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The Nitty-Gritty of Product Management

February 2002 Product

In bringing new technologies to market, the whole team focuses on the vision. Developers are led by architects offering visions of clean architecture and working on the next new thing. Customers are led by sales executives offering visions of increased business profits or better consumer lifestyles and being the innovators among their peers. Financiers are led by CEOs offering visions of 60% ROI, market dominance in a growing field, and being able to say they financed the latest Intel.

Unfortunately, Hi-Tech products must eventually become more than visions. At the vision level, hi-tech products can capture the innovator segment. Yet the real profits come from capturing the mainstream market. To get to main-street, not only must new hi-tech products fully deliver to the promises of the Vision in a simple, easy manner; but they must also handle the objections of the naysayers. Fortunately, the naysayers objections appear to be predictable in the business market regardless of the technology being sold.

Comparing Business Applications to Wireless Network Servers from Cisco and Cambia Networks reveals a remarkable similarity. It appears that there are seven common objections of naysayers that must be addressed in capturing the main stream market. These are: Security, Sharing, Updates, Implementation, Training, Scalability, and Flexibility.

Security: Emperors fear of being caught with no clothes on. Give them security. In the Business Application market, products provide security at the table, record, and field level and grant access to individuals, groups, or predefined roles. In the Wireless Server market, it is about encryption, WEP, VPN, and a host of other acronyms.

Sharing: Data is great, but only if you can get to it. In Business Applications, it is about interfaces, middleware, and message handling. For Cisco and Cambia, it is interoperability , standards, and NIC cards.

Updates: Hi-tech is only Hi-Tech when it is new. Then, it’s guaranteed to be obsolete long before its useful lifetime has expired. Provide a path to manage this change. For Business Applications, it is about upgrade strategies, modules, releases, and service contracts. For Cisco, its about backwards compatibility and an upgradeable network .

Implementation: How many home-projects have you started to find it was too complicated for you to finish? Please deliver the whole solution either through Value Added Resellers, Consultants, or In-house delivery arm. For business applications, it is about conversion, interfaces, and customization. Cisco has a VAR channel while Cambia would be glad to do it for you.

Training: Cool idea, but where does this wire go? Business Application firms learned long ago that they had to train end-users. Likewise, Cambia includes this in their service offering.

Scalability: We all recall the Amazon story and how their network failed. The same is true in business applications from call centers to billing solutions. For business applications, it is about multi-threading, stateless objects, parallel processing, and relational databases. For Cambia Networks, it is in their open, modular architecture.

Flexibility: The only thing constant is change, and even that has a fluctuating rate of change. For business applications, it is about enabling changes in the business rules, plug-ins, templates, and a host of other mechanisms. For Cambia Networks, it is in load balancing.

These seven common objections can be addressed in any reasonable product plan. It isn’t as much fun as selling a vision, but it is profitable. To the Miller Heiman sales folk the naysayers are the Technical Buyers and while naysayers never enable the sale, they can always block it. Here is the ammunition Sales Executives need to close that next sale. Likewise, to the product managers the naysayers are those who have held some customers at Main Street while others were knocked-down at the Bowling Alley. These objections are the bases to cover while delivering on that 40% annual growth rate for three consecutive years. Spending time in the nitty-gritty of Hi-Tech product marketing by handling these seven common naysayer objections paves the way for delivering on that vision of changing the world through technology.

The May Report, February 22, 2002



About the author

Tim J. Smith, PhD is the Managing Principal of Wiglaf Pricing, and an Adjunct Professor at DePaul University of Marketing and Economics. His most recent book is Pricing Strategy: Setting Price Levels, Managing Price Discounts, & Establishing Price Structures.

Tim J. Smith, PhD
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