Product Managers Know That They Need To Make Their Product Contagious

by drjim on June 17, 2013

You want your product to spread from customer to customer

You want your product to spread from customer to customer
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If you had to picture your product becoming wildly successful, what would you see in your mind’s eye? I’m betting that you wouldn’t be picturing a whole bunch of people sneezing – that was never part of your product development definition. However, if you take just a moment and think about it, what we really want to have happen is for our products to become contagious and for all of our target customers to “catch” it. How can product managers make this happen?

The Story About Tiger Woods’ Golf Clubs

We all like stories don’t we? Well here’s one that you are going to really enjoy. Dr. Sally Linkenauger and her team have been doing some studies on just exactly how superstitious we all are.

What Dr. Linkenauger’s team did was to get a bunch of golfers together. Then then had them do some putting. However, they told half of the group that they’d be using the very golf clubs that had been used by a famous golfer. The golfers who believed that they were using clubs that had been handled by a famous golfer ended up sinking 32% more of their putts than the other group did.

What does this all mean to a product manager? Simple. The researchers found evidence of what they called a “positive contagion”. What this means is that the golfers who were using the clubs that they had been told had been used by the famous golfer believed that his professional skills had somehow rubbed off onto the clubs and because of this they performed better.

You’ve got that right. Customers believe that when somebody touches an object, they leave a part of themselves behind on it. This is one of the reasons that autographs can be so valuable – the famous person touched the paper when they autographed it.

How To Make Your Product Contagious

I can almost hear what you are thinking right now: this is all fine and good, but what does it have to do with my product? This doesn’t seem like something that you’re going to be able to add to your product manager resume. It turns out that you can use this knowledge in two different ways: internal and external.

The internal usage has to do with your product development team. At some point in time, somebody on your development team is going to have a great idea. You need to get them to write that idea down in a notebook. The notebook can then be passed around within your development team for others to read about this great idea.

Eventually someone will have another great idea. Have them add their idea to the book. What’s going to happen is the book is going to come to be seen as the spark that creates great ideas. Just possessing the book and reading it is going to be viewed as causing great ideas to happen.

The same type of magic can be applied to your customers. One way to capture this is to document a story about someone who your potential customers know uses your product. The great things that they were able to do will be attributed to your product and customers will buy the product in order to have the same experience.

Another simpler way to do the same thing would be to get a famous person to lend their signature to packaging of your product. Yes, a real autograph would be the best. However, a reproduced autograph will go a long way in adding some of that famous person’s magic to your product. Just make sure that the reason that the person is famous has something to do with your product!

What All Of This Means For You

In the end, our product manager job description tells us that we are all trying to get real live people to buy the products that we are managing. This means that we need to understand what influences real live people.

Researchers have discovered that when we think that someone that we respect or admire has used something we now believe that it may have some sort of “magical power”. Product managers can use this belief to make our products more contagious.

We need to keep in mind that it’s not always the best or the lowest price product that will end up dominating a market. Rather, it may be the product that customers simply believe will do the job better than any other product no matter what its price is. What this means is that as product managers we need to make sure that our customers get exposed to our products and they pass it on to others.

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

Question For You: What do you think is the best way to get your customers to believe that someone famous used your product?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As product managers, one of our main goals is to always be searching for ways to apply the product development definition in order to leverage our products and boost the company’s bottom line. At the same time, we need to stay aware of our product’s impact on the company’s reputation. Over at the U.S. bank, Bank of America, their product managers seem to have forgotten this very important set of rules…

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