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Dove soap is magic for your business

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013


Dove soap is softer on your hands because it is one quarter moisturizing liquid

Best product positioning and marketing slogan of all time.

Think about this elevator pitch. I think about it all the time.

In one line, you know the value proposition: Soap that is softer on your hands!

In one line, you know the differentiation: They are focused on being softer on your hands!

And, most importantly, they tell you the magic: BECAUSE IT IS ONE-QUARTER MOISTURIZING LIQUID.

Now every other soap that wants to get in the game has to deal with this question: does your soap contain moisturizing liquid? How much?

If you are a competitor, your answers can vary:

  • Less than one-quarter: You are doomed
  • More than one-quarter: Are you still technically soap? You are just playing Dove’s game now! This is 3.5 minute abs!
  • We use something else: This is possible. But man, Dove uses moisturizing liquid!

So simple, so crystal clear, so easy to sell. You need to be like this.

The Secret to Product Training for Product Managers

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

To understand product training, first you need to understand high school debate.800_mcbridesmall

High School debate changed my life, but one of the things that I reflect back on frequently (and thought about frequently at the time) was that I was not too smart. I would have these debates with people about the economy, but really, I didn’t understand the interaction between deficit spending, inflation, and interest rates. I would tell people things like “anthropocentrism is bad for the environment”, and that may be true, and I may have been able to articulate it well, but I didn’t really, REALLY understand it.

This is not unlike the world a sales person lives in. If she is at a company that doesn’t suck and she is good at her job, then the possibility that she can know products well is very low. I am a product manager and if I thought a sales person could know the product as well as me, it would offend me.

Now let’s bring it back. So when we launch a product, what do we do?

Let’s assume that from a materials perspective, you already have it covered: slides to add to their decks, leave-behind material, whatever.

What is the best format: Multi-format. Different sales people learn things differently – some need the white paper. Some need you to come into the office and sit with them. Some can dial into a webinar. Newsletters? Sure. My feeling is you have to do all of these things to do it well.

When is the best time: Over and over and over again. People need different formats. Also, people tune in and tune out. I have always found that training is 100x magically more effective if the sales person just talked to a customer with this problem. Part of hitting them 20 different ways over and over and over is hoping that it will be at a magic moment when they are feeling exceptionally receptive to the message.

Now here is the secret that brings it full circle:

THE OBJECTIVE: The goal is not to educate the sales people about the product. It is to give them what they need to sell it.

Think about this for a second because this is big. They don’t need to know how the product works or what it does. They need to sell it.

I have found that this is about “giving them war stories”. The products they sell every day in the market are easy for them to sell because they have sold them before. They talk with the customer about how they worked for other customers, what made them particularly effective, and why they would work for the customer. I always called this “patter”: 30 second spiels I used over and over again. I did this in high school debate, I did it in sales, and I do it now today talking about all sorts of things. I tell the same stories again and again to different people as I try to make a point. I tell them the same way, I use the same verbiage, and I have the same cadence. Why? They work. Most sales people do something similar.

Your job as a product manager, when releasing a new product, is to fill your sales people with the stories they need to talk to the customer about the product. Part of this is having a because: “Dove is softer on your hands because it is one quarter moisturizing liquid”. Sales people don’t really need to know how you got it in there if the customer will take it on faith, but knowing that it is one quarter moisturizing liquid makes it sound like it works! Recognize where this boundary is and how much you need to give information. The sales person has to be able to go deeper than the powerpoint slide you gave him, but usually only one level deeper than the slide itself.

They need a voice track that is slightly more sophisticated than the slide, but simplified in a way that is mnemonic.

Finally, they need a success story. They have to be able to relate the customers experience back to a previous experience they had that was good for a similar customer. This is the essence of consultative selling: “I did this for customer X, you have the same problem and I can take care of it for you.” A discussion like that is a critical trust-building activity for a sales person.

You have to give them that success story. This doesn’t need to be a formal case study. It can be anonymous, it can be vague, it just has to be a single talking point in the salesperson’s dialogue. And it needs to sound real.

(Attached is a picture of the legendary Brian McBride, a man I idolized in high school, (although I knew him when he was ~19 years old, so maybe it is a stretch to call him a man in this context) (He also had much better hair at the time). He invented the “kritique”, a philosophical argument used by almost every high school debater in the country today to argue that discussing certain things in the context of debate is so offensive that it should cause him to lose (e.g. For a man to propose a policy to help women is to further repress women by enforcing the patriarchy.))



Product Management Roadmaps, Example and Discussion

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Plan Cannot Fail

When I google “Examples of Product Management Roadmaps”, the answers are all nonsense. This blog post is expected to serve as a better #1 result.

My most popular blog posts are the long-form posts where I explain to people how they should do things. In that vein, I am desiring to start a new series of posts on Product Management. My first post is intended to answer the following question: As a product manager, when someone asks me for a product roadmap, what should I give them?

First, as with virtually all of my blog posts, I have some caveats:

  • All of the businesses I like to join are growing at more than 30% YoY. That means that multi-year time horizons are ridiculous. 6 months is the firm plan, 1 year is the strategic plan, 2 years is the vision. Many people think a roadmap is 3-5 years. I am unsure what industry I will be working in 5 years from now. So I don’t do that.
  • Different people mean different things when they say roadmap. Sometimes they are asking you to lay out a market driven vision for the company. To me, that means something else – it is usually more closely related to the fund-raising deck. In this discussion, the best situational case is that a customer (internal or external) wants to “know where the product is going”. Telling them about market demand or customer research is only tangentially important – they want to know what you are doing for them and when, not so much why, except in-so-far as it justifies or de-justifies projects related to them.
  • Of course, it is all software, generally enterprise. With consumers or non-software, your mileage may vary. Although it seems on-face relevant.

This is not a caveat in the same sense, but it is an important point: Product Roadmap decks for external customers are different than roadmaps for internal customers. Typically, I will lag product commitments externally by one quarter (The only things they are getting this quarter are things that are already code complete/in-testing/being rolled out). Also, you probably want to filter out roadmap activities that are not contextually appropriate for the client or are confidential.

Finally, the document I am sharing is based heavily (100%, basically) on Ian McAllister’s concept for Product Roadmaps on Quora. Frankly, my contribution is producing an actual reference deck.

So I have attached an example (fictional!) product roadmap for Cogmap to give you a sense of how I organize it.

Download an example product roadmap now!

This deck has both examples and comments in red. Plain red comments are straight commentary from Ian’s Quora post. Bold red comments are my additional opinions.

Powerpoint is the best format, of course, because it may need to be injected into other content.

This deck is also designed to be easy for me to refresh. This usually gets refreshed quarterly.

This is not the end-all, be-all of product roadmaps, but I want to improve the discourse in this area, so this is my contribution.