Category Archives: Marketing

Articles related to marketing and product marketing management. Many articles focus on word-of-mouth advertising and the idea-virus.

Buyer Personas And User Personas

buyer personauser persona

A lot of people stand up a variation of “If you build it, he will come” (from Field of Dreams) as a copy-writing hook for whatever they are about to tell you about creating products/services/whatever.  We’re no better.  We’re going to tell you that there is a big difference between the people who buy your product and the people who use your product.

If you build what he thinks he wants, he will come.

Actually, we need two catchy quotes.

If you build what he actually needs, he will come back.

For good measure, let’s plug my recent article in The Pragmatic Marketer, Maximize Your Word of Mouth Marketing: Turning Users Into Fans with a gratuitous quote.

If you build it right, he’ll bring his friends.

These quotes (the first two) highlight the differences between buyer personas and user personas.

Continue reading Buyer Personas And User Personas

Fast Follower Product Strategy: Microsoft Zune

Microsoft has a product called Zune that is a competitor to the Apple iPod. They just recently announced their second release – the new version of the Zune. Since Apple already dominates that market, Microsoft qualifies as a follower – how are they approaching the introduction of a new product to compete with an 800 lb. gorilla?
Continue reading Fast Follower Product Strategy: Microsoft Zune

Maximize Your Word of Mouth Marketing


It isn’t just about finding customers anymore. You have to build fans. Take a look at the dynamics of word of mouth marketing and how they can cause your product to succeed. This article includes tips and references for helping you move through each stage in the cycle of fans, maximizing opportunities for word of mouth marketing for your products.
Continue reading Maximize Your Word of Mouth Marketing

Product Manager Role Details and Survey Results


Pragmatic Marketing runs an annual survey of product managers. We looked at 440 results from the 2006 Product Manager Survey to uncover the trends in how different product manager roles are defined. The survey involved questions breaking down the allocation of time to different activities. In this article we look at how those activities varied for product managers, product marketing managers, segment / market managers, and technical product managers.

Previous Analyses

For most people, the first thing they want to do is understand product manager compensation data. That article included an analysis of gender bias in product manager compensation. We quickly followed with another article that provided details on product manager compensation versus company size. In response to reader questions, we took a look at product manager staffing levels. In that article, we tried to determine how many product managers to have for X products.

Now that we know how many product managers to hire, what should we have them do?

Product Manager Role Details

The role of a product manager is strategic. There are six areas of activity that are critical to product management.

The six areas

  1. Market Research
  2. Product Definition and Design
  3. Project Management
  4. Evangelize the Product
  5. Product Marketing
  6. Product Life Cycle Management

Product Manager Role Definition

Within those six areas are a number of activities, and respondents to Pragmatic Marketing’s survey provided a lot of data about what they do on a weekly basis. The survey asked product managers how much time they spent on each of seventeen different activities.

Pragmatic’s Activity List

Each respondent was asked if they spent less than an hour, less than half a day, a full day, or more than a day on each of the following product management activities:

  1. Researching Market Needs
  2. Preparing Business Case
  3. Writing Product Requirements
  4. Writing Detailed Specifications
  5. Monitoring Development Projects
  6. Writing Copy for Promotional Material
  7. Approving Promotional Material
  8. Creating Sales Presentations and Demos
  9. Training Sales People
  10. Going on Sales Calls
  11. Visiting Sites (Without Sales People)
  12. Performing Win/Loss Analysis
  13. Planning and Managing Marketing Programs
  14. Measuring Marketing Programs
  15. Work with Press or Analysts
  16. Creating Original Content For Customers
  17. Creating Original Content For Employees

Survey Results By Activity

Here’s the breakdown of time spent by activity for all survey respondents.

Combined Product Manager Activity Data

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Each activity has a row in the table. To read the table, each column represents the amount of time spent on the activity. The headings represent the exact text presented in the survey. From left to right, the columns represent

  • The name of the activity as described in the survey
  • “Under an hour” spent per week
  • “Under a half a day” spent per week
  • “A full day” spent per week
  • “More than a day” spent per week

The numbers in each cell are the number of respondents that selected that level of effort for each activity. When a cell represents more than 25% of the respondents, the text is colored red and marked in italics.

For each activity, the level of effort that had the greatest number of respondents is also bold with a gold background.

The results show a fairly even distribution of activities in each product manager’s week. The areas that received concentrated attention were

  • Researching Market Needs
  • Writing Product Requirements
  • Monitoring Development Projects
  • Creating Sales Presentations and Demos

Very consistent with the elevator pitch (30 seconds or less) description of what a product manager does. And all but the last one (sales-support) are identified as strategic activities. More than half of the respondents spent a day or more monitoring development activities, though. That seems a little high. Perhaps a more detailed analysis of the data will shed some light.The survey data asked people to describe their titles too. Next we evaluated the levels of effort by title.

Product Management Titles

The survey results included data from people who identified their titles as being most like one of the following:

  1. Product Manager
  2. Product Marketing Manager
  3. Segment/Industry/Market Manager
  4. Technical Product Manager

Here are the same tables, but filtered to include only the responses by title.

Product Manager

Product Manager Activity Levels

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The data for respondents with the title Product Manager is very consistent with the overall group data.

Product Marketing Manager

Product Marketing Manager Activity Levels

Product marketing managers have a very clear focus on sales and marketing support. They spend as little time as possible monitoring development activities. They also don’t appear to be sacrificing a subset of the marketing activities – their effort appears to be relatively evenly distributed.
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Segment / Industry / Market Manager

Segment Manager Activity Levels

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There were very few product-line manager responses in the data, but the areas of distinction are that they spend more time on preparing business cases and approving promotional material. They also spent far more time planning and managing marketing programs. This is good – these are the activities best leveraged across products.

Technical Product Manager

Technical Product Manager Activity Levels

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Technical product managers spend much more time on inbound activities like monitoring the development team. They also are more heavily involved in writing detailed specifications. They still have healthy levels of market research and writing requirements. And they minimize the time they spend on outbound activities like sales and marketing support.


The levels of effort are generally reasonably well distributed across the many activities identified in the survey. Further, the roles that have distinct focus (inbound, outbound, multi-product) spend their time appropriately.

Marketing Truths – Don’t Tell the Developers


Marketing is as foreign to most software developers as flying is to fish. We’ve found a list of ten truths of marketing, and we’re secretly sharing them with the developers who hang out here. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone in marketing.

Marketing 101

John Dodds wrote Marketing 101 For Geeks, where he shares 10 observations about marketing that might make sense to geeks and coders.

Here’s John’s list with our comments:

  1. Marketing is not a department. A great way to segue into the conversation – as an engineer, the first visual I always have of a marketing department is the one from Dilbert (Scott Adams draws marketing people as if they are at a perpetual cocktail party).
  2. Marketing is a conversation.* This is hard for developers. Conversation requires two-way communication. That’s a truth. But good marketing pre-empts questions and answers them. Imagine the reader having a conversation with your copy (marketing materials): “I wonder what this is?” “oh.” “I wonder how we could use that?” “oh. cool.” “where can I get it?”
  3. Simplicity does not negate complexity. A clear, easy to understand message is what coders might call “incomplete,” “over-simplifying,” or “simplicistic.” The secret that marketers keep to themselves is that this clear message is what opens the door – making it possible for customers to (eventually) understand and appreciate the power of a product that might be described with greater complexity.
  4. Think what? not how?. As cool as it might be that your search engine uses a trie data structure, what potential customers care about is the fact that you can search a billion documents in a tenth of a second. This secret seems to be the reverse of a simple definition of geek – “someone who cares about how it works more than what it does.”
  5. Think will not can. Featuritis is the condition of having too many features. Even the swiss army knife eventually became too large to slip in your pocket. We have to focus on what users need to do, and not everything that could possibly be done.
  6. Only you RTFM. Think about the obvious ways to use a product. Intuititive user interfaces have affordances. They don’t require people to read the manual. And the manual should be written to help people accomplish their goals- not as a description of the functionality.
  7. Technical support is marketing. Every touch-point with a customer is a marketing opportunity. Remember, we market not just by purchasing ads and putting up booths at conventions. We market by word of mouth.
  8. You’re not marketing to people who hate marketing. Remember the disdain you had when you started reading this list? Well, we’re not marketing to people who hate marketers. People want to know how to solve their own problems. They want to know how they can use our products to help. And they like the people who tell them.
  9. You’re not marketing to people who hate technology products. The people who get our message are the ones who are technology-agnostic (see #4 above). They neither love nor hate the product. But they love solutions.
  10. Marketing Demystifies. Remember the conversation from #2? As the conversation progresses, we enlighten our customers, and eventualy they develop an understanding of what they can do with our product. And from this, they develop a desire to buy our product.

*John’s original point #2 was really an anti-jargon point. We thought the conversational part of his point should be stressed instead.


Don’t let them know, but we’re on our way to understanding how this stuff works.

Usability Sells Software – Word of Mouth Marketing

for sale

There are three main models for selling software. You can hire a direct sales force. You can spend a lot on marketing and advertising. You can let your users sell the software for you, a technique commonly known as viral marketing. There’s a catch with viral marketing – users have to like your software.

Viral Marketing

We wrote an article in 2005, Ideavirus – Marketing By Word of Mouth, where we talked about a presentation by Seth Godin.

Some really key points he makes –

  • The idea vectors from user to user (slide 29)
  • The more you give your idea away for free, the more valuable it is (slides 32-33)
  • Build the mindshare first, then monetize. “get cash now!” cripples the spread of your virus (slides 36-40)
  • Seth gave his book away instead of selling it – 200,000 downloads the first two weeks (slide 55).

Seth may be the authority on viral marketing today. When he combines his work with Malcolm Gladwell, we get a great extension of the idea virus concept:

Seth Godin spells out the virus analogy. Someone uses a product or service and raves about it to his friends and associates. This is called sneezing. Some people only sneeze occasionally. Some people sneeze all the time. Some sneeze quietly, some loudly. Some sneeze to a small crowd and some sneeze to a huge gathering.

Karl Palachuk

Its the sneezers that spread the virus. But what makes people want to share?

Compelled To Share

People want to share the virus when they love the product. Gladwell talks (I think in The Tipping Point, but I don’t have it in front of me right now) about how some people are predisposed to sneezing. They will tell us all, good or bad, about the products that generate enough emotion for them to feel compelled to spread the word.

This sounds pretty scary – customers telling everyone about our product. What if our product sucks?

BazaarVoice, a company in Austin, issued a press release a while ago – “Positive Online Reviews Outweigh Negative Reviews 8 To 1.

Analysis across a diverse set of products and services indicates that positive reviews outweigh negative reviews 8 to 1, with an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars across all live Bazaarvoice clients.


“We are seeing a ‘Rating J-Curve’ across many clients in diverse industries,” said Sam Decker, vice president of marketing and products at Bazaarvoice. “The distribution looks like a J on a graph, where you see a low volume of 1 star reviews, fewer 2 and 3-star reviews, and a huge jump in 4 and 5-star ratings. While surprising at first, this finding agrees with third-party studies that suggest word of mouth is much more positive than we often assume.”

Sam Decker (Who also has a great blog)

If you’re still gun-shy, even though we know the odds are in our favor, there are ways to make our software not suck.

Comprehension Through Contrast

There’s a great visual in an article at 37signals titled In-store good or at-home good? that puts this all in perspective, when compared to traditional marketing approaches. The article sites an analysis from the Harvard Business Review.

They contrast the imact that the number of features has on two different personas. The buying persona, and the using persona.

  • The buying persona perceives more value (at the time of sale) from having more features.
  • The using persona experiences more value (over time) from having fewer features.

This is the basic premise of the more is less argument. We can step back and generalize this a bit.

Software that is more usable grows in value to users over time

Usability Sells Software

The buying persona is the target for marketing and advertising. She is also the person that a direct sales force tries to convince to buy our products. That’s why marketing is always asking for more features. They want products that appear to be more valuable, because perception sells.

But buyers aren’t sneezers. Rarely does a friend call and say “I just bought this, and I haven’t used it much, but you have to get one!”

The idea virus is vectored by users. And users grow to like the product more and more over time. And the usability of the product has a major influence over how well they like the product. The more usable it is, the more word of mouth marketing we get.

How To Apply Market Research Better


Mike Mace provides us with some great insight about market research – helping us to avoid ‘the gap’ and ‘the blender’. The gap is a reflection of the inability of most customers to innovate. The blender is the loss of useful market information into a homogenized input that pushes only the lowest common denominator – again stifling innovation. We have to avoid the blender and the gap to get useful data from our research.

We know we need to base our product decisions on data, not opinion. How do we avoid the common pitfalls of misinterpreting the data.

gap in bridge

The Gap

The gap, simply put, is the possibility gap between a customer’s perspective on what is and a product vision of what could be. Mike argues that customers are so focused on what is wrong with their product that they will respond with only incremental improvement suggestions. We won’t find innovative new ideas by asking customers what they don’t like about their current products. As a curmudgeon giving directions would say, “You can’t get there from here.


The Blender

When surveying a large group of people, such as all customers in the market for our product, the feedback that we will see is that the items that get the greatest response are the items that get a response from the most people. The counter-intuitive notion is that these may be the least valuable features or capabilities. These only represent those things that are at least mildly beneficial to the most people – a lowest common denominator.

Mike points to the fact that the most successful products aren’t the ones that have bland, somewhat useful, wide spread appeal. They are the products that are loved by a minority. He uses the Blackberry and Treo as great examples – the vast majority of cell phone users have no interest in the features they provide. The minority that cares about email love both products – and both products succeed remarkably.

Avoiding The Blender

To avoid the blender-phenomenon, we need to get a more precise classification of the audiences in our target markets. Market segmentation is what we need to do. Mike points out that this is generally applied, and easy to do, when discussing existing markets. The SUV buyers, for example, were not a segment until after someone bought an SUV. The luxury SUV buyers weren’t a segment until someone bought a luxury SUV. So how do we define segments before segments exist?

By focusing on the creation of personas, we identify the personal goals that would provide useful segementation for a new market. When reading Mike’s list of three groups of cell-phone users, we can see how persona identification would have led us to a similar conclusion (emphasis mine).

When you do that with advanced phone buyers, three groups emerge. One group gives high ratings to all communication-related features — e-mail, instant messaging, built-in fax, etc. Basically, they’re communication junkies, and they’ll pay extra for a communication-enhanced phone. These are the people buying RIM Blackberries and Palm Treos today.

The second group gives high ratings to information-related features — large memory, document display, databases, etc. These are people in information-intense jobs who need a mobile memory supplement. Think of a doctor looking up drug dosage information on the go, or a lawyer trying to find a case reference in court.

The third group responds best to entertainment-related features: music, video, games, and other ways to have fun. These entertainment-focused users tend to be younger than the others, and don’t want to give up their electronic lifestyle even as they enter the job market.

Thanks Mike, for a great article!


There is an interesting point in this analysis – that for a product to succeed, it does not need to be perfect for everyone, it only needs to address the needs of a subset of people in the market. Several people have written that for a product to really succeed, it must be both hated and loved. We can interpret this to mean that a product targets one segment of the market (who loves it) to the exclusion of another segment (who hates it). Most people hate minivans, but the people who love them really love them. A persona-based approach to segmenting the market will help us identify these collections of like-minded individuals.

Meaningless Marketing Messages


Web Ink Now has a great article and analysis of the gobbledegook that passes for marketing messages. They’ve done an analysis of over 50,000 articles during the first nine months of 2006. Not only have they identified many of the most ridiculous terms, they’ve ranked them (or stack-ranked them, as a former employer would say) based on frequency.

The Goal of a Marketing Message

A nebulous goal that leads to inaction is “find customers” or “sell product.” That may be the high level goal of marketing, but it is no more useful than using the goal “Make more profit” would be in defining a software product.

Shotgun Approach

Using platitudes like cutting edge and user-friendly is like shooting at a distance with a shotgun. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll hit someone – but you’re kidding yourself if you think it was anything but luck. The gobbledegook that David Meerman Scott at Web Ink Now identifies is the worst kind of trite meaningless jargon. Finding customers is about persuasion, and requires us to target individuals with a sniper rifle (prolonging the firearm metaphore).

Sniper Rifle

A marketing message should be a targeted communication, with a specific persona or audience in mind. Learn from David and Seth and the host of other people who know this stuff a lot better than we do!

Enjoyable Read

In addition to the great article, there is some serious data eye candy in the graph of the top twenty trite terms. The top three:

  1. Next generation
  2. Flexible
  3. robust

Go to David’s article to see the rest of them.

Outside Reading: Product Manager vs. Product Marketing Manager

reading outside

Jeremiah Owyang, a Silicon Valley Community Manager writes about the difference between product managers and product marketing managers.

I typically view that Product Marketing Managers are ‘outbound’ and are responsible aligning the product with the market/customer. The could/should deliver the requirements to the Product Manager who will build the requirements into the development or engineering cycle.

Jeremiah Owyang

A good discussion thread has started on the post too, including a link to pragmatic marketing’s survey results on breakdown of responsibilities. Jump on over to Jeremiah’s post and join in the discussion (or post here, of course). From the survey results, it seems that both product managers (PM) and product marketing managers (PMM) commonly have product strategy responsibilities as their primary focus. Technical product management falls to the PM, while marketing and sales support fall to the PMM.

This data supports the perspective that PMM is more outbound while PM is more inbound.

Jeremiah makes a good point that with startups and small companies, specialization is an expensive luxury. In a technology or software startup, the founders often set product strategy – at least initially. I think that making the distinction between PM and PMM in a small company is pretty irrelevant. Regardless of title, both sets of responsibilities will fall on the same person. As the company grows, the opportunity for specialization becomes realistic.

Perhaps the best argument for dividing responsibilities based on an inbound/outbound focus is to support future recruiting. While there is a lot of variation in the industry – that does seem to be the most common differentiator. And it is certainly the easiest to explain to recruiters (as a candidate or as a company).

More of this meme: