Product Managers need to be smart about how they reach customers

Product Managers need to be smart about how they reach customers
Image Credit: David Fulmer

I’m pretty sure that by now just about everyone out there has heard about Facebook. Facebook is the largest social networking platform going these days. What a lot of us may not know about is the fact Facebook employs a lot of product managers whose job it is to help customers advertise on Facebook. This job is a little bit different from the typical product manager job, but perhaps we can all learn something from them…

What Makes Facebook Advertising So Popular?

Let’s be frank here – Facebook is very, very popular. Facebook is the world’s largest social network – they currently have 1.3 billion users. In the U.S., 1 out of ever 6 minutes spent online was spent on Facebook. 1 out of every 5 minutes of mobile usage was spent on Facebook. Clearly the Facebook product managers have got their product development definition right and have a real winner on their hands.

However, Facebook is now attempting to make their product more appealing to advertisers. Facebook first started selling ads on its site 10 years ago. Facebook is competing with Google who delivers ads that match what people are currently looking for and TV which can reach a mass audience. Facebook product managers claim that they can both reach exactly the right audience and then measure what they do once they’ve gotten the message.

No, Facebook is not going to be replacing TV advertising. However, it is starting to look like there might be a role for it to help advertisers to achieve their goals. Not only is Facebook really, really big, but they also have the ability to achieve a very personal engagement with the people that the advertisers are trying to sell to.

How Are Facebook Ads Created?

The Facebook product managers understand that their advertiser’s customers, Facebook users, are being overwhelmed with ads already. In order for a Facebook ad to be effective, it’s going to have to be able to capture the attention of the end user when they see it. If the product managers can figure out how to do this correctly, then they’ll something else to add to their product manager resume.

This kind of product creation process is very hard to do. The Facebook product managers realize it and so they bring together a lot of people in what they call “publishing garages”. These are multi-day meetings in which ideas are kicked around and the goals for an advertising campaign are hashed out. The final outcome of one of these meetings will be the ads that will be run on Facebook.

In order to successfully create a product that will achieve the client’s results, the Facebook product managers create model customers in order to understand what they are looking for. Using Facebook’s immense collection of user data, they can then display the ads only for people who have shown an interest in products or topics that are similar to what is being sold. The final step is to agree with the customer on exactly what subset of Facebook’s users the new ad(s) should be matched with.

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

The product managers at Facebook have a real challenge on their hands. They are part of a very popular company; however, they now need to convince advertisers that spending money to advertise on Facebook is worth their time. I’m willing to bet that this was never a part of their product manager job description. As with all such new things, this can be a real challenge.

The one thing that Facebook can offer to advertisers that really seems to capture their attention is the ability to target their ads. TV is a great way to reach the masses, but Facebook allows advertisers to become a lot more selective. Facebook creates ads by having their product managers assemble “publishing garages” where all of the customer’s and Facebook’s players can come together to plan out how to create just the right advertisement.

As product managers we can learn from what the Facebook product managers are trying to accomplish. When we are faced with customers who are interested in our product, but who may be doubtful that it can solve their problem, we should take the time to relate it to what they do know.

Facebook does this by comparing themselves to television. When it comes time to determine how our customers can use our product, we need to take the time to meet with all of the right players. Only by designing a solution that works for them will we be able to make sure that they’ll have the best product experience. Perhaps if we can do all of this, we’ll be as successful as Facebook is!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that you should limit the number of people who come together to plan out how to deploy your prouduct at the customer?

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The Accidental Product Manager Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Product Manager Newsletter are now available. It’s your product – it’s your career. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Product manager just imagine that you find yourself in the following position: your company creates a great product development definition that it uses to make a new product that a large group of people want, in fact they might even need. Then you have the issue of what price you should sell your product at. Generally speaking, you’d want to set your price as high as possible, right? Is there any way that this could cause a problem? Is this going to be the kind of thing that you can put on your product manager resume?

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Marketing disasters can happen at any time, product managers need to be ready

Marketing disasters can happen at any time, product managers need to be ready
Image Credit: Rupert Colley

As product managers we generally spend our time trying to find ways to update our product development definition in order to make our product be more appealing to potential customers. Our goal is to convince them that we make a good product that will solve whatever their problems happen to be. The one thing that we never seem to spend any time worrying about is what to do if there is a marketing disaster. Do you even know what one of those looks like?

What Is A Marketing Disaster?

The first thing that a product manager needs to understand is just exactly what a marketing disaster is. If we don’t know what they look like, then there is no way that we’re going to be able to recognize it if it happens and that won’t look good on our product manager resume. A marketing disaster is any event that could negatively impact the profitability or reputation of either your product or your company.

The world that we live in today is unique in that the arrival of advanced technology tools allows for stories and rumors about products or companies to travel very quickly. No matter if the story has to do with a misstatement by a member of your company’s management or marketing team, a product defect, or a court ruling that goes against your company, your potential customers may be aware of it before you could say “Twitter”.

As a product manager you need to understand that a marketing disaster could happen at any time. The most important question that the rest of the company is going to be looking to you to answer is going to be “how big of a deal is this?” You are going to have to be able to quickly and efficiently evaluate the severity to of the marketing disaster so that you can make a recommendation to the company as to just exactly how many resources they need to dedicate to dealing with it.

What Is The Best Way To Gage The Severity Of A Marketing Disaster?

Product managers need to create a way to evaluate just how severe a marketing disaster is. The good news is that we are not alone in having to do this. The experts who work in the field of creating disaster recovery plans have been doing this for years. We can build on their work when we are creating our tools to evaluate the severity of a marketing disaster.

When creating a marketing severity tool, there are three things that a product manager needs to keep in mind:

  1. Limit The Number Of Categories To 5: It can be far too easy to get carried away with creating a large number of different marketing disaster categories. Don’t do it. Instead, try to limit yourself to creating no more than 5 different categories that run the range from “no big deal” to “may cause the company to go out of business”.
  2. Determine “Impact”: Every marketing disaster will be different. As the product manager, it is going to be your job to create a way to evaluate the impact that this event is going to have on your product and on your company. Keep in mind that the intensity / firestorm that may accompany an event may have nothing to do with its long-term impact.
  3. Create An Action Plan: Make sure that you have an action plan created for each category of marketing disaster. This will help the rest of the company to understand what they are going to need to do once the current marketing disaster has been placed into a category.

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

As though being a product manager was not hard enough, it turns out that another thing that needs to be added to our product manager job description is the ability to understand that in the world that we live in bad things can happen. Specifically, marketing disasters can happen. A marketing disaster puts our product’s reputation at risk and can impact the future success of our product.

Product managers need to realize that it is their responsibility to create the tools that their company is going to need in order to gage the severity of any marketing disaster that strikes them. These tools are going to have to limit the number of different categories that marketing disasters get classified into, determine the impact of the event, and identify what action plan will need to be executed.

The good news is that when (note that I did not say “if”) a marketing disaster strikes your product or your company, if you have a tool that will allow you to judge the event’s severity, then you’ll be well suited to deal with it. Product managers who can evaluate how important a marketing disaster are the ones who will be best suited to guiding their products through it.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Who at your firm should be put in charge of dealing with a marketing disaster when it occurs?

Click here to get automatic updates when
The Accidental Product Manager Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Product Manager Newsletter are now available. It’s your product – it’s your career. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I’m pretty sure that by now just about everyone out there has heard about Facebook. Facebook is the largest social networking platform going these days. What a lot of us may not know about is the fact Facebook employs a lot of product managers whose job it is to help customers advertise on Facebook. This job is a little bit different from the typical product manager job, but perhaps we can all learn something from them…

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