I have to thank the Cranky Product Manager for spawning the idea for today’s blog. In her blog entry “10 things the Cranky Product Manager has learned about product management”, she (btw, are you a “she”?) lists several things that she’s learned about Product Management over the years. It’s a great read. In fact, it got me thinking so much, I commented with my own fabricated #11. “If the company you work for is a Sales driven company (as opposed to Market driven), watch out! You’ll find that your market research is disregarded for “what can be sold next quarter”. This is very similar to number 5 above – same hot dog, just different mustard.” (number 5 talked about how the CEO’s of startups are typically the real product managers).
With exception to the mustard comment, I probably don’t need to explain this at all. Any Product Manager who’s earned their stripes has run into a company or a period in their career where Sales started making Product Management decisions. But just in case, I wanted to explain myself a little better.
Don’t get me wrong folks, I love a good sales force! In fact, I make it a point to always thank them for what they do, and frequently remind them that their efforts put food on my table. I will go WAY out of my way to assist in the sales process, and I’ll go even further to suck their minds dry of every bit of customer information they can give me (insert Vulcan mind-meld here!). Those relationships are critical to my success, and the information they have is vital to create the next generation of successful products. But that’s not what I’m talking about.
When should you watch out? When you find that marketing research is only performed to support the desires of the sales force, you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. Before you read on, read that last sentence again. Can you truthfully say that your marketing research is done to seek out truth? Or was it done to support an executive’s desire? Or maybe the market research was done correctly, but you quietly are being coerced as a Product Manager to make decisions based on next quarter’s expectations. Do yourself a favor, and answer this question truthfully.
It’s hard to explain this subject with such a wide paint brush, which obviously isn’t fair, or even helpful. But here’s my suggestion: If you find yourself in this downhill struggle, make sure your marketing research is correct, collect data that cannot be argued, then defend it. If necessary, go back and do more research (until you release the product, it’s never too late!). Without it, you have no argument and you might as well go along for the (bumpy) ride.