Monday, November 26, 2007

Pragmatic Marketing Rule #8

This is the eighth in a series of posts on Practical Product Management Rules from Pragmatic Marketing.

Rule #8: Your opinion, although interesting is irrelevant.

As marketers, we've all had to put up with the "everyone's an expert" syndrome, in which people feel free to second guess and take pot shots at everything we do.

  • Unveil the new logo? Someone will hate it - and, of course, let you know.
  • Name the new product? Guaranteed that someone will think the name is dumb - or inform you that they once had a dog with this name. (Come on, did someone really have a dog named OmniCentraSolvAll?)
  • Publish the list of new features? Why'd you pick those ones? Why didn't you put in the one I suggested?

Color of the golf-outing t-shirt. Trade show graphics. Target market. Partner strategy.

Doesn't matter how strategic, how tactical, how important, how trivial: people second guess what marketing does in a way that they don't typically second guess, say, accounting.

So in these circumstances, the rule holds.

But on this rule, I find that I have to somewhat part company with the folks over at Pragmatic Marketing. Or, at least, it's where I put a big, fat qualifier on this one.  Because an informed opinion can be both interesting and relevant.

And sometimes the person with the informed opinion knows something you don't know. Or thinks  about something in a way that you don't. Or just always seems to have an opinion that's worth listening to.

With any luck, you'll know who the Informed Opinions are and include them somewhere in the process before the decisions are made. (After you spent all that money on the new logo is not the time to find out that an underground fascist party - or the dumbest reality show ever - uses the same look and feel.)

What can the Informed Opinion do for you?

It can save you from making a mistake.

You might have fallen in love with the new color scheme. Come on, who doesn't like avocado and harvest gold? The Informed Opinion might inform you that two of your closest competitors are using the same colors, and you don't want to look too "me, too."

UniCentraSolvAll may sound like a swell - even a uniquely swell - product name. Informed Opinion may be able to tell you that it's actually the name of a heavily-marketed condom in Spain, or the highest grade street hash in Amsterdam. (This actually happened when I was at Genuity. Of course the product wasn't UniCentraSolvAll, it was Black Rocket, and these two little tid-bits turned up after we'd started a big, $$$ branding campaign.)

You may have missed an important and compelling product feature, and Informed Opinion may be able to tell you what it is and why it's so darned important.

Of course, Informed Opinion's opinion is not so darned important if you've done your homework. But you can't think of everything, so it's always good to have a couple of trusted Informed Opinions you can count on.

As far as your own opinions go:  Offer your opinions only when asked for them. Try to eradicate (or at least minimize) any after the fact sniping and second guessing. (You hate it when it's done to you!) And keep in mind that an opinion that's informed by facts and market information is genuinely valuable and generally welcomed.


Steve Johnson said...

Sometimes it helps to remove the "Y"--OUR opinions, while interesting, are irrelevant... in the face of market facts.

Actually, I think you've made this point. "Black Rocket is a silly name" is opinion; "Black Rocket is the name of a condom" is a fact.

Too often, product managers and marketers expect emotion and opinion to persuade an organization built upon facts. Companies live in a world of facts and figures while the typical marketer lives in a world of emotion and opinion.

So hey, product manager and marketer: leave your opinion at home. Go to your meetings with facts and figures and leave the opinions to others.

Mary Schmidt said...

Well, I'm somewhere in the middle...or out in left field. I believe that product managers and marketers opinions do matter. We have, after all, (I hope) been doing this stuff for a while.

That said, we also have to realize that "I" isn't necessarily the target market. This "I" factor (I don't like it; I don't understand it; I wouldn't buy it) can kill a good idea before it ever gets off the white board.

We all live in a world of facts, figures, emotion and opinion. And, we'll search desperately until we find "logical" facts to support our emotional decisions.