Archives for category: Strategy

When I drink a pint of booze I often think about the effort that went in to getting it into my hands and to my lips. Someone had to grow the ingredients, then harvest them. Somebody had to take the ingredients, combine them with other ingredients that they didn’t have to grow but still acquire, and using skill, technology, equipment and time produce a barrel of beer.

Somebody then had to warehouse the barrel, schedule it for delivery and get someone to distribute it to a licensed place that served booze. Finally, somebody to had to set up the barrel, connect it to some pipes, pour the product into a glass and serve it to me in their furnished, heated, cleaned building.

A pint is generally 20% either side of €4.50. It lasts about 10 to 30 minutes, depending both on its number in a sequence of beers and my mood.

Does that not strike you as being ludicrously good value? The effort that’s gone into producing the lovely, creamy work of art that should be in front of me right now, as I write this on a Friday evening.

Whenever I want to pay for something, anything, that’s relatively small, I use the pint benchmark:

Is this item expensive compared to a pint? Does it provide comparable value to me?

Then I act on my decision accordingly.

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Almost everything we do is guided by self-interest. It’s human nature. Heck, it’s in every sentient being’s nature, otherwise it would cease to exist.

This rule seems to apply to us humans at all levels of the famous Maslow hierarchy of needs, from the basic acts like food and warmth to the more sophisticated ones like self-actualisation, which I think means achieving our potential.

When we do something with family and friend interests at heart, there’s probably a degree of self-interest in there too. Even when we do something for people we don’t know, in an act of charitable kindness, self-interest figures in the mix, aside from the simple satisfaction we get from our generosity of spirit, time or money.

It always comes down to that, the underlying reason for why we do stuff.

The question for me is this. Can we rise above it? Can we do something that’s genuinely not self-serving? Not all the time, but once in a while, perhaps occasionally?

When you’re going for a walk or driving or taking a train, a plane or a boat, you’re looking for different scenery, a different view of the world. Variety keeps the interest and adds to our bank of experiences. Too much of the same view and we get bored. It’s no use changing our location if the scenery is still the same.

It’s the same thing with work and play. You’re looking for a different scenario, a new angle, another way of looking at and experiencing things. While we love our routine, within that routine we also strive for variety. There’s no point making the effort to change if we get the same view, the same scenario. In this case the pain of change is greater than the pain of the staying the same.

We want the pain of change to be less than the pain of staying the same. This is why, if were going to improve our lot, or seize an opportunity, or fix a problem, we need to look at a different scenario.

The same scenario doesn’t work for us. We tried it already. It’s done. Time to move on. Time for a different scenario.

Time flies when you’re having fun. It drags horribly if you’re bored.

Sometimes you need more time and it seems to slip away quickly. Paradoxically, I’ve found that the harder you work, the slower the time seems to go past. Let me offer an analogy.

When you’re running on a treadmill, and you’re jogging or running more slowly – perhaps in your recovery phase – the time seems to gallop past. When you run faster and really work on the treadmill, the time seems to crawl past.

When I’m up against a deadline I find that if I work harder it has the effect of slowing down the time. Now, of course, you could argue that the harder you work the more you can get done in the same time – just as you can cover more distance in the same time on the treadmill – but the point is you feel more in control of the time rather than it being in control of you. This approach also works if you’re bored.

So there you go, work harder to slow down time if you’re busy, and work harder to speed up time if you’re bored. You heard it here first. Or maybe you knew it already.

As a marketer I like to participate in market research if I’m asked, and if I’m allowed – people from a marketing background can sometimes be excluded from participating in surveys. I know how hard it is get intelligence on a market.

Generally it’s a very short call, which is fine. Sometimes, I get called by a big research house in Dublin to help with a state of the market survey they do periodically. How’s my business doing, how do I think it will do, and so on. I avoid their calls these days.

Here’s why: it’s an unfair exchange. Firstly, the call is always about 15 minutes long, which is far too long and contains loads of repetitive questions. 15 minutes is a really long time to tie someone up on the phone. Secondly, I get nothing back. Not a copy of the research, nothing. In fact, it’s not just an unfair exchange, there’s no exchange at all. It’s all one way, coming from me.

Many companies doing research will offer a voucher, or a copy of the research, or entry into a draw for a device, in return for your time and attention. These guys don’t. They just persist with the phone calls.

If it’s not a fair deal for both parties, it will never last. It will simply cause resentment and close doors for good.

 

In this last post, for now, in the mini-series on product marketing in agile environments, I offer you my third thought on what has worked well for me. In fact, I talked about it briefly at the end of my second thought.

The third thought is this – and how difficult is that to say for a non-native speaker, with 2 voiced ‘th’ sounds and 2 voiceless ones! – leave the detail until the end. The detail is the filler, the proof points, the things that are only needed when the audience has engaged and wants to go deeper.

In your earlier iterations of the content to support your new product or enhancement, you focused on the high level, the really important stuff that resonates with your audience, the reason why you developed the product in the first place. People are busy, they are subject to a constant, heavy flow of information. They don’t have perfect memories; they’re only going to remember one thing you tell them, if you’re lucky, and you’re probably going to have to tell them multiple times anyway.

This is a good thing, because in an agile environment the exact detail of what you’re offering isn’t decided and baked in until the end. So your job is to build up the interest and demand with high level, highly distilled and focused messaging which helps your personas self-select. Once they have engaged and want to know more, then you can hit them with the detail which you now have.

This is the third post, and my second thought, as part of a mini-series on what to focus on in product marketing where the software development is agile and releases are small and quick fire, rather than traditional, infrequent and sometimes slightly ponderous.

My second thought is this, and it borrows from the agile philosophy itself. Approach your content and your communications in iterations. It’s no good disappearing into your bunker at the beginning of the creation process and coming out right before launch with the finished article before anyone’s had a chance to comment on it.

You need to iterate, and iterate often. Quick fire drafts get your thoughts out early and give key stakeholders the chance to sense check the direction you’re heading in and feed back so that you can adjust if necessary. Reviewers can track their changes in your documents so that when you evolve your work for a second and third look they only need to focus on the new stuff and not re-read everything again. Your job is to make sure that each new version still hangs together, makes sense and is a coherent, unified piece of work.

This is how I approach almost all of my work, including product marketing assignments. Do the homework, collate all the information, get a sense of the patterns, distil everything down to the key messages, and do a first pass. The early, high level draft allows you to align everyone’s thinking and affords you the time to change accordingly. The detail can wait til later, when you’re closer to the finish line.

 

In a previous post I introduced a mini-series offering thoughts and experience on how to do product marketing in an environment where agile software development creates a sea of small releases rather than a desert with a few major milestones affording you time to circle the wagons.

My first thought is that you should stay true to the principles of what you’re trying to do. Faced with a barrage of product enhancements and releases of all sizes and shapes, you have to prioritise in terms of your audience, your audience segments, and their personas.

What is most important to them? What will attract their customers and keep them loyal? What does your enhancement or release do to help them help their customers? Answering these questions should drive what you devote to building a story about, and, perhaps more importantly, what you choose not to focus on.

When you wear this special lens which focuses on what their customers care about, you can develop messaging which helps your customer solve these problems or capitalise on these opportunities. It’s never about your products’ features and functions, unless they uniquely guide your customers to an understanding of how you can solve their real problem, which is sometimes not the problem they think they have.

Don’t get bogged down in the iterations of your solution, get bogged down in why your customers should care about where you’re heading.

I thought it worthwhile to do a short series on product marketing in an agile environment.

Many product marketers are used to gearing up to perhaps 3 major releases a year. They have runway, they can plan with an end goal in mind, and they have time to align the resources and get the detail right.

When faced with an agile software development methodology, however, they find the traditional approach more difficult, since the cadence is now ‘sprints’ every two weeks and a release every three weeks, or something of that order. It requires a different approach.

First, however, some definitions are probably in order. By product marketing I mean the process of influencing customers to buy – and enabling sales people to sell – business-to-business products. Agile software development is the process of developing software in iterations and a bit at a time, allowing for flexibility and course correction on the way, rather than traditionally going from a start to a finish line in one big go. Noice that I’m not talking about agile marketing, which is essentially doing marketing activities in a way that borrows from agile software development.

What tends to happen to marketers not used to agile are the following symptoms:

  • You’re not sure what you’ll be getting in the end product
  • You’re not sure when you’ll be getting it (stifle your sniggers if you can make that argument for traditional development…)
  • Stuff happens and the product is out there before you’re ready or before you even know about it

What product marketers generally prefer is a small number of large meaty releases that they can get their teeth into. With agile you can sometimes feel you’re faced with a roadmap littered with lots of small releases, all vying for attention.

It’s against this background that I thought the subject warranted a mini-series. Stay tuned if this is your bag. If not, feel free to click away…

Well, they’ve finally done it. They’ve enforced the algorithm. The party’s over.

Let me explain. With Ryanair you pay a base price and then you can pay for optional extras like priority boarding ahead of the plebs, choose your seat, insurance, car hire, extra bags, that kind of thing. You can check in early if you pay to choose your seat, or you wait til 5 days before departure and take pot luck on seat choice for no extra bucks.

If you were travelling with someone, however, and had booked your flight in the same transaction, although Ryanair always said that there was no guarantee you could sit next to that person for free, you always did. Until now. Well, until a few weeks ago, when they obviously tweaked the seat allocation algorithm.

When I checked in, those few weeks ago – 5 days before my flight with my daughter, who’s under 14, I went straight to the boarding pass stage, eschewing the pay-for-your-seat option and – lo and behold – she’s at the back of the plane and I’m at the front. What’s more, both of us got middle seats. Ryanair and sitting together no longer applies unless you pay. There is no more base price if you want to sit next to your friend or family member.

I wonder if the algorithm would still apply and they would split us up, were my daughter 3 rather than 13…either way, it’s a case of Ryanair further squeezing the rag to get another couple of drops out of it. Bearing in mind a few years ago they were making about €11 profit per traveller, another €4 for a chosen seat is a tidy uplift. I wonder how much customer goodwill will leak as a consequence.