2009 is dead, long live 2009. Ok, so it’s not quite dead yet; however, even as your sales teams are running around trying to close the year out on a high note you as a product manager need to start to set your sights on what you’re going to do to get ready for next year. Got a plan?
No matter what happens with the global economy, things aren’t going to get better overnight. This means that your customers are going to be living in a land of uncertainty next year also.
As a product manager the role that you can play next year is to be a source of both security and calm consistency for your existing and potential customers. You can do this by providing your sales teams with solution facts and industry information that they can share with your customers in order to answer their questions.
Even Less Time Is Available
At your customers, the key people who are required to make the decision to buy your product will have even less time to spend thinking about your product than ever. This means that you’re really going to have to start doing your homework.
Your communication with your sales teams is going to have to become a lot more frequent. You are going to have to start equipping them with new and different things that they are going to be able to share with your potential customers.
Too Much Data, Not Enough Knowledge
Welcome to the 21st Century. Your customers will have access to an almost unlimited amount of data; however, it’s going to be harder than ever for them to get the knowledge that they need.
This means that in your marketing for your product you are going to have to become the source of knowledge for the types of issues that your product solves. That means that 90% of what you send to your customers will have to be fact based knowledge that they can use – not product marketing material. The remaining 10% can be focused on your product.
Short Term Focus Syndrome
As though this wasn’t already a problem, your potential customers are going to be narrowing their focus even more than they already have. You’ll see this as they start to focus on how products that they buy can have a payback within 6 months instead of 12, 18, or even 24 months.
You are not going to be able to change this mindset, that will just have to happen over time. Make the urgencies that your customer is focused on your urgencies. Make sure that your marketing material tells them how your product can help them meet their short-term needs.
Baby, I Need You
Finally, as we move forward, your customer is going to end up needing you even more than they ever have. The only problem is that they don’t know this yet.
Your customers are going to be looking for ways to improve their business, but they just don’t know what they don’t know. They are going to be looking for help in getting a grasp on the “big picture” of the problems that they are facing. If you can help them do this, then they’ll be willing to talk with you about how they can go about solving parts of that problem.
What All Of This Means For You
Even as most companies start to finalize their 2010 budgets, you as a product manger need to get ready to finalize your plans for how you are going to be successful next year. It’s going to be a difficult year once again for your customers and so you are going to have to change how you deal with them.
Realizing that they will never see the world the way that you do, you and your sales teams are going have to be the ones who change in order to see the world the way that they do. More uncertainty, less time, and a short-term focus will all contribute to driving your product actions.
You need to realize that you can become your customer’s trusted source of knowledge. What you are going to have to keep in mind is that this can’t be done overnight. Create a plan now and work the plan as we go into next year and you’ll end up being more successful than you ever have been before.
What is the one thing that you know that you are going to have to do in 2010 in order for your product to be successful?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
Ah the world of product marketing — it’s where artists dream up brightly colored logos and put together viral YouTube videos that nobody really understands but everyone has to watch and send to their friends. Let’s reign in the magic unicorns that live in marketing and try to come up with a way to measure what we’re getting for what we’re spending. Maybe ROI is the way to go…