Furthermore, reading between the lines reveals that the tendency towards offering various brand extensions may also tend to cloud the branding efforts of a company, leading to poor consumer recognition. The solution... keep it simple, maintaining a brand focus. In other words, brand focus not only makes it easier to set customer expectations, but also helps maximize t

Transcript of "Understanding Requirements Concepts" Webinar

Below is the transcript of the "Understanding Requirements Concepts" webinar I presented in January. You can also find it, along with links to the video and audio, here . Roger Cauvin: All right; thank you. Again, I’m Roger Cauvin with Cauvin, Inc. It’s a product management and research firm in Austin, Texas. Today as Suzannah mentioned, we’re talking about requirements concepts. The purpose of the presentation is going to be to clarify the concepts and terminology related to requirements. I’m going to do three things. First, I’m going to show how existing requirements terminology is actually contradictory. Second, I am going to show how confusion leads to product development failures, and third, I am going to clarify the concepts to remove the contradictions. I recently participated in an on-line debate about requirements terminology, and in that debate one of the other participants drew a distinction between external and internal aspects of products. The idea is that the li

Milestones Must Be Deliverables

Johanna Rothman recently wrote : I taught a workshop about transitioning to Agile earlier this week. One of the things that's difficult for many project managers to recognize is that milestones must be deliverables--otherwise, it's too hard to know when something is done. One of the participants had a slightly puzzled look on his face when I said that, so I'm not now thinking that another way to think about milestones is to call them handoffs. If everyone has the idea that their milestone is really a handoff to someone else in the project, you're more likely to get to "done" for a milestone. Many early practitioners of agile methods are confused by the concept of an iteration, because it almost seems like an arbitrary increment in a project. At any point in a project, we can take a snapshot of everything and call it the end of an iteration. Johanna points out, succinctly, that iterations should be oriented around deliverables. The most valuable deliverables wi

What is Competitive Analysis?

What is competitive analysis? You might think the following activities qualify as competitive analysis: Creating a matrix of features that shows how your product performs against competitors'. Comparing your product's market share, gross sales, etc. against those of your competitors. These activities can indeed be part of competitive analysis, but they neglect the most important factor. Competitive analysis should primarily be about analysis of customer psychography and perceptions. Don't just compare your product to other products, determine what differs between your customers and those of competing products. What are the problems your customers are trying to solve, and what are the problems competitors' customers are trying to solve? Document personas not just for the customers of your product, but for competitors' products. How do people perceive your product versus others? With what single word do they associate your product (i.e. what is your brand)? Compare


In Marketing Warfare , Al Ries and Jack Trout wrote: To play the game well, you first have to learn the rules, or principles, of the game. and The problem with marketing today is not just the lack of rules. The biggest problem of all is the failure to realize that one ought to have rules in the first place. To rectify that problem, marketing people must start to systematically examine the history of marketing and formulate the strategic principles that govern the outcome of corporate battles. Nothing today is as important as strategy. Good marketing doesn't come just from understanding and applying sound principles of marketing. It doesn't even come just from understanding your market. Good marketing requires both market understanding and principles.

Commuting's Dormant Problems

A recent article by Nick Paumgarten in the New Yorker magazine examines the psychology of commuters (those who travel long distances to work each day). Commuting is a revealing example of how: People are not always aware of the problems they face in their day-to-day lives. People are sometimes unable to judge rationally how valuable it is to solve the problems they face. Paumgarten observes: A commute is a distillation of a life’s main ingredients, a product of fundamental values and choices. And time is the vital currency: how much of it you spend—and how you spend it—reveals a great deal about how much you think it is worth. The root of a product manager's responsibilities is to understand problems in the marketplace. The behavior of commuters shows that researching these problems is not always straightfoward, however. For example: “Drive until you qualify” is a phrase that real-estate agents use to describe a central tenet of the commuting life: you travel away from the workpla

Dodgeball Founders Quit Google

The founders of the Dodgeball text messaging service have quit Google. Google acquired the service a couple of years ago. Co-founder Dennis Crowley wrote on his blog: It's no real secret that Google wasn't supporting dodgeball the way we expected. The whole experience was incredibly frustrating for us - especially as we couldn't convince them that dodgeball was worth engineering resources, leaving us to watch as other startups got to innovate in the mobile + social space. And while it was a tough decision (and really disappointing) to walk away from dodgeball, I'm actually looking forward to getting to work on other projects again. I wonder what the future holds for the service.

Origin of Various Company Names

James at the Forty blog tells us where various company names come from. A few highlights: Adobe: from the name of the river Adobe Creek that ran behind the houses of founders John Warnock and Chuck Geschke. Canon: Originally (1933) Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory the new name (1935) derived from the name of the company’s first camera, the Kwannon, in turn named after the Japanese name of the Buddhist bodhisattva of mercy. Nokia: started as a wood-pulp mill, the company expanded into producing rubber products in the Finnish city of Nokia. The company later adopted the city’s name. Note how most of the names of the established companies in James' list are either proper names, are derived from facts about the founders, or are derived from acronyms.

Upgrading Java

Sun recently released Java 6.0. As a current user of Java 5.0 ( Dadnab is written primarily in Java), I've looked into upgrading to the new version. So far, I haven't done so, because I don't know how. Before, it was mostly a matter of including jar files in the class path when compiling or running the Java program. Now I don't even know if those jar files exist in the new version. This situation is striking. I have studied Sun's Java site and forums. I have downloaded new Java software and read the documentation. Perhaps I've missed something, but I really have no idea how to make my currently operational Java programs use the new version. Did anyone specify upgradability requirements for Java 6.0? Did anyone test against them, having a sample of representative Java 5.0 users (not Sun employees) sit down and attempt to upgrade to the new version? I doubt it. They've ended up with a product and associated set of documentation that is unusable for some expe

Easter Eggs

Want to get people talking about your product? One way to get people talking is to include "Easter eggs" in your product. An Easter egg is a hidden feature that surprises and delights, but isn't necessarily useful or consistent with the core purpose of the product. When someone discovers an Easter egg, they are likely to spread word about it to their friends. "Hey, look what I found." An Easter egg that my friend Sonia recently passed along is in Google Maps: Go to Click 'Maps'. Click 'Get Directions'. Enter 'New York, New York' to 'Paris, France'. Read line #23. Sometimes developers include Easter eggs as a private joke, unbeknownst to you or your product manager. In other cases, Easter eggs are a deliberate means of generating word of mouth.

More on Affirmative Buying

Yesterday, I referenced and elaborated on Seth Godin's allusion to affirmative buying. Affirmative buying refers to the compelling reasons that customers buy a product, as opposed to the objections that non-customers voice as reasons for not buying it. The notion of affirmative buying relates to the principle of focus. There is a constant temptation to broaden the appeal of a product to expand the size of its potential market. But broadening the appeal of a product typically entails making it less appealing to the most avid customers. The weaknesses of the product that limit its appeal to a broad market typically come hand-in-hand with the strengths that maximize its appeal to a focused market. As an exercise, ask your product manager to present a plan to narrow the appeal of the product. In other words, ask her to consider the feature that appeals most to customers who are already the most excited about the product and turns off all other customers and non-customers. Have her

Affirmative Buying

Seth Godin recently wrote about stinky durian : Durian is a fruit from Southeast Asia that can be charitably described as smelling like stale baby vomit. How about a genetically engineered durian that is odorless? Would such a variety solve the "vomit odor problem" and therefore be a hit in the market for durian? Non-durian eaters don't have a 'durian problem'. They aren't standing by, fruitless, impatiently waiting for Songpol Somsri to figure out how to make a stinkless one. Nope. They've got cantaloupes and kiwis and all manner of other fruits to keep them busy. The feedback you get from non-consumers is rarely useful, because the objection they give is the reason they don't buy from you, not the thing that will cause them to affirmatively choose you. If you spend all your time trying to address objections that buyers might have to your product, you end up with a product that offends no one but doesn't appeal to anyone, either. Focus more on the

Bad Ideas

Jeff Lash counsels product managers to embrace, or at least not discourage, bad ideas . Team members provide ideas and suggestions about how to develop, market, and sell products. A fundamental part of fostering innovation is to encourage the free flow of ideas, good or bad. I would go so far as to add that your product manager should actively and intentionally be introducing bad ideas of his own. Doing so breaks the ice so that team members won't be afraid of introducing the first bad idea. It also puts team members in a counterintuitive state of mind, which is conducive to innovation.

Small Annoyances

Usability guru Jakob Neilsen tells us about small annoyances in user interfaces that compound and cost you money. Neilsen highlights the use of drop-down menus to select state abbreviations in e-commerce sites. This example resonated with me, because I have definitely been annoyed by such menus. Neilsen notes that Amazon offers users the ability to simply type the two-letter state abbreviations. Either way, Neilsen recommends web sites "validate that the ZIP code/postal code corresponds to the state, province, or other locality entered by the user". The larger point is that your product manager should be framing the metrics to measure these annoyances, QA should be testing them, and your web designer should be minimizing them.

Why to Follow Guy Kawasaki's PowerPoint Rules

A story in Australia's Sunday Morning Herald tells us that using PowerPoint in presentations can reduce the audience's ability to follow and retain the information presented: Pioneered at the University of NSW, the research shows the human brain processes and retains more information if it is digested in either its verbal or written form, but not both at the same time. John Sweller, who developed the "cognitive load theory", clarifies: It is effective to speak to a diagram, because it presents information in a different form. But it is not effective to speak the same words that are written, because it is putting too much load on the mind and decreases your ability to understand what is being presented. Famed venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki has advised PowerPoint presenters to follow strict guidelines to make their presentations effective. These guidelines are primarily based on the premise that the visual aspects of a presentation should merely be cues or adjuncts t

Researching for Test Cases

Part of the reason market research is important is to understand your prospective customers and to define and market your product accordingly. However, the testing of your product can also benefit from market research. As I've expanded Dadnab to other areas (it is currently operational in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, and the tri-state New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut area), I've used Google Maps extensively to come up with test cases. For each area, Dadnab has a suite of anywhere from 30 to 60 tests that I run periodically to ensure it is working properly. Yet you don't improve what you don't measure. Occasionally, when I run into someone who lives in a covered area and ask them for locations to plug into Dadnab, Dadnab doesn't handle it well. So I now conduct on-going market research that polls prospective users for information about the trips they actually make. I then incorporate these trips into the suite of tests.

How to Choose Logo Colors

Al Ries and Laura Ries give us several pieces of advice about choosing colors for a brand logo: A brand should use a color that is the opposite of its major competitor's. Choosing a color that differentiates is more important than picking one that sets an intended mood or is descriptive. A single color is almost always the best color strategy for a brand. For more information, see The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding .