Making a Difference

Affirmative action, differentiation, Lifestyle

I was listening to an interview of Sir Richard Branson of the Virginia brand today. It was a fairly dated interview, I think about 10 years old. I found it on

There were three things which stood out for me in this interview. One was the fact that the whole philosophy around which Sir Richard Branson operates is how can he and his companies make a difference in the world.

Even when someone asked him for advice to entrepreneurs, he mentioned about how you can keep increasing the circle of influence where you make a difference, as your company grows.

The other thing which stood out was his emphasis on protecting his time. These people who were interviewing him had all paid a quite a handsome amount to his charity to get an opportunity to interview him. But on the clock he politely closed the interview.

The last thing which I was amazed about was his focus on his family. I have not known too much about him so didn’t know anything about his family. But the way he spoke about how he always ensured , inspite of the fact that he has such a huge business empire, that the family was together was a delight to hear.

If people who run such huge companies can find time to be with their families and also do good and make a difference, then we should be able to also do small bit to the society in which we live.

Till next time then.

Carpe Diem!!!

Working backwards from the customer result- Part 4

Assumptions, Customers, differentiation, Marketing, single target market

Till now we have looked at the Future Reality tree, then we have highlighted the unsaid assumptions so we don’t miss a ‘snake in the grass’ which can mess up our plans. Then we identified the various use cases for a simple regular item like engine oil for cars.

Now let’s move forward with the example of the engine oil for cars. We identified OEMs (brand owners like Ford, Mitsubishi etc.), service stations and gas stations.

Lets take first – Gas stations. There could be gas stions which are right in the heart of the city and there could be those which are on the Inter State highways.  Both sell to retailers who come to fill gas and may ask for a top-up. But the ones on the highway will fill a larger amount of gas because they may be traveling long distance. Can you think of how you can package your engine oil sales with the higher intake of gas….

On the other hand the person who is taking gas in the city may not get his engine oil filled because he can send his car for service during the week end. So the gas stations in the city may see a lower number of people asking for engine oil versus the ones who are traveling long distance and want to have a hassle free ride.

For the product management person,  it is now important to figure out the kind of packaging she will do for these 2 different kinds of gas stations , the kind of pricing options, the kind of promotions…..there are so many ways to get creative to figure out how you can work through different markets within in a niche also.

But if you think of only engine oil as the niche then it becomes difficult to think of differentiated strategies. The moment you think from the end result – a person wanting a hassle free long distance ride you can start getting creative.

One person whom you should listen is Dean Jackson on his podcast and another podcast that he does with Joe Polish Just listening to them will get your creative juices flowing.

Till next time then

Carpe Diem!!!

Getting blindsided in product management

Assumptions, differentiation, differentiation, Marketing, Product Management

When an idea for a product or service is our baby, even though we ask ourselves and all our team members of the possible issues that the product (or service) may have, we miss out on some of the most elementary things. This generally happens because all our team members get involved in group think.

For a product management guy getting blindsided by this kind of mistake ends up being most expensive , as you don’t realise “what hit you”. What you think as an essential differentiation could be a worthless factor which increases costs.

On the other hand two simple mechanisms that I use to try to exploit all the possible lacunae or weak spots in my thinking are:

  1. Red team, blue team: In thisI make it into a game where I have one team specifically work on figuring out all the items about my offering that the other team can utilise to beat my product. This is the same concept that armies of friendly countries use during their war games. Once the fatal flaws are identified, you then go about correcting them before you get into the market. Sometimes in these exercises, I have also heard comments like – “there is nothing about your product that we even need to bother about, we can beat it very easily”. If you hear this kind of a comment, it means you are in deep trouble. If your internal team doesn’t think your product has any strengths, then you better figure out something new.
  2. The second method I have found useful is to get a finance guy to figure out the plan and numbers. Typically finance guys are very good at doing a post-mortem and want artefacts for every assumption for all their bills. They will ask you for all your background checks and will help you surface the assumptions.

Getting internal people telling you all the possible negative feedback helps you build a much better product offering.

Till next time then.

Carpe Diem!!!

Habits – Path Dependence – 2

competition, differentiation, differentiation, ideal customer, Marketing, segmentation, single target market

In my earlier post I wrote about why Path Dependence can be a big barrier to success. The reason this is important when we look at Marketing and Product Marketing is that the market and the competitors are always changing. The customers change, the way they like to interact with suppliers changes, their priorities change. The way your competition reacts to these changes with their offerings and how you react all need to keep up with these changes

So the solutions which helped you become successful previously may not make you successful now. It happens to me all the time. Whenever I keep trying to use the same old data points, the same old methods and things don’t work I have to start going down to basics.

Habits are good , as I have said multiple times before, because they help cut out the energy requirements from our life , but the same habits become a baggage when you have to change to meet new scenarios. Habits work on path dependence.

While the basics of targeting a single target market, differentiation , segmentation, all remain as is, what changes is the way you address a customer. There was a time when you reached out on the phone to people. Then people. got Caller id phones and if they didn’t recognise your number you got diverted to voice mail. Then came email. But if you were still stuck on phone as primary method of prospecting and didn’t adapt to email prospecting you would be long gone.

So while habits are good, energy & time efficient, sometimes when things are not working out you need to look at another path to see if it can take you to your destination.

If you look at India’s history as an analogy, one of the reasons that they were able to conquer our country and rule it for almost 150 years was because they came with guns, while the Indian kings at that time, still had their armies using swords and spears.

In marketing if you don’t carry the ability to go back to basics to figure out what is causing your team to fail, then you won’t last long. Sometimes you have to change the teams just for this reason, because if they are not willing to change, you have just two options – either die a slow death or change the team and live to fight another day.

Till next time then, don’t let path dependence stop. you from exploring new solutions.

Carpe Diem!!!