Monday, June 28, 2010

From the Intrawebs - June 28

I haven't had much time this month for reading or writing as I've settled into the new responsibilities. That should change as I get some of the critical things-that-must-be-done-yesterday finished.

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What's New

Worth Reading

Disclaimer: Unless otherwise noted, I have no affiliation with linked properties other than being an interested reader, a happy user, or a potential customer: Nobody pays to receive a link. Any opinions of linked properties are theirs, not mine. I may or may not agree, but to be on this list I think their opinion is at least interesting.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bringing Out Your Inner Extrovert - How to Make the Most of Conferences

Conferences have been a favorite of marketing for a long time, with good reason. There are few places where you can find such a concentrated grouping of potential customers ready to talk about your products. The more closely aligned your business is to the conference, the higher the concentration. What a great way to get targeted leads!

Many of the product managers I speak with look at conferences differently. Instead of being lead generation factories, they are opportunities to connect with real people. They recognize the majority of the value of the conference isn't in what is being presented (though there may be value there) nor is it in the leads that are being captured (though there may also be value there), it is in the knowledge gained through informal conversations.

Like a good number of product managers with a software engineering background, I am an introvert. Having spontaneous conversations with strangers puts me way outside of my comfort zone, so I have to work to overcome my natural desire to sit back and listen.

Here is how I approach conferences to ensure I get value out of those informal conversations:

Prepare Before the Conference


I don't just try to "wing it" at the conference. I'm not very good at striking up small talk and have a harder time directing the conversation if I'm not prepared. Before the conference, I will:
  • Determine what the significant open questions I want answered are. I look at conferences to give me specific feedback to specific questions, so I need to know what the questions are.
  • Determine what types of people can answer those questions. Do I need to be speaking to a particular level of person (CxO, manager, etc) or do I need to be speaking to somebody in a particular vertical?
  • Visualize the conversations. In particular, for me, it is about getting the conversations started, so I spend time thinking about the various times I will be able to direct the conversation and how I can do that.

Find the Best Times for Chatting


Some times at a conference are better for chatting about your product than others. Some of best times for striking up a conversation are conference meals, receptions, and while waiting for a session to start. You may not have time to have a full conversation, but you can try to get permission to contact the person later.

Starting the Conversation


I find it easiest if I initiate the conversation. This allows me to direct the conversation where I want it to go from the outset, rather than trying to reshape an existing conversation. This is the most difficult part for me, but after a little experience, it becomes almost second nature.

People like to talk about themselves, so I almost always start the conversation by looking at their name badge, finding the company and asking something like "What does Company X do?" or "What is your role at Company X?" I never ask about titles because they are meaningless for the most part.

Guiding the Conversation


As I find out a little more about the person or people, I determine whether they fit any of the types of people who can answer the questions I previously identified. If I think they can, I introduce myself, my company, my role, and my product (using my elevator pitch). I then ask for permission to ask questions, making it clear that I'm not a sales person or in any way looking to make a sale.

As I mentioned, people like to talk about themselves, but now you've upped the ante. You've asked somebody to talk about what they consider themselves experts at. I have never been turned down.

Thanks to my prep work, I know what information I'm trying to get. I may not ask the specific questions I identified above, but those will guide the questions that I do ask.

Finally, I always ask for permission to contact them later and swap contact information. Business cards are still the most common way to do that, so I write contextual information on the card (when and where we met, etc).

Following Up


After the conference, I follow up with everybody I talked to. Depending on the conversation, the follow up ranges from a "Thank You" email to a telephone call with more questions.

There seems to be a large push on-line that conferences have little marketing value anymore. Perhaps that is true (I'm not totally convinced, but that's another article), but that doesn't mean they don't have product value. The real value of a conference for a product manager is not what the presenters are talking about, but rather what the attendees are talking about. Make sure you are ready to listen!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

From the Intrawebs - June 1

As mentioned in my previous post, my focus for the forseeable future is going to be builing a new product at a new company. For an entreprenurial product manager, this is heaven! You can probably expect this blog and From The IntraWebs to reflect that, as this is my method of syntesizing the things I learn.

You can subscribe to the live feed of this list in your choice of feed readers. You can also follow @FromTheIntraWeb to get instant gratification.

If you find something that you think belongs on this list, send it to me via @SoftwareMaven on Twitter.

What's New

  • The Startup Toolkit - A fascinating little tool for working through assumptions/goals/what-have-you for a start-up. It is based on Steve Blank's customer development model.

Worth Reading

  • Pre-Launch Marketing for Stealthy Startups - What do you do with your website before you are ready to launch? Hint: you should be doing something!
  • Conjoint Analysis 101 - A great introduction to conjoint analysis, which is a methodology for determining the value of individual features to your product. I will definitely be digging deeper.
  • The plural of anecdote IS data. - The plural of anecdote is not data. Except when it is. This post will help you how to turn those anecdotes into data (and that really is your job as a product manager).
Disclaimer: Unless otherwise noted, I have no affiliation with linked properties other than being an interested reader, a happy user, or a potential customer: Nobody pays to receive a link. Any opinions of linked properties are theirs, not mine. I may or may not agree, but to be on this list I think their opinion is at least interesting.

ClickLock Hired Product Management First

A while ago, I posted my belief that product management should be hired first (and found others who agreed with me).

I'm very excited to announce that ClickLock.com took those words seriously. Today, I am joining ClickLock as its first full time employee! You won't find much information about ClickLock yet, but that will change. We know we have a good idea and some very interesting technology, now it is my job to find out the product for that technology.

As a company, ClickLock will be following the Lean Startup philosophy. What that means is that our primary focus is not hiding behind closed doors and building some uber-cool thing. Instead, our focus will be to spend a lot of effort figuring out exactly what the market wants through communication and pivoting, then rapidly scaling to provide that.

As the product manager, I will be following the Customer Development model as the method of determining what the ideal product is. As a small company, we have very limited resources; Customer Development allows us to ensure our precious development resources are being use optimally by knowing who our customers are and what they want to buy before we spend a small fortune building something.

I have always had a passion for small companies and am extremely excited about ClickLock. I believe the product is really going to make a positive impact in the ways we communicate most frequently on the Internet. After seeing small companies struggle so much after building a leviathan that nobody wanted, I'm also thrilled to be utilizing a development model that will maximize our chances of achieving those goals.

Stay tuned for the grisly details!