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Showing posts from 2010

Bloomberg: "Stop Hiring Leaders from Your Industry"

In their Bloomberg piece, "Why Innovation Is Beginner's Luck" , G. Michael Maddock and Raphael Louis Vitón write that companies emphasizing industry experience in their hiring practices do not, as a general rule, innovate well. On a related note, I've written before that industry experience is a poor substitute for the ability to learn markets . And don't forget Buckingham and Coffman's observation that the best managers hire for talent, not for experience . If you are hiring for innovation, the first bit of advice from Maddock and Vitón is: "Stop hiring leaders from your industry. Ask recruiters to look for a specific problem-solving ability instead of industry experience. Find leaders who have created the results you want in a unique way. For example, if you are faced with disintermediation issues—and all service companies are—look for experts who have tackled disintermediation. It's likely better that they know nothing about sump pumps or

What Is Buying Facilitation®?

Believe it or not, prospect problems and product positioning play only a small part in customers' decisions to purchase or use your product. The majority of obstacles to product adoption lie in the behind-the-scenes decision-making processes that people and organizations face. It's true I've dedicated many entries on this blog to pointing out that, to market and sell a successful product, you must develop it so that it: Solves problems that prospective customers face. Captures or "owns" a compelling position in the mind of the prospective customer. Many, if not most, products fail on both these counts. I've explained how the best product managers acquire market understanding and apply marketing principles to address these issues. Nonetheless, even products that solve problems and are well positioned often fail, because buyers weren't able to deal with change management issues that precede the purchase of a product. Prospects wishing to pu

Provide the Shortest Path

Trying new things - especially new software products - can be both intimidating and time consuming. You face a challenge when introducing a product in the marketplace. The forces of nature are working against you, since almost everyone but " early adopters " resists trying new products. A major reason people resist trying new products is the learning curve. People simply don't have the time or patience to wade through pages and pages of documentation just to figure out what a product does, envision what it's like to use it, and how it would disrupt the way they live their lives. One thing you can do to minimize this obstacle to adoption of your product is to provide the shortest path. Providing the shortest path means minimizing the time and effort necessary for a first-time prospective user to obtain demonstrable value from your product. To provide the shortest path, you do some combination of the following: Make available a "quick start" guide that a pr

Henry Ford's "Faster Horse" Quote

You may have heard the ( apocryphal ) Henry Ford quote: If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have said "a faster horse". Over at the On Product Management blog , Saeed gives his take on this infamous quote. He "hates" it, and gives some compelling reasons. Saeed is spot on in his explanations. Personally, I think the quote is great, but it's a matter of interpretation. The valid point of the quote is not that it's a bad idea to facilitate a conversation with your market to better understand it. The valid points are: You must ask the right questions to get valuable answers. You must interpret the answers thoughtfully - often outside their direct meaning - to glean reliable information. Asking questions is not always the best way to "listen" to your market. (E.g., sometimes pure observational studies are more reliable.) Nonetheless, I find the quote is helpful to combat "armchair product management" in the

Getting Feedback on Usability

It's common for people at all levels of a company, and in all company departments, to comment on the usability of the product or company web site and give suggestions on how to improve it. Why? Here's a clue. I wrote in late 2005 that: Most people, including executives, consider much of marketing to be common sense. We're all consumers, so we all know how we respond to products, names, logos, advertisements, and PR, right? So we're all experts on what works in marketing, no? Wrong. See the original blog entry to learn why marketing is not common sense . The same principle applies to usability. In playing the role of consumer in many aspects of our lives, we use products and web sites, and we know which ones are usable - and perhaps even what makes them usable - right? Wrong. Just as marketing isn't common sense, usability isn't common sense, and for the same reasons. Nonetheless, debates over usability and strategies for redesign can get quite contentio

Costs of Launching a New Brand

Reading Al Ries and Laura Ries' War in the Boardroom , I took particular note of the following excerpt (page 36): [A] left brainer at a smaller company thinks, "We can't afford the costs of launching a new brand. So let's use our existing name. Furthermore, we already have some good consumer recognition. With a new brand, we'd have to start all over again. We don't have the resources to launch a new product and a new brand at the same time, nor is it necessary to launch a new brand." The authors ridicule this line of reasoning, which is unfortunately common even among marketing professionals . The authors counter that successful product strategists: Strive to create a new product category. Create a new brand to stand for that category in the mind of the customer. Keep the brand focused on that one category. In the short run, creating a new brand may be more expensive. But in the long run, trying to "stretch" a brand name to stand for more th