Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Look before you leap: why getting the marketing strategy straight matters

When people ask me what type of marketing I do, I sometimes answer "black and white," i.e., I focus on those things associated with market research, product and market strategy, positioning. I explain what I do as a product marketer vs. what marcom does - "color marketing." I am a complete, 100% believer that "color marketing" doesn't work unless you get the "black and white marketing" done first, and done right.

I thought of this as I reviewed - not for the first time, not for the last - a most excellent "Pragmatic Marketing Framework" developed by the eponymous Pragmatic Marketing.

The Framework lays out "a market-driven model for managing and marketing technology products", covering all the activities on the strategic-tactical marketing continuum. Other than the fact that they call product management what I would call product marketing, I don't have any quibble with The Framework whatsoever. Other than to wish that I'd come up with it. (Pragmatic Marketing also offers training sessions, one of which I took years ago when I worked at Annuity. It was really, really good. Too bad we ignored everything we learned from it.)

The Framework is accompanied by a list of twenty "Practical Product Management Rules," (many of which I hope to elaborate on over time), but one of the best ones to keep in mind:

Product Management determines the go-to-market strategy; Marcom executes the strategy.

Again, I'd substitute Product Marketing for Product Management here, but that's because I consider myself a product marketer. Over the course of my career, I've done both - as well as Marcom, for that matter. (Heck, in some of the places I've worked, I've worn all three caps simultaneously, sort of like Bartholomew Cubbins, for those of you of a (kids') literary bent.)

This is on my mind these days as I suffer with a client through some throes of agony over why the marketing program they've just completed hasn't worked much magic. After all, they've built a product. And they're smart. And the product's good. So why aren't people learning to love us through the baby-step marketing program(or through osmosis, which is, unfortunately, how most of their marketing occurs) and just call them up and order on the phone.

There are a lot of reasons why this isn't working and, truly, it is too raw and painful for me to get into them right now. I really like these folks. They are smart, hard-working, diligent, and good. It's just that - like a lot of techies - they've gone the if-we-build-it-they-will-come (damn them!) route.

So, we have a sales model that overwhelms the product. A price point that overwhelms the product value. And a product that underwhelms the market.

Don't get me wrong. It's a good product. And it helps solve a real problem. But the problem it solves is relatively small. And the operative word in the statement above is "helps". The product does not, left to its own devices, solve anything. In the hands of a user, it can help solve something. But it doesn't do it on its own.

Unfortunately, the sales and pricing model is geared toward panacea of the century.

If they'd put the upfront work in - and really listened to the market - they wouldn't be finding themselves in the quandary they're in.

There's another Pragmatic Marketing rule: "The answer to most of your questions is not in the building."

I so wish my buddies had thought of this before they'd "gone to market."

1 comment:

Phil Myers said...

Maureen,

Great post. And not just because you mentioned Pragmatic Marketing. More because it's a pain we see far too often in companies that wait until after the product is launched to figure out if their strategy is on target. It really is hard to 'get out of the office' before you launch (or even build) and listen because too often we don't like what we hear. But that's when it matters most because it is the only way to create a solution that resonates in the market. What is it they say about bugs in code ... they are 100x more expensive if they are caught after release vs. in QA or better yet design. It's really the same thing here. Repositioning after you've initiated your go-to-market programs is expensive and frustrating.

Phil Myers