The 7 Deadly Sins of Product Demos

November 30, 2016

 

My newest post on Medium covers what you may consider the seven deadly sins of product demos. We have all seen how online demos for B2B SaaS products can become terrible hour-long sessions that don’t lead to any interesting conclusion and it might be time to re-evaluate how your own sales reps are handling their own demos.

The full article is here: https://medium.com/@danielkuperman/product-demos-that-dont-suck-46b33317d8f4#.yrgg4z958

Enjoy!

 

 

View story at Medium.com

Advertisements

A List of Product Marketing Books

July 11, 2016

books.jpg

What should product marketers read? That’s a question I’m often asked and decided to list all the books I typically recommend, especially if you are starting off in your product marketing journey.

The full list is on this post at Medium:

The Product Marketer’s Essential Reading List

I hope you like it!

 


Make Your Meetings Work for You

October 22, 2015
If you have been wondering how to make your meetings more effective and successful, look no further. Lane End Conference Center recently came out with this amazing infographic, which compiles some interesting facts and figures about office meetings along with some great tips on how to make them work for you. For example, did you know that you could encourage attendee participation in your meetings and keep things lively by including activities and vibrant visuals? Or that conferences held in an outside location, built specifically for that purpose, can have a greater impact on the participants?
Check out the infographic below.
Meetings Infographic

Click for larger version

For additional tips and tricks to avoid wasteful meetings and ensure you make the most out of meeting time, check out a book I wrote on “Running Effective Marketing Meetings“.


Value is Not Benefits

August 20, 2015

I was recently reviewing some content that a product marketing manager had created and we were discussing it in light of an upcoming product launch. The discussion that ensued reminded me that for junior product marketing managers it sometimes can be too easy to fall into the product features trap and lose sight of what a product marketer brings to the table as it relates to messaging and positioning.

What I told that product marketer at the time, and something I still believe in, is that anyone can write. Creating a piece of product collateral is easy. Just take whatever the product team gives you, do some formatting, work on the grammar and style and you’re done. Look at most product data sheets, solution briefs and the like from the multitude of software vendors out there and you know what I’m talking about. A ton of feeds and speeds, how we are “leaders” in the market and why our “world class solution” is faster/better/nicer than everyone’s else.

Here’s where the product marketing comes in, to take all of the tech talk, all of the features, and translate them. Good marketers can translate features into benefits, but truly great marketers and excellent product marketers don’t stop at benefits, they go all the way to understand the value to the customer.

But wait, you say, aren’t both the same? Not so fast.

While a feature related to, let’s say, faster data synchronization might be translated into a benefit for the customer like “more accurate data”, the true value looks at what it means for the business and makes that connection obvious, like “up to the minute customer information when your support team most need it”.

Sounds easy, but in reality is anything but. It requires time, experience, and critical thinking. And the best way to get better at doing it is by getting brutally honest feedback that can point you in the right direction.

Here are a few guiding questions you can ask yourself as you are writing or reviewing copy related to product announcement, press release, data sheet or other piece of content:
– Can someone that has no knowledge of our company or product simply read this and understand why it is important or how it solves a key problem?
– Is it making a clear connection between a problem and a solution?
– Would someone having the problem or pain you are solving be truly interested after reading it?
– Are you using too many acronyms or industry-specific terms that only few people understand?
– Can you say it in a more direct, simpler way? Can you cut out adjectives and still make it sound interesting?
– Ask yourself “so what”.

Creating content with the value in mind is not easy and requires a lot of effort and discipline. Get others to review and criticize what you wrote, see how others are doing it, and put yourself in the end user or buyer’s shoes. With time you’ll get to do it without noticing it.


The Big Myth About Buyer’s Journey in the Digital Age

July 28, 2015

CommunicationLast week I attended a webinar presented by SiriusDecisions and Alinean titled “ SiriusDecisions Interview: Death of the B2B Sales Rep?”. It basically reinforced some concepts I already knew and presented some new interesting stats from the research that SiriusDecisions has done recently.

If you know anything about SiriusDecisions these guys are the top analysts when it comes to B2B sales and marketing. Here’s what you need to know about the content they presented:

  1. Don’t believe the 67% stat quoted everywhere
  2. Sales people matter more than your digital assets
  3. Your sales enablement and content marketing plans need adjustment
  4. Train sales reps on value, not on product features

OK, let’s dive into each one.

Don’t believe the 67% stat quoted everywhere

You’ve seen and heard this multiple times. I sure am guilty of mysquoting it once or twice and I have recently heard a VP say it like it was the new gospel. “67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally” is the actual quote from SiriusDecisions from back in 2013 that people misuse thinking you should focus your marketing on creating digital assets, leveraging marketing automation, inbound marketing and that by the time the prospect engages with your sales team they have done most of the research, diminishing the role of the sales rep to a mere order taker.

SiriusDecisions published a must-read blog post dispelling the myth and setting the record straight noting that:

a) The 67% statistic doesn’t say that buyers don’t engage with sales people in the early stages of the buying journey, it simply says buyers are spending more time online (note it also doesn’t say that the 67% is related to the early stages, in fact it is spread throughout the sales cycle);

b) Just because buyers are doing research online it doesn’t mean you have to wait for them before you engage;

c) You need to understand what’s really happening online and tailor your inbound strategy accordingly.

Sales people matter more than your digital assets

According to SiriusDecisions 2015 Buyer Study, buyers classify “sales presentations” more meaningful or impactful than the traditional marketing assets like whitepapers, infographics, eBooks and Webinars during their buying process. In fact, sales presentations were ranked top next to analyst reports and followed closedly by case studies and articles/publications.

How do you get to see ‘sales presentations’? By engaging a sales rep. The top three contents ranked by the companies answering the survey have the same thing in common: they all answer “what value am I going to get from the solution?” question.

Your sales enablement and content marketing plans need adjustment

The key takeaway from the research is that you may have to review your sales enablement and content marketing plans. How much time are you spending creating truly captivating sales presentations? Is your content focused on promoting the product features or in showing value?

Also important is the notion of risk. Every purchase decision involves risk analysis and if you are able to minimize the perceived risk in the eyes of the buyer, you get ahead of the competition. Risk is shown in many forms, like technology risk, financial risk, user acceptance, and more. Depending on what you are selling you need to adjust the messaging to focus on the types of risks more important to the buyer.

Train sales reps on value, not on product features

According to the research presented, most sales reps have trouble selling the value of their solutions. Just listen to a few sales calls and you will listen to a variety of messages from different sales reps. Some will pitch the technology, others will go strong on pricing, some will focus on dissing competitors… it never changes. The problem is not just with the sales team, is with how you are training them.

I know this first hand. Tell someone in sales how to pitch the product and it almost guarantees they will do a different way. But you have to insist and enlist the help of the senior sales reps and execs to make sure they support the key messaging and value proposition you are creating in marketing and why the sales decks were created this way.

When a new product or new product release is being announced to the team, pay special attention to how you can translate the technical features in customer value and announce it that way. Retraining the sales team, making them shift their approach is one of the hardest things, but it gotta be done.

The Shift In Sales

The fact that buyers are doing research on their own doesn’t diminish the value of the sales rep, it actually makes the sales person way more important and doing an extremely difficult job. But by arming the sales team with the right messaging, the right tools and catering the tools to different stages in the sales cycle you will be increasing the value the sales person in your organization delivers to the prospect at each step of the way.


A Primer on Sales Competitive Battle Cards

May 27, 2015

Competitive Battle Cards (BTW I’ve seen them spelled together, battlecards, and separate – battle cards) are a staple of product marketing. If your company hasn’t created formal battle cards (aka kill sheets, competitive cards, competitor takeout), it will at some point, as this is typically one of the first things sales teams ask.

Who creates the battle cards can vary, sometimes being a function of product management, other times of product marketing, or even at larger companies a separate competitive team which focuses exclusively on analyzing competitive offerings.

So for the purposes of this post I will focus on the marketer or product marketer that has been tasked with coming up with a competitive analysis to help sales.

Over the past few years I have created my share of battle cards, so let me try to codify the process I follow to help you out. My process is the following:
1. Structure
2. Data Collection
3. Analysis
4. Framing
5. Presentation

Structure: Identify who the battle card is being created for. Just the sales team? Only frontline sales or sales executives as well? Will the marketing team be using them too? How about product people? The different audiences will require a different level of analysis and depth when it comes to the battle card. While frontline sales typically wants a short and direct “kill sheet” they can leverage during competitive situations, someone in a business development role may want information related to sales channels and geographic coverage for when they are negotiating new partnerships and the marketing team needs information about messaging, positioning and other aspects that a sales rep may not want to waste time with.

Based on the intended audience you can then proceed to identify what information you will need and start thinking about a format for the battle card. I’ve seen numerous examples of battle cards and provide some templates for you at the end of the post. Structuring your data collection based on the outcome will help you remain focused and work towards the outcome you need, i.e. a useful tool.

Note: In some cases you may create what I call a “competitor profile” which is NOT a battle card per se. This is a lengthier document that analyses the competitor’s company, value proposition, marketing communications, technical aspects of the product, etc. in an effort to give a 360 degree view of the competitor as a company. Out of it may come a battle card but the battle card I’m talking about in this post is something created specifically to position your product against a competitor’s.

Data Collection: Knowing what data you need to gather, now you can start the process. The internet is your best friend for finding a trove of information about competitors. Sure, everyone knows how to use Google to query competitor names and other pieces of intelligence, but not everyone is aware of some powerful Google search parameters that can find stuff that would otherwise be hidden. My favorites are:

– filetype: use the ‘filetype’ search parameter to specific files like PDF, DOC, XLS, PPT, and more. Example <competitor name> filetype:pdf (as in ‘acmesoft filetype:pdf’) will show only PDF files with the competitor name. Add different search criteria like <competitor name> proposal filetype:pdf to find documents in PDF with ‘proposal’ in them.

– site: use the ‘site’ parameter to limit the search to a specific website, like in ‘pricing site:www.acmesoft.com’.

– double quote: put search string inside double quotes and limit the results to only pages where that specific phrase exist. For example, “acmesoft sales presentation” or “acmesoft price list”.

– minus: add a minus sign ‘-‘ with your search string to remove results containing a certain word, as in ‘acmesoft “price list” -europe’.

– narrow down by date: when you do a search you have the ability to specify a date range for the results, which is done by using the <describe>. So for example, you may want to search on ‘acmesoft “price list”’ using only the last couple months or the past year.

– specific keywords: depending on what type of battle card you are trying to build you can tailor the search keywords to better narrow down results for you, but I see often times some typical needs related to pricing, sales messaging and the like regardless of what industry you are in. So here are some of my favorite keywords to add to competitive search queries: price, price list, pricing, proposal, quote, sales presentation, manual, user guide, issues, complaints (as in ‘acmesoft complaints’ to find out what people complain about). You get the idea.

– support site and forums: in some cases, especially for web-based (SaaS) products, you might find a competitor’s support website and online community. It could be as simple as support.acmesoft.com, but even if it’s not you might be able to find it with query strings such as “acmesoft support” or “acmesoft discussion forum” or even “acmesoft download” and “acmesoft documentation”. Some vendors have a direct link on their main website to their support pages but a lot don’t, so this might come in handy. I have found a treasure trove of competitive information in otherwise hidden support pages that gave me full access to online documentation, product demos, and discussion threads showing what users complain about.

Other than Googling the heck out of your competitor, another great online tool for competitive research is LinkedIn. There you can search competitor employees by title and start forming an idea of how the company is organized. Together with information related to job openings, it tells you how they are structuring their go-to-market, the sales team, and more. Plus, you can find former employees, see how you might be connected to them, and reach out to talk about their previous employer. You can also find groups that your competitor participates in, who is following them and who they follow.

If your industry is being covered by an analyst their reports can have some good information as well. Magic Quadrants, Waves, and other competitive reports can’t be taken as the sole source of truth but can give you additional insights. If you don’t subscribe to Gartner, Forrester or other analyst organization then getting the reports is more difficult but not impossible as vendors mentioned in the report will showcase the document on their websites and allow people to download for free. Doing a Google search for “<report name> pdf” or “<report name> download” can yield interesting results.

Other sources of data collection you should look at are trade publications, discussion forums, trade shows (attending competitor’s presentations), webinars and the like. Youtube can be a good source of information to catch product demos and reviews.

If your competitor is of the type that offers a free trial, getting access to their product is the best primary information source you can get. This gives you the chance to walk through their systems, help pages, etc.

3. Analysis: With the amount of data you collected, now is time to review and make sense of it all. Based on the framework you established in step 1 you can group your data into different segments and drill down into the particulars of a certain element. If, for example, one of the areas  you want to focus on is pricing, then looking at all the price quotes, proposals, and the like can get you an idea of not just what the competitor charges for a certain product but also if there are discounts involved, what other line items are included with typical proposals and how much is really the full package (product+services) cost.

I’ve been in situations where a prospect told me our product was more expensive but when I told them to go back to the other vendor and ask about their setup fees, their training fees, and their maintenance fees (all additional line items they would be charged in the first invoice but the sales rep hadn’t disclosed when gave him the ‘product price’), they came back to us and told us that after adding everything we turned up to be priced 20% lower than the competitor.

The analysis is also based on your particular situation (defined in step 1), meaning the type of battle card you are creating. You may have to do a deep dive into technical features or focus on messaging and positioning, or sales channels, or distribution.

4. Framing: Analysis and framing are sometimes done together, but I like to make them separate steps to deliberately think of them as two different processes. After analyzing the data, you then frame it in a way that will make sense to the reader (and based on the format established in the first step). This is where you will look at the competitive data and compare that with your own offering. What good is knowing the competitor price and features if you can’t compare it to your own? If the battle card is created for the sales team, giving them a frame of reference based on your current offerings will help them to position your company and solution better.

Some people like to do SWOT analysis that show for each competitor strength how you should respond, for each weakness how to exploit, etc. Others put together a features grid with check boxes showing them versus yours. The plotting of competitor data is another topic all in itself and for another post. The templates I show at the end of this post will also give you some thoughts. As a side note, there are many different ways to perform strategic competitive analysis and a number of different frameworks which are a subject for a different time.

5. Presentation: Here’s where the analysis and framing are put into a format for consumption. It could be a PowerPoint, Word Doc or similar. The presentation of the information is critical, as it would be a shame to lose all the effort you put in to the competitive analysis due to a poor presentation. The way you present will determine how well the final deliverable will be used and also how useful it will be. Great data presented poorly won’t get used and may also reflect poorly on you as a marketing professional.

Also related to presentation of the battle card is a formal training/presentation to the sales team. Get everyone together to go over the material you put together and ensure the team has no questions. There’s quite a bit you can do for sales training, which is a good topic for another post.

Let’s take a look at some sample presentation/documentation formats below. I used powerpoint to diagram them but you could easily take the same layout and use another software that you are more comfortable with.

Battle Card Templates
Click the image above or this link to download (PPT): BattleCards_Framework_Landscape

Final Thoughts
Why this long post on a simple subject? Because the devil is in the details. While experienced product marketers will go through the motions I have described above without a second thought, the rookies may find themselves stuck when it comes to finding competitive information. I hope that you can take what I described here and adapt to your own style and situation to create amazing competitive battle cards for your team. And, if you think I missed something, please let me know in the comments!

What Marketing Org Charts Tell You About The Business

August 10, 2014

Organizational charts are an interesting thing. Every company has an official one and also a few “unofficial” charts. Look at how people are structured and what the reporting structure looks like and it will tell how the company is run, what is important to them, and how they think about their product and services and the market in general.

Although it seems that for certain departments the org chart doesn’t vary much (take finance, sales, even engineering), for Marketing departments the org chart can be all over the place. Marketing is probably an area that changes more frequently based on the stage the company is in than any other, at least from what I have seen. A small startup will have a head marketing person with a few helpers below, but as it grows more people are added to handle the other facets of promoting the business. 

A marketing org chart can give you clues about how a company goes to market. How quickly they can react and if they are product-centric or sales-oriented. 

Organizational Chart

Sending a Message Through the Marketing Org Chart

Some companies change the marketing organization or rename functions as a way to signal the market and employees of a new strategic direction. Take for example P&G who recently announced that marketing directors and associate marketing directors are now called brand directors and associate brand directors. This is supposedly to emphasize the role of creativity and to inspire bolder, better ideas into their marketing.

A recent article in Harvard Business Review magazine argues that the marketing function hasn’t changed much in the past 40 years and makes the case for marketing reorganization.

“In the past decade, what marketers do to engage customers has changed almost beyond recognition …. Yet in most companies the organization structure of the marketing function hasn’t changed since the practice of brand management emerged, more than 40 years ago.” – HBR

It makes sense as brands evolve, technology now permeates every aspect of marketing, and consumers have taken control of the buying process. At least that’s the excuse for Electrolux to have restructured its marketing team and have moved marketers from the corporate HQ into consumer teams focused on fully understanding the consumer experience and sharing the knowledge among various groups so that the whole organization is aligned to better serve the consumer.

Sometimes the reasons are related to inefficient and costly marketing structures that have grown so big that they become an impediment to successfully conducting business and start damaging the brand. Behemoths such as HP changed from a decentralized marketing to a centralized marketing organization in order to save money and respond faster to market demands.

“Ensuring we have the right organizational structure in place is a critical first step in driving improved execution, and increasing effectiveness and efficiency” – Meg Whitman, HP.

A while ago Microsoft went through a big marketing reorganization as well because, as then-CEO Steve Ballmer said, the company wasn’t getting enough ROM (return on marketing spend). 

The Right Marketing Structure

The question of how to best structure your marketing department shouldn’t be the thing that keeps you up at night. The needs of a company change depending on where it is in its life cycle, how much money it has to allocate to marketing, and how critical the marketing role is seen for the success of the company.

According to a Forbes article titled “The Central Question for CMOs“, the debate of centralized vs decentralized is mute. 

But let’s say you do want to put in place a marketing org chart that makes sense and resists the test of time, even if it’s just for 12 months. Well, there isn’t a better starting place than the SlideShare presentation put together by HubSpot on this very subject. The CMO’s Guide to Marketing Org Structures shows how seven different companies have structure their marketing departments and why they have chosen to do it this way, at least for now.

So while there isn’t such thing as the “right marketing org structure” or the “best way to organize the marketing department”, the presentation is a good starting point to have a discussion at your company about the role of marketing and what the department should look like 12 months or 2 years ahead.


%d bloggers like this: