The Two Quotes

Quote #1

“The business and marketing functions of a startup should be considered as important as engineering and development, so they deserve an equally rigorous methodology to guide them”

Steve Blank(1)

Quote #2

“So why so many organizations hire expensive and highly qualified engineers for developing software and then invest in a few-hours, general marketing courses for their marketing/business people?”

Donato Mangialardo (2)

(1) Blank has spent over thirty years within the high technology industry. He has founded or worked within eight startup companies, four of which have gone public. Blank is recognized for developing the Customer Development methodology, which launched the Lean Startup movement. Blank teaches and writes about Customer Development and is a consulting associate professor of entrepreneurship at Stanford.He currently lectures at the Haas School of Business, University of California Berkeley, Columbia University and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). @sgblank

(2) Donato Mangialardo is an unknown follower of Steve Blank. He helps  organizations to define, validate, build and market products for sustainable commercial success.  He has spent 10 years of his career in Silicon Valley where he learned how to learn. With focus on Product Marketing/Management. He is still learning a lot. He believes that there is nothing like “seeing the light in your customer’s eyes”. And he does see that from time to time. @donatomm


The product is NOT the PRODUCT !

The product is NOT a great piece of software, or hardware for that matter.
Your product is actually the “Business Model”
“A business model describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers & captures value”.  Alexander Osterwalder
As an example, here are a few things that are worth considering in a Product Business:
  • What market problem do you solve?
  • For whom? What are the customer segments? (Buyer Personas)
  • Unique Value Proposition. What is the primary reason why buyers will buy your solution? Is it unique?
  • Solution (Usually, but mistakenly, referred to as “Product”): what ie the minimal feature set that can support (together with the other points) your value proposition?
  • How the solution will be purchased by buyers?
  • How to measure progress? What key activity do you plan to measure? Es. how subscribers respond to the solution over time, by using time based cohorts.
  • Cost structure
  • Pricing and Revenue model.  How do you make money?
  • Business Sustainability: how hard to emulate is your Unique Value Proposition? It can be a technology platform, a powerful established channel, a level of awarensss in a segment etc.
  • Customer retention and support strategy: once buyers become customers, how do you make them happy and loyal? How can you turn them into net promoters?

Anything  missing? Anyway, this is closer to “the Product”. Depending on business, there are main factors that describe how an organization creates, delivers & captures value.

What I hear often in product companies

Here is what I often hear in product companies. Guess which is the most common one?

  1. I want the confidence that my product goes where we want it to go. I don’have it today.
  2. The product does not sell! What’s wrong? How to fix that?
  3. The product sells but not enough in this segment
  4. Going up (or down)market: what the product should be like? How much it will cost me?
  5. Going global: what the product should be like? How much it will cost me?
  6. Need guidance for the next generation of products. We have a new vision to achieve. We need help
  7. How do I make sure that what we are building is right? We have invested a lot!
  8. Is there a way to tell whether my requirements will deliver against the expected product?
  9. Is there a solid, simple way that is able to tell my company “you are following the right direction” (or  at least the one you have decided to set)
  10. How to build roadmaps that serve business goals? (vs. good-looking, time-consuming slideware with unrealistic, wishful milestones ?)
  11. Marketing people produce tons of sales tools, brochures and presentations. But my sales people say “they are useless” and don’t use them. What’s wrong?
  12. I want that my sales people sell what we must sell, not what it is easiest for them to sell, and I need marketing to support that.
  13. There are a lot of ideas, inputs from sales and pressures from individuals about “top, critical priorities”. Or… “we won’t sell without this or that”. I want to make sure we do the right product for the business. I want clarity.
  14. We spend a lot of time debating features with development. Often it sounds like a war between opinions and I am not able to help much. I want to make sure we have someone driving our offering for measurable benefits for my business. I do not want fights!
  15. We spend way too much energy toward several directions without getting the expected results, our competition is killing us. Time for change. but.. change what? Where do I start from?
  16. Every decision we make is an ordeal. Not to mention fights, politics and internal wars.  I want my line managers to be more aligned, efficient, with clear, shared goals in mind (the same ones).  A sort of “autofocus” mechanism that points to my business’ priorities
  17. I need a methodology that allows me to make informed, intelligent decisions that do not take into account personal agendas and internal politics

What are the ones that are more familiar to YOU?


Your organization builds products.

A product is, simply stated, any source of value for your customers. It can be a service, a phone, a candy, a Cloud Platform for B2B apps.

Value means providing benefits to your customers

Your organization has the following :

A new great idea, a vision for a new Product
A solid strategy in place
Ridicolously smart people
An inspiring, principle-centered, strong management team
A great infrastructure in place
An hard-working, dedicated team
A robust yet very feasible plan
A very welll working and well managed Agile methodology, since 2003

Then you ship the product.

Your customers don’t like it. They don’t buy it.


Your dream organization  has been successfully, faithfully rigorously executing a plan to achieve failure (Eric Reis, The Lean Startup)

This is why I spend every day of my week helping organizations to make sure they know their customers, their buyers, the problems they have and that we can help with our current and future products.

Vision, Strategy and Bad Strategy: 5 tips

Too many organizational leaders say they have a strategy when they do not. Instead, they espouse what I call “bad strategy.” Bad strategy ignores the power of choice and focus, trying instead to accommodate a multitude of conflicting demands and interests. Like a quarterback whose only advice to his teammates is “let’s win,” bad strategy covers up its failure to guide by embracing the language of broad goals, ambition, vision, and values. Each of these elements is, of course, an important part of human life. But, by themselves, they are not substitutes for the hard work of strategy.

Richard Rumel, McKinsey Quarterly, The perils of bad strategy

Common Dilemmas around Vision and Strategy

Carla the CEO says: “I know I need a vision but I can’t seem to understand what a vision actually is.”

“I have read a lot of terms like mission, purpose, values, strategic intent, but no one has never given me a satisfactory, clear explanation of what a vision is and what actionable directions it gives me” adds Josh the VP od Sales

On the other hand, Gina, the marketing communication specialist, knows very well what her company vision is. “It’s on my cubicle wall. But how does it actually guide my work?” she says puzzled.

The very assertive Frank the CEO complains: “I do have a Great Vision, but they don’t get it. I’ve given them a memo with all the details. What’s wrong with them?”

Alvin, the sales engineer who travels all week-long, goes: “What? Vision? Again with that BS? You had another of those fancy marketing books for breakfast this morning, didn’t you?  Leave me alone, please. I’ve got work to do, at least I do!”

Vision and Strategy at work

What is a “vision” then?

It is a destination. A desirable business end-state for an organization. It’s about knowing where you want to go. And, where you don’t want to go.

It’s NOT what you want to “do”.

It’s not the “how

It’s the “where

And,  what’s a Strategy then?

It’s the path to get to that destination. How you will get there.

In other words:

  • Strategy: Sounds great! But… to go where? …“I have a map but I don’t know where to go”
  • Vision: We have one! But… how do we get there?   …”I know my destination, now I need a map!”

“If a company does not have a vision of where it wants to go, then any product strategy is likely to take it somewhere. But will they be happy with somewhere when it gets there?”

Michael McGrath

“I can always plan to operate in full market-driven mode, tuning my offering for an army of buyers that want my product or service, using the latest social media and content marketing strategies. But, how can I do that without a Company Vision and a Strategy that oversees the business and guides me there?”

Donato Mangialardo, Director of Product Strategy

5 Tips – Using Vision and Strategy for guiding everything you do

Tip#1 – You need to have both. They need to be fully aligned to provide guidance and focus. As a Top Manager, you want to make sure they are always, consistently aligned.

Tip#2 – The Vision must be extremely clear. It needs to provide focus. What is in scope, what is NOT. What is success like. Ambiguity brings individual interpretations.

Tip#3 – Strategy means what do we intend to do in order to achieve the goals expressed by the Vision. What should we NOT do.  Again, conciseness  and clarity are  a must. Everybody needs to remember it and apply it.

Tip #4 – Establish a Strategy by looking at your distinctive competences, but also acknowledge the challenges your organization faces, including inconvenient truths. Provide an approach to overcoming them.

Tip #5 – Put together Vision, Strategy and Why your organization believes it can be successful in a coherent, 3-sections statement that fits in a page.  It is a difficult exercise, but it works like a charm if well done.

(I see these more as Rules than Tips actually)

Conclusion: Align your business and your teams to understand what is and how to reach your business destination, the Vision you have set for your organization.  What’s the Strategy. This will provide focus, facilitating decisions and avoiding debates of opinions. As a byproduct, it will increase motivation and engagement in your teams.

Then, if you ask yourself …

  • “Right, but… do we have an actionable vision?”
  • “How do we get there?”
  • “Do we have a clear strategy?”
  • “Will we be able to follow that strategy?
  • “What changes will be required?”
  • “Is my company ready?”
  • “How do I know if I have set the right Vision and the right Strategy for my business?”
  • “How do I actually align them?”
  • “How do I know whether I have factored-in all the variables?”

…Then (note, this is a Self-Promoting paragraph) you want to consider investing in this  effective exercise that will direct your business to repeatable wins and eventually success.This is one of the things I like to do the most in my profession at, with a solid, proven methodology drawn from a specific experience in International, US-based and Italian companies of various business models and size.

I am sure you may have questions: please leave your comment. I will surely reply and assist your cause.

“Request” and “Requirement” – the difference

Sometimes a customer requests a functionality. As an example, because she runs into a problem while interacting with the product. This is more serious when it happens often, when it prevents to accomplish critical or important tasks or when it forces time-consuming and error-prone workarounds.

In this case we are talking about a CRM-Like software, that is a software that every sales people and customer support org uses every day. It could be any enterprise software.

The customer says:

¨I want to sort alerts by sender.  I need to sort by attributes.  Sender must be the first column. How is it possible you cannot sort alerts?
We understand what she says because we know well our product. What we don’t understand however, is WHY that is such a big deal for her. WHAT is the problem she wants to solve in its essence.
Then we interview the customer and we get a totally different perspective
¨Tina gets many alerts but she only needs to know about the ones requiring action on her part so that she does not miss important ones by browsing among hundreds of them, every time”
Can you see the difference?
So, what does this example tell us?
  1. Customer was telling us the solution – We are the experts of the solution, not them.
  2. There could be many possible solutions , some much better than others for both us and the customer.
  3. Customer is the expert of what’s the problem he needs to solve. We need to capture that.
  4. Customer often has a narrow perspective, focused on his problem in a specific day on a specific scenario. It’s normal. We should *never* expect they write requirements for us. They are simply not good at that.
  5. We need to elicit the root cause of the problem. This may require meaningful interviewing skills/methods.

If we don’t do so, let’s not be surprised if we hear things like “The customer said that the feature does not resolve his problem. But we did what he asked for!”

User Personas for… sales ??

The power of User Personas in modeling requirements and building products is well-known (never enough I’d say, but it is known).

I extensively use the incredible power of buyer and user personas (ala Alan Cooper) in the entire product life cycle with consistently excellent results.

The other day I was writing a positioning document, a functional overview for a new product and, while I was at it,  a product datasheet.  I asked myself: “why shouldn’t we  use  the same user personas we developed for designing the product to illustrate product benefits and functionalities?”

And so we did.

I mean, content for customer facing documents. I have used personas several times for design and building products with great success, but never for actually customer-facing documents.

Not only it worked like a charm. I realized then that even our demo guys used the personas we developed for their product demos. Salespeople were also referring to personas when explaining our new solution to customers.

Personas are the most powerful tool you may use in designing, building, marketing and selling products. Period.

Smettiamola di profumare il MAIALE!

In media il CMO di una tech company (Chief Marketing Officer) rimane occupato per 23 mesi.  Source: Spencer Stuart

La meta’ di quella per  CEO and COO. Quindi la domanda sorge spontanea. Perche’ il lavoro da CMO e’ cosi’ a rischio?

 Perche’ un CMO non riesce a soddisfare aspettative irragionevoli, anzi, di fatto impossibili:

Il CMO non riesce a creare il bisogno per il prodotto della  sua azienda. In altre parole, quello che capita spesso a marketing managers e’ venir assunti per “profumare il maiale”. O mettergli il rossetto, che come frase idiomatica in US e’ ben piu’ potente.

Sfortunatamente, i buyers non hanno bisogno di quello che non hanno bisogno

Il product marketing viene relegato alla distribuzione semiforzata di un prodotto di cui non e’ chiaro il problema che risolve e per chi lo risolve.

Non c’e’ quantita’ di profumo che possa allontanare il “fetore”

di un prodotto tecnologico di cui nessuno ha bisogno *

Ma allora?

In altre parole, basta essere Market-Driven

facile eh? 🙂

(*) da Steve Johnson #pragmaticmarketing

Il CEO e i suoi Diamanti

Un giorno il CEO entra in ufficio tutto spedito e trafelato e dice:

Bisogna sviluppare questo nuovo set di  funzionalita’

altrimenti si continua a soccombere alla concorrenza.

Ora, senza entrare nel merito di tale decisione (che sembra reattiva, guidata dallo stress dei venditori,  che forse ha poco a che fare con la differenziazione, e questi sono tutti cattivi indicatori) supponiamo che sia la cosa giusta da fare. Del resto il CEO e’ il CEO. Vede cose che non tutti vedono, e’ pagato per quello, ci mette la sua reputazione ogni giorno, quindi tanto di cappello, si fa come dice il CEO.

(In questo esempio potrebbe anche essere un COO, CTO, CMO, VP of Marketing, VP of engineering, VP of sales etc.  Beh se e’ il VP of sales e’ un altro brutto segno)

L’input che viene dall’alto e’:

il prodotto deve far questo e quest’altro.

Basta guardare cosa fa la concorrenza”

Il tutto viene messo un una paginetta o in una breve email. Cosa ci aspettiamo che il CEO ci scriva i requisiti?

Vengono chieste spiegazioni, ma le risposte sono poco utili a comprendere meglio il contesto, o, meglio, il problema da risolvere e per chi. Chi deve sviluppare soluzioni, cioe’ il “come”  si trova spesso a dover indovinare la soluzione giusta. Talvolta ci sorprendiamo a dire  “senti, questo e’ quello che il capo ha chesto, facciamolo cosi’ come e’ scritto, se poi non va peggio per lui!” (se io fossi il CEO diventerei viola a sentire tali pensieri malsani).

Che cosa possiamo fare?

Soluzione (1) Essere persistenti, uscire dall’ufficio e (2) Cristallizzare requisiti a prova di bomba

Il metodo che adotto io in questi casi per (2) e che io chiamo col nome di Diamond Requirements e’ un modo di risolvere il problema in modo completo e finale. Non solo, ma se ci sono errori di visione o di interpretazione, questi tendono a venir fuori in un ambito meno “politico” e piu’ “costruttivo”.

Definizione di Diamond Requirements: uno strato di requisiti ad alto livello, indipendenti dall’implementazione (soluzione, tecnologia, prodotti esistenti) che collega il business ai requisiti funzionali.


  • Solution-free. Esprimono il cosa ed il perche’, non il come
  • Legano il business case con le specifiche funzionali
  • Forzano a chiarire il business case e il perche’ il progetto e’ importante, critico, urgente
  • Forniscono contesto a chi li deve utilizzare (dal posizionamento al test)
  • Dicono cosa fare in modo chiaro ed incontrovertibile
  • Forniscono a tutti un linguaggio comune – dal cliente al venditore
  • Sono piu’ semplici da comunicare, prioritizzare, rendendo ogni decisione piu’ semplice
  • Sono semplici da analizzare per creare soluzioni
  • Sono in grado di fornire stime ragionevolmente accurate (dipende dal progetto)
  • E’ piu facile compararli ad altri requisiti diamanti (magari di un progetto parallelo)
  • Riducono enormememnte il rischio di dover rifare tutto o parti del prodotto

Come si “cristallizzano”? Certo non con la magia o “col tempo”. Gli ingredienti principali sono:

(1) Avere un business case decente

(2) Interviste, Interviste, Interviste (non lunghi meetings interni per dibattere cose che gia’ sappiamo)

  • Intervistare potenziali clienti dell’applicazione (Funzionalita).
  • Chiedere a chi l’ha gia’ se e’ soddisfatto di come e’ fatta (perche’ noi vogliamo farlo 5X meglio della concorrenza!!! Anche se il CEO non ce l’ha detto! Sempre!)
  • Ciiedere che problema risolve e quanto pesa
  • Perche’ e’ importante averla. Che succede se manca.
  • Chiedere alle vendite quanto sono disposte a mettere in piu’ sul forecast se tale funzionalita’ viene messa sul mercato in data X. Se la risposta e’ vaga parlatene col CEO (e’ lui che la chiede per aumentare le vendite).

(2) Sintetizzare in una forma tale che:

  • I requisiti siano descritti dal punto di vista dello “User Persona” (archetipo di utente) e Buyer Persona ove necessario (business case)
  • Includano il beneficio per il business
  • Enfatizzino Intento e Beneficio invece di postulati senza contesto
  • Includono criteri di accettazione, dai cui si capisce facilmente quando il requisito e’ stato soddisfatto

Non e’ facile, anzi, richiede esperienza e “manico” ma risolve tanti problemi in una volta e porta al successo commerciale dell’iniziativa.

Non e’ quello che il CEO voleva?Anzi, se lo facciamo siamo andati anche oltre!!

P.S. Questo e’ esattamente uno dei compiti chiave di un buon Product Manager.

Articoli correlati:   Good Requirements Relate to Business, What is a Requirement?

Market-Driven? Cosa Significa?

Una Storiella* …

Un giorno un brillante ingegnere ed architetto del software, Paolo, lascio’ il suo lavoro per lavorare a tempo pieno sulla sua idea innovativa. Paolo creo’ un prodotto di cui ha profonda certezza che a molti interessasse.
Paolo aveva ragione.
L’azienda cresce, assume ex colleghi come VP di questo e di quello. L’azienda cresce ancora
Un giorno Luigi, VP of Sales disse: “ma noi siano Technology-Driven. Dovremmo essere Customer-Driven!”
La cosa suono’ bene,  e cosi’ si fece.
Eccetto che… per ogni nuovo cliente bisognava fare un progetto speciale e sviluppare/mettere in roadmap 10 nuove funzionalita’ richieste dallo stesso. La voce del’ultimo cliente dominava sempre il piano del prodotto. In altre parole: Customer-Driven = latest-customer-driven
“Ma no, cosi’ non va! urlarono in molti.
Un membro illuminato della proprieta’, Enrico,  tuono’: “Siamo diventati una Sales-Led company. Basta. Dobbiamo essere Marketing-Driven!”
Venne quindi deciso di assumere un Top Marketing Executive. Fu presa Amelie come VP of marketing. Ed ecco un nuovo scintillante logo, tradeshows con un booth impressionante,  eventi spettacolari con gran folla ed awards, brand impeccabile, grande raccolta di collateral, brochures, logo su ogni t-shirt etc.
Un anno e 3 mesi dopo…zero incremento nelle vendite. “Eh, il brand! Te lo do io il Brand” era la battuta ricorrente. [Niente da dire su Amelie ed il Brand. Le e’ stato chiesto l’impossibile. Lo vedrermo in un altro post, ndr]
Allora il CFO, che fino a quel momento era stato zitto, sussurro’ nell’orecchio del CEO: “non e’ ora che controlliamo un po’ i costi?”
Quindi l’azienda divento’ Cost-Driven
Vennero tagliati viaggi, cene premio, supporto, bonus etc.
E il marketing? Cosa fanno esattamente?” Chiese il CFO al CEO
Nessuno ebbe una buona risposta e quindi tagliarono tutto il team.
Alla fine il presidente e Paolo il fondatore dissero:
Siamo partiti engineering-driven
 Poi Customer-driven
  Poi Sales-Led
   Poi Marketing-Driven
    Poi Cost-Driven
Le abbiamo provate tutte!
… E’ ora di tornare Engineering-driven!
E cosi’ fecero …

Finche’ un giorno qualcuno disse:

Ma perche’ non diventiamo Market-Driven?

Cioe’ perche’ non ascoltiamo il mercato invece che solo noi stessi?

Questo e’ quello che Market-Driven significa:
  1. Definire soluzioni basate su quello che il mercato vuole acquistare perche’ tali soluzioni rispondono ad esigenze urgenti, pervasive e critiche. Sintonizzatevi sul mercato!
  2. Per Buyers (che hanno tali esigenze e potere di budget). Sintonizzatevi sui buyers.
  3. Non e’ essere guidati da cio’ che gia’ abbiamo in casa. Spegnete Radio Prodotto (almeno per un po’). Spegnete “Radio Meetings”
Le aziende di successo sanno che il marketing non e’ solo promozione e pubblicita’. I leaders di settore prima si focalizano su problemi irrisolti del mercato che possono essere risolti tramita la loro tecnologia (non partono dalla tecnologia!)
Questi leaders sono orgarizzati secondo un flusso entrante (inbound marketing) cioe’ capire problemi che il mercato ha e chi sono i buyers, e anche uscente (outboud marketing) che e’ la parte piu’ tradizionalmente vista come “marketing”che include sia su strategie di “go to market” e di comunicazione ma che verte su un modo di comunicare e vendere che risuona col buyer.
3 Errori classicissimi:
  1. Supporre che dipendenti e collaboratori interni conoscano meglio  dei buyers quello che i buyers stessi vogliono.
  2. Basare prodotti e servizi solo su quello che chiedono gli attuali clienti invece di andare fuori dall’ufficio a capire quali sono i problemi irrisolti che altre persone reali sono disposte a pagare per vedere risolti.
  3. Cercare di creare un bisogno nel mercato attraverso il reclutamento di un esercito di spietati venditori e di costose campagne pubblicitarie.

Uscite dall’ufficio e imparate a conoscere i vostri buyers ed i loro problemi e modellate il tutto tramite la chiave di tutto: Le Buyer Personas – ok questo richiede competenza e abilita’ particolari, ma ve lo posso insegnare io 🙂“…Ma non e’ facile staccarsi dal prodotto ed andare fuori ad ascoltare, intervistare, filtrare, sintetizzare, iterare. E poi chi lo fa?”

Market-Driven e’ la scelta piu’ pratica e funzionale per il successo di qualsiasi iniziativa che ha a che fare con un mercato
Modellare business, prodotti e soluzioni tramite Buyer and User Personas rende le cose semplici ed immediate.

Non c’e’ mica scelta! I ruoli che tipicamente hanno tale responsabilita’ sono Product Marketing e Product Management. Almeno nelle aziende ben organizzate.

Ma se non li avete non temete. Qualcuno sta gia’ facendo quello che avrebbero dovuto fare loro. La domanda e’: “Come?” oppure “Con che risultati?”.

*  Storia liberamente tratta da un articolo di Steve Johnson,

Why Startups Fail

This morning I was reading a 47Hats‘ Blog post about this  book: Why Startups Fail: And How Yours Can Succeed, By David Feinleib, VC, Entrepreneur.

This post mentions a number of very good, although pretty common, points of failure and  advice for startups. It goes like:

Startups fail for many different reasons. Turn failure into success by avoiding some of the most common causes of startup failure:

  1. Failing to drive demand
  2. Building a product people don’t want
  3. A lack of passion
  4. Running out of money
  5. Scaling too fast
  6. Small markets
  7. Failing to focus

It also makes very good points like:

1. Failing to drive demand – Too often, entrepreneurs focus on what they’re going to build but not on their go-to-market strategy. Imagine that your product is already built. It’s done, and it’s ready to go. Now what? What is the tagline for the product? How are you going to market it? What’s going to drive massive adoption? …Figuring out how to drive demand for your product is just as important as figuring out what product to build. Inefficient, unleveraged distribution can kill a startup…

This is Dead On. Absolutely right.

Still so many keep falling in this trap. Incredible.

2. Build Something People Want – …Many entrepreneurs spend months or years building a product only to find out that few people want it. How does this happen?

The short answer is: it happens because making sure you have nailed down the right product for the right buyer in the right segment is harder that you think, so you haven’t dedicated time and budget for it.

Unless you have done fatal mistakes like forgetting completely about funding or picking the right people you need, the first two points are in my experience, by far the most important ones. Not only.  I would reverse their order of importance. Therefore I will start with the first one (and leave the second one for another post).

1. Build something that people want, and are willing to pay for – very often there is excitement around a new product or service or idea, you get great feedback from peers, friends, family, former colleagues, your early investors. Then the product hits the market and… there is no one willing to pay for it. “Where is everybody! They loved the idea!” . Here is the disaster. Most likely, irreversible.

Now, you just cannot take this risk. You can’t go head down with technology forgetting who your prospective buyers are, what they like/dislike, what is their attitude towards things that are relevant to for your idea. This applies for both consumer and enterprise products. You need to find something that solves a problem, satisfy a clear, painful need, does something 10-100x better than it’s done today,  or just creates desire such as the iPhone (good luck with that).  Then you build a message around the product and what it does for them. Not your technology, not you, them. Your buyers. Your users.

Mr. David Feinleib in his book’s puts a lot of emphasis in driving demand. “Figuring out how to drive demand for your product is just as important as figuring out what product to build“.

I agree. How to drive demand should in a way be part of the new product development process (I am not talking about code here) since the beginning.

Two examples by the same author:

  • Consider file sharing service Dropbox, which gives free space to existing users when they sign up others. The company now has some 50 million users.
  • Or think about social game maker Zynga, which builds games that require the participation of friends. Zynga leveraged the Facebook social graph to reach hundreds of millions of players. Marketing is no longer separate from product—it’s built right in.

Let me underline a key statement:

Marketing is no longer separate from product—it’s built right in.

Dead right! And more applicable than you think.

So what is my point? Look at the two key points above. They have one thing, one, most important thing in common. The buyer and her willingness to pay for something they want (because of a desire, because of a pressing business problem).  If you are able to capture the buyer and then  channel his  voice in clear, precise, compelling, persuasive and “enchanting” manner, both the product and the demand can be derived and/or enriched by the most powerful asset you may have in this business.

An intimate knowledge of the buyer.

Getting to know your buyer or your primary user is not easy. There are techniques and skills involved. The best technique by far, that joins effectiveness with low investment is “crystallizing your buyer and user personas”. I have seen this methodology changing completely the game, getting products to success, getting motivated, excited (enchanted, using Seth’s Godin’s words) marketing people, managers and sales people.

Here is some food for thought

  • Good news: it works great, always.
  • Bad news: it’s not easy. Requires live interviews, skills, competence.
  • Requires a “get out the office and go meet your buyers” kind of attitude
  • What is the business problem that we aim to solve? (Not the solution we have identified and that we want to “push”)
  • Is it urgent and critical?
  • For whom? Who has this problem? Be specific.
  • Describe the Buyer. His priorities. His success metrics (revenues, not getting fired, be promoted, make more money for his practice, etc).
  • Research and describe demographic attributes, habits, behaviors, attitudes, perceptions, emotions and reactions.
  • Is there anything that can’t make her sleep at night? What is that?
  • Create a lifelike description of the Buyer persona and share it with your team. Do they recognize her? Iterate. Interview face to face, iterate.

A buyer persona guides us to create solutions that resonate with buyers, do not require useless and expensive promotion channels and huge investments on sales to “create a need” (this does never work anyway in the long-term). If well done, we will be able to see the world through her own eyes so we can create the right mix of “product and demand creation engine”.


Should we listen to our customers?

If we listened to Henry Ford and Steve Jobs, we would not listen to our customers at all!
“If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse”
– Henry Ford
“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
– Steve Jobs, BusinessWeek, May 25 1998

I do think that there is a need of a balance among three factors

1. Current Customers (the silent ones especially, as the usual noisy ones are there anyway)
2. Potential Customers (the one that you don’t have yet and may not be aware of you or the problem you may solve for them)
3. Gut, Genius, Intuition, superpowers

1. Listening to current customers is good ( but it may also be extremely dangerous. They may actually doom your product ( Especially if the company culture (or some hole in the organization) enables raw customer requests to become automatically product requirements (this is SO bad)

2. Listening to potential customers is harder (you have to discover them and interview them. Effective interviewing is not an easy skill to find). But if you do it right, and are even able to build buyer personas, then you have made the most important think as a marketer (

3. Then, if you nail down (1) and (2), all the others mentioned at point (3) may not be needed. But if you have one of them, well that can make the difference — unless you only base your product/strategy decisions based on (3) like many do with poor results – in fact there are not many Steve Job’s around …