2003 Newsletter Archive
It's that time again. Every year, Pragmatic Institute conducts a survey about roles, responsibilities, and compensation for product management professionals. You can find last year's results on our web site. As always, we're asking some questions to get more visibility into a typical day in the life of a product manager. Don't worry; we're still asking compensation questions so you can see how your company's salary and bonus structure compares to the rest of the industry.
One of the biggest headaches for software companies of all sizes is the creation of Requests for Proposal. RFPs are labor intensive, exhaustive and exhausting efforts to tout the product. The effort to produce RFPs can be a drain on precious resources in Sales, Marketing, and Engineering. And product managers get involved more often than they wish they did.
During training seminars I am often asked to compare the role of the product manager with that of a sales engineer. People look at the Pragmatic Institute grid and see boxes for channel support including going on 'special calls', providing seminar and trade show support, and so on. Aren't these jobs for sales engineers?
The typical product manager gets $4000 per year in a bonus plan, yet most do not find their bonus particularly motivating. The problem is that the bonuses are based on factors that are out of product management's control. The typical bonus program is based on one or more of these variables: company profit, product revenue, and personal objectives. Yet fewer than 10% of product managers report these bonuses are extremely motivating. There's a simple explanation.
A Customer Advisory Board (CAB) is a representative group of customers that meets periodically to offer advice on the product and company direction. These meetings are a great way to validate that your product direction is in sync with your customers' technology and business plans. Key customers can look at your plans and provide valuable feedback about your strategy. This article contains some tips and strategies for running effective CABs.
At a meeting of customers, such as an annual user conference, do you dread the 'feature list haggling' breakout session? Does it seem to end up being a complaint session, which is never strategic and never satisfying? It sends you running for the bar vowing never to do one again. Instead of haggling over features, try a force field analysis.
This month, we are launching our print journal. Called productmarketing.com, it is a magazine designed for technology product managers. If you're on our mailing list, you'll receive a complimentary copy in the mail.
Marketing professionals learn methods for increasing the company's profits by creating products that delight customers, and by moving all sales cycles forward for all sales channels. Unfortunately many companies stop their marketing efforts once the sale is completed. 'After all, we have the money. They have the product. Isn't the sale completed?' But successful companies know that a well-implemented, referenceable customer is vastly more valuable than the money from a single contract.
A frequent request from the sales force and others in the company is a product roadmap. 'What's coming in the next release and the ones after that?' Long buying cycles common with strategic products often mean the buyers need to know what the product will contain when the cycle ends. A roadmap details the features and platforms for future releases over the upcoming months and years.
Many product managers are familiar with rules and strategies for product naming, but what about version numbers and project code names? Do we need them? Who owns them?
Have you been embracing external visits?
In the Market
Many high-tech companies have made knowing the market a key element of each product managers job objectives. One company's product managers spend two weeks per month traveling to customers and prospects (without sales people). Another company requires ten documented onsite calls each quarter plus a full week onsite once a year working side-by-side with an existing customer. Their onsite sabbatical refreshes domain expertise and reveals an astounding number of small but significant enhancements that make the customers want to renew the product year after year. Read more about Interviewing Prospects (Getting outside your comfort zone).
One company has a team of full-time marketing employees making onsite win/loss calls. They want to learn 'What did we do right?' and 'What did we do wrong?' They've learned two things: 1) you cannot effectively do win/loss over the telephone, and 2) fewer than 50% of their losses have anything to do with the product. Talk about valuable information! Read more about Win/Loss Analysis (Why Are We Winning and Why Are We Losing?).
Many product managers have taken our advice and started giving short presentations at onsite user training sessions. The result: a bunch of new business cards, people they can call to clarify an issue, and more importantly, contacts that are actual product users instead of buyers or technical support. Read more about Keeping Close to Customers.
Write down five non-product-specific questions you'd like to ask customers.
Identify three customers to visit this month.
Then do it.
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