My fascination with Marketing

Assumptions, Marketing, psychology, segmentation, single target market

I have been involved with marketing directly or indirectly for a very long time. Inspite of that, I keep getting fascinated with things that get thrown up when you start analysing something from the basics of marketing.

Last couple of days I have been involved in doing some deep thinking on two of our product / service lines which have not been moving. Whenever something doesn’t move, my first emphasis is always to identify what’s wrong with the database / market. More than 50% of the problems in marketing can be resolved if you have identified the market clearly and then gone about getting the database accordingly.

So one challenge was with a set of partners that we had been trying to court and the other was related to a service offering. When I got down to analysing why the partners were not responding to our messaging, it slowly dawned on me that those companies would not have customers who could need the services we offer.

As an allied example – If you are a carpet cleaner and people you are sending the message to are not responding, then you need to figure out if those people actually use carpets. If they don’t use carpets, then even the best message won’t get you an order. On the other hand if you go to a neighbourhood where you have houses where you can be sure that people will have carpets in their houses, then even a mediocre message will get you some traction.

However since we get so bogged down with transactions, fighting fires and managing teams, we tend to forget the basics. So we start with one assumption and then another gets added and then we forget how many assumptions have got stacked up. But when I do get down to doing work from the basics, there are so many things which get thrown up.

Marketing is 50% maths and 50% psychology / human behaviour. So you can’t miss on the maths, because your survival is based on the maths. On the other hand figuring out the psychology of what will get people to buy is critical. So starting with the smallest unit of the addressable market helps with addressing both the issues well.

Marketing also has immense leverage because it can help your business grow dramatically if managed well. That’s another reason, why I am fascinated with marketing.

Till next time then.

Carpe Diem!!!

Market forecasts- how I would get them wrong – 2

Assumptions, B2B, Marketing, Product Management, Sales

In yesterday’s post I wrote about how your plans and forecasts go wrong, if the product on which you have based your service model itself doesn’t succeed or the OEM loses focus.

Today we will look at other aspects where because we didn’t see the obstacles in advance, we couldn’t meet our forecasts. This is again from a B2B perspective where we were involved in direct sales to customers.

One big gap which generally arises when we the product managers, do forecasts, is discounting the human factor. We are so focused on the positives of our product or services that we forget that our product has to be sold by someone. I have tried giving targets and I have tried to get sales people to create their own targets and I have failed in both situations.

The key reasons I think, are because we believe that human beings will work consistently like a machine. We lose focus quite fast. If you have to ensure that your forecasts don’t fail then you need to incorporate the factors which can get your persons de-focused.

So think in terms of what all obstacles may come up that you will need to face and what will be your plan. This doesn’t mean that other things can’t go wrong. Its about figuring out what all you can think of in terms of the obstacles. Also understand that I am not looking at moves your competition will make.

As an example one project execution has not gone as per schedule….and your sales person has to hand-hold the customer. How will he make the sales calls then. What happens if half your sales force leaves together or spread across the year and you are not able to hire the right kind of sales people on time. In B2B sales where the lead times are high getting the new person fully operational is a very big challenge. Same could happen on your delivery side.

The more assumptions about your plan that you can call out in advance, the better you can work your forecasts.

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!!!

Calling out the elephant in the room – Assumptions – 2

arrogance, Assumptions, B2B, Business, ego, Marketing

For a background to this post, I would suggest you have a look at the fist part of the topic here

Not many know that the digital camera was first created by a team in Kodak. Whether you call it arrogance on the part of the managers at Kodak, who assumed that no one would want to buy such an expensive camera. What was assumed was that the technology would make it unviable for most folks to afford the camera.

No one thought that technology was following Moore’s law, where the power of the chip was roughly doubling every 18 odd months. A similar thing happened at Xerox who actually had designed the “mouse” long before it became a standard accessory. But they never moved forward on it.

It is said , the Swiss already knew about battery powered watches, much before the Japanese, but because they prided themselves on their engineering and movement, they never bothered taking a patent. Suddenly the Japanese were all over the place with watches leaving the Swiss, gasping for breadth. Again technology assumptions can go wrong very badly.

Brainstorming on the assumptions you are making and listing them, gets you grounded to think better. Also its a better idea to ask an outsider to check out your assumptions.

In marketing, because you are dealing with human perceptions, understanding and accounting for the assumptions can help you avoid expensive mistakes. In B2B scenarios where there are multiple people involved in a decision and there’s general inertia, not accounting for these assumptions can be fatal.. Its a good idea to keep asking ‘what else are we assuming”.

Like assuming that the person on the production line will easily adopt the new technology you are bringing in via the CIO and /or the CFO. More IT projects have failed because of these faulty assumptions than the problem with the technology itself.

Especially when you are making the marketing or sales plan at the beginning of the year, if you don’t account for these assumptions, very soon when you hit the road, all your plans will fall flat.

Don’t make the mistakes that I have done. Whenever you make a plan list out all the assumptions and make everyone aware about them so that collective wisdom can find a better solution.

Till next time then.

Carpe Diem!!!