Tag Archives: product marketing

Solving Real Business Problems and Showing Value – Every Marketers’ Job

19 Jun

For me Marketing has always been about showing customers how a product solves real business problems and creates value.  Recently I became familiar with the term, Solutions Marketing.  Look online and you’ll find Solutions Marketer job titles in Fortune 500 companies and marketing consultants and agencies that provide Solutions Marketing services.

     What is Solutions Marketing?  One of the definitions I found on Google stated, Solutions Marketing addresses a business level problem, aligning products with business value. Good Solutions Marketing speaks directly to business needs. 

     Young Asian BusinessmanAs a career marketer in various roles (communications, product marketing and management), my job has been to show customers how my company’s products solve real business problems.  Whether developing a Marketing Requirements Document for a new product or creating product messaging, each required an understanding of how the product solved a business problem and created value for customers.

     Maybe it’s the sign of the times.  Many marketing functions have become specialized. As marketers, if we cannot show customers how our products solve business problems, we will fail in our efforts. Solutions Marketing is something we all do (or should do) regardless of our marketing job title (or function).

     Wikipedia has this definition of Marketing: B2B marketing is creating value, solutions, and relationships either short-term or long-term with a company or brand. It is an integrated process through which companies build strong customer relationships and create value for their customers and for themselves.

Consider that most companies aren’t large enough to have a specialized Solutions Marketing position or group. Is it the role of all marketing functions to understand and communicate how a product solves a business problem and creates value for customers?  What do you think?

Get Unstuck and Seize the Opportunity

13 Mar

One of the problems that we all face from time to time is getting stuck.  We may get stuck for different reasons but when we are stuck, we have closed our minds and our ability to be open to change.  The cost is missed opportunities.  

Woman with Arms in Air upwards towards the sky/sunAt one time in my career, I was a data security product marketing manager and made the mistake of being stuck in a belief.  It was very early on in the data security market, (late 90’s), and we were marketing enterprise-grade security firewalls.  These firewalls were designed for large networks, expensive and required technical expertise to implement and manage.  This worked fine for large enterprises but, not for small/medium size businesses (SMBs).  Back then SMBs were the next big growth market for data security products.

Taking the advice of very knowledgeable security gurus, I wasn’t willing to compromise the level of security that large firewalls provided in order to move down market.  I was stuck in the belief that the new firewall designed for SMBs would not provide adequate security.  The truth was that the new firewall did provide good security and SMBs needed a security solution.  The large, expensive, complex enterprise firewall was not it.  Fortunately, after many heated discussions with those in favor of the new firewall, we included it in our security offering. It wasn’t enterprise grade but, it met the needs of the SMBs on price, technical simplicity and security.  The small firewall was a successful addition to our product offering.

Many times, you don’t even realize you are stuck in a belief or idea that is keeping you from seeing an opportunity clearly.  We need to remind ourselves often to remain open to new ideas, not be too quick to judge them and allow them the time to be considered so we don’t miss out on those opportunities for growth.

A Helpful Checklist for a Successful New Product Introduction

30 Jan

Start with a Business Case for the Product

Did you do the work upfront to confirm that it makes sound business and financial sense for your company to introduce this product (or service)? That upfront work is a business case and plan for the product.  You should answer these strategic questions in the business case. How does this product address the market / customer needs?  What can your company deliver uniquely with this product that no competitor can?  Do your core strengths support this product?

It’s critical that you accurately and honestly forecast the sales you plan to generate fromTwo business people giving a high five for success this product, projected product costs to determine the gross margin as well as any additional operational (or other) headcount required to support the projected revenues and new business/customers.

Pull together a cross-functional product team that has the knowledge to provide the data needed to develop the business case. Some team members may only be needed on occasion (sales management, finance, manufacturing, marketing communications) while other members are core to the business case development, engineering, operations, product management and product marketing.

With the product business case completed, you have the information needed to move forward. Next have management review and approve the business case.  Having their buy-in will ensure that your product receives the resources and support required to be successful.  In most companies, this is a requirement.

Checklist for a Successful New Product Introduction:

1.  Beta Test the Product. Work with a few of your trusted key customers to trial and provide feedback to get the ‘kinks’ worked out from both the product and operations side.

2.  Back-end Processes. Ensure the back-end processes are in place and the internal operations teams (customer service, help desk, etc) are fully trained on the new product.

3.  Customer Feedback Loop.  Make sure to set up a process for customer feedback both for the beta test and after the introduction.  The feedback loop for customer issues and comments should include the core product team  who is responsible to evaluate and resolve.

4. Sales Training.  Your sales channel should be fully trained and all support materials completed.  This includes customer presentations (pitch deck) for the sales team, internal website updates.

5.  Marketing.  Is the launch planned and ready to go?  Is the website updated?  Are the product materials, such as manuals, technical white papers, and product FAQs completed?

If these can be answered with a YES, a successful New Product Introduction can be the result.

Anything you’d add to this checklist?

Resources:  Big Picture Questions to Ask When Launching a New Product, Alex Gammelgard, Arena

Using Social Media to Generate New-Product Ideas and Innovations

7 Nov

by Susan Lowe

Benefits of Using Social Media for New Product Ideas and Innovations

Social media can be an ideal method for your business to collect information from customers for new product ideas and testing those ideas because of its mass reach and speed at which information is shared.  Companies that are using social media for new product innovation are realizing real business benefits, according to research done by Kalypso.  These benefits include more and better product ideas and requirements, faster time to market and lower product costs.

Traditional methods used for gathering data and researching customers’ needs can be very costly.   Social media has the potential to provide better quality information at much less cost.

How Companies are using Social Media to Generate Product Ideas 

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, Wikis and Public and Private communities are being used today in a variety of ways to learn what customers think of existing products and for new product ideas.

Community chat rooms and Twitter are used by companies to listen to what customers are saying about their products. On LinkedIn groups are asked questions about a company’s product or service and group members’ responses are then monitored. Companies are testing new product concepts on Facebook and Twitter by polling fans to rank or choose their favorites from a list of choices.  Customers are asked to share their comments about a product, they watched on a YouTube video.

Your target audience and what information you want to collect will determine which social media and the best method (questions, poll, survey, listening, comments) to use.

Recommendations when Using Social Media to Generate New-Product Ideas and Innovations:

  1. Define your social media strategy for product innovation.  It should tie in with your overall product innovation strategy and broader social media strategy.
  2. Pull together a cross functional team that may include stakeholders from management, engineering, customer service, marketing and product management.  If possible, include someone from your company that knows social media.
  3. Choose a team leader to champion the effort.
  4. Set Goals. Determine what it is you want to accomplish.
  5. Develop a Plan.  Remember to determine your target audience(s) and what social media sites they engage. This will help you decide which social media to include in your plan.
  6. Define the Processes.  Determine before you begin, how will the information be collected, shared, and analyzed and what you will do with the results.
  7. Test it.  Before jumping in with both feet, consider starting out with a pilot program.
  8. Confirm the program is on track.  Meet often to review interim findings.
  9. Measure. Did you meet the goals?  Look at what worked right and what did not. Take your learnings from the pilot and make any necessary adjustments.
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