How Do Product Managers Prepare For A Marketing Disaster?

by drjim on June 15, 2015

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?

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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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