Here’s What A Monster Truck Event Can Teach Product Managers

by drjim on May 23, 2011

 Big Rigs Can Teach Big Lessons

Big Rigs Can Teach Big Lessons

Lessons in how to be a better product manager can come from the strangest places – including a Monster Truck event. I’m willing to confess, I dived deep into my redneck past over a recent weekend and took the family to the Monster Truck Jam event that was being held down at the local football stadium. Little did I know that I was going to get a lesson in product management…

Just What Is A Monster Truck Event?

What’s that you say? You’ve never heard of a Monster Truck event? Well let me tell you what you’ve been missing! Essentially what we’re talking about here is a truck freak show. Take a truck, pull off its tires, put on some very, very large tires and change out its suspension and vola, you’ve got a Monster Truck.

At these events, the Monster Trucks race each other to see who can make it around the track the quickest with trips off of jump ramps being part of the track, of course. After that’s all done, now comes the freestyle part of the competition. This involves 90 seconds of driving the truck around and crushing cars and making jumps far into the air.

As you can well imagine, this is a great deal of fun for the audience to watch and the 60,000 fans that were in the stadium with me spent most of their time on their feet cheering for their favorite drivers and trucks.

It’s Always About Your Next Sale

As a simple product manager surrounded by this chaos, I was stuck by the truly masterful amount of product management that was happening right before my very eyes. I quickly realized that there was a lot that I could learn just by paying attention.

One of the first things that I noticed was that the announcer almost from the start was trying to get me to buy tickets to upcoming Monster Truck events. It dawned on me that I had already self-selected myself as an interested potential customer for their next event by buying a ticket to this event. My and my 60,000 friends were the primary target market for selling tickets to the next event and the Monster Truck Jam product managers weren’t going to miss a beat in marketing their next product to us.

They were actually offering us three separate follow-on products. One was the opportunity to purchase tickets to the next event which would be the “Superbowl” of Monster Truck events that will be held out in Las Vegas. The next was an opportunity to buy tickets to a motorcross event that was going to be held in a nearby town in about a month (“if you like Monster Trucks, then of course you’d like motorcross…”). Finally, the third offer was for tickets to the next two events that are going to be held in my hometown of Tampa Florida next year.

The ticket purchase offers were a constant theme from the announcer and as he interviewed each of the Monster Truck drivers, they too invited their loyal fans to go out and purchase tickets to all of these events. Clearly the product managers were playing on the excitement of being at this event (“hey dad, can we go to the next event?”) and trying to get everyone to buy their next product.

Make It Easy To Buy From You

Just having another product to sell to your customer and identifying who that customer is may not be enough. You’d like to take this one step further and make sure that your customer buys from you. To do this, you’ve got to make it easy for your customer to buy your product.

All too often we product managers spend our time creating the greatest product that the world has ever seen. We then proceed to drop the ball and don’t do the extra work to make sure that our company’s ordering systems are easy for our customers to use when they want to buy our product.

The Monster Truck Jam product managers had this all figured out. They had included a US$10 discount coupon in the program guide that all of the loyal Monster Truck fans had bought. This coupon would expire in a week so they had put a sense of urgency into their fans who were considering purchasing tickets.

They had also decided that directing fans to purchase tickets online was the best way to pre-sell tickets for an event that the normal Ticketmaster channel was not yet set up to handle (since the event would be held next year).

To build up a sense of privilege, the announcer kept reminding the audience that online ticket sales would become available at 11pm that night. He also pointed out that if you wanted up close seats, you needed to be among the first to buy tickets.

The event wrapped up at about 9:30pm and so the product managers had correctly guessed that a lot of the audience would be at home and still up at 11pm. They had cleverly realized that fresh from a fun Monster Truck event, they might be primed to go online and purchase tickets if they thought that by doing so they could get the best seats available. Those Monster Truck product managers really knew their stuff…

What All Of This Means For You

If you’ve ever dreamed of pulling off your car’s tires and replacing them with 6 foot (1.83 meters) tires, then you are a prime candidate for attending a Monster Truck event when it comes to your town – and it will. If you do attend this event, you’ll see some amazing things and you’ll get a lesson in product management.

While you are at the event, you’ll be constantly reminded about other products that you can purchase. From remote control spinoff toys to tickets to the next big event, the producers realize that since you’ve bought tickets to this event, you are a prime candidate to buy more products from them.

In order to convince you to shell out even more cash, the folks who want to sell you more stuff make it very easy to buy from them. They also encourage you to do so quickly – buy now and get the good seats, buy now and save money off your next purchase!

No matter what you think about Monster Trucks (talk to my wife if you shudder at the thought of attending one of these events), you’ve got to admit that they are popular. As product managers we can only hope that our products will be that popular someday. We need to keep an eye on these Monster Trucks and let them show us the way to better product management techniques…

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

Question For You: Do you think that any time is too early to start asking your customer to make their next purchase?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

The global economy is roaring back again and it sure seems like everyone is starting to take stock of their job and decide if they want to stay where they are or move on to greener pastures. Product managers are no exception. Perhaps you’ve grown as far as you can or perhaps you feel that you’ve done everything that you’re going to be allowed to do where you are at. If you are thinking about moving on, you had better be careful that you don’t screw up your job change…

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