V1 innovation within a V+1 org

Startups are optimized towards launching version 1.0 offerings, identifying product-market fit, and putting in place the best go-to-market organization to attract new customers. Once the “magic” happens (or should I say the challenging work pays off), when users and products find each other in a happy place, the growth loops evolve towards retention in addition to the original focus purely on acquisition. As the company matures, there is a natural tendency to increasingly drive the business towards delivering incremental products, focusing on the existing target audiences. After all, that’s where the revenue has come from historically, so why not concentrate the R&D and go-to-market investments on what we know best and minimize financial risks? Larger companies sometimes have a hard time going after something unproven that will take investing multiple years to become a meaningful part of the revenue. It could even take market share away from existing offerings!

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Where in the org is Product Marketing?

As companies evolve, they (sometimes) take the time to reflect on the best teams’ structure to achieve their strategies and goals. For most groups, the roles and responsibilities are self-contained within that function. For example, while the sales team organization to deliver the expected results might change significantly over time, from an inside-sales structure to heavy OEM or direct-to-consumer focus, the boundaries remain within “sales” – I can’t name any examples of companies beyond the Seed stage where the R&D leader manages the enterprise sales team. Yet, for one role, defining its location in the org-chart is not as clear… and that challenge is fundamentally described in the function name: Product Marketing.

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It’s not your opinion, it’s your expertise that matters

Everyone has plenty of them, and sadly, many of us are not afraid of sharing them regularly. Not only that, but they often have absolutely no relation with reality. Problematically, the more authoritative your position, the more significant their effect. Yes, I’m referring to opinions. Yet ultimately, what matters is expertise, not opinions.

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Product-Management Mastery: It takes (at least) 3

I’ve had the immense privilege of working with highly talented product managers over the years. I’ve also shared paths with others who still had a long and tumultuous path ahead of them as they struggle to master their craft. If I’ve discovered anything, it’s that product management is part art, part craft and part science.

While I’ve argued previously that product managers do nothing and there are as many definitions of the product manager’s role as there are products and companies, we all strive—or, at least, should be striving—to master our craft. The journey itself toward what I’ll call Mastery in Product Management is hugely rewarding, each product manager should have his or her own understanding of what mastery is in their field and how to recognize when they have achieved that level. This is my take on it.

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The trinity of products: Quality, Resources and Time

You’ve heard the old saw: “Fast, good or cheap—pick two.” You can get good-enough quality quickly, but it won’t be cheap. You can get a great price and have it ASAP but the quality will likely be suspect. Or you can have great quality at a great price but expect to wait for it. Developing products is a lot like that. It’s a flurry of constant choices—and compromises—that are about quality, cost and speed. Living within these constraints can be challenging, but living without constraints will almost certainly result in failure. What’s a product manager to do?

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It all comes down to communication

It’s a great feeling. You come out of a productive meeting you’ve chaired happy because everyone seemed to be on the same page. They all knew what was expected of them—your requests were very specific—and the next steps you outlined were clear and meaningful. Wonderful! Then, three days later, people are asking each other if they were even at the same meeting. Just because it was clear to you doesn’t mean it was clear to them. And whose fault is that? Sorry to say, but it was probably yours.

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Planning for success: What if your product is a hit?

When it comes to new products and feature introductions, we’ve all seen our share of successes—and flops that hit the floor with a loud and sudden THUD. Some launches were an instant hit while some got almost no traction—and certainly displayed no stickiness. But when success strikes, does all hell have to break loose? Can we prevent the process from collapsing under the heavy load? Perhaps we need to properly plan for success.

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The next step: Aircraft ownership

It’s a safe bet that within minutes of taking your first flying lesson, the thought of owning your own aircraft crossed your mind. In fact, the thought of owning one probably crossed your mind long before you ever signed up. (One thing you’ll soon learn is that you never really “don’t own” an aircraft. We like to think we are just “between planes.”)

This post is about the process I went through while joining my first partnership.

One thing many pilots do to reduce the cost of flying is to join forces with other fellow pilots. This is known as a partnership or a flying club, and it’s the road I decided to take a few years ago.

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Product Managers: Dare to make products crafted with care

Generally speaking, craftspeople take great care and pride in their work—their passion for what they do shows in the final product. Some craftspeople, however, are still remembered decades, even centuries, later. Here’s just one example. Of the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of stringed instruments in the world today, only 1,100, or so, were made by Antonio Stradivari, the great Italian luthier. Almost 300 years ago, he hand-built what are widely acknowledged as the finest violins and cellos (and a few other instruments) on the planet. His are still the standard to which all other luthiers aspire. Despite now living in the age of technology and automation, we must follow in Stradivari’s footsteps. Our #1 priority should be building products that are crafted with care and designed to delight.

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Better decision making: Business lessons from the aviation world

As a pilot with a penchant for lifelong learning, I recently attended a seminar on Crew Resource Management (CRM—sorry, business readers, CRM in this context has nothing to do with salesforce.com) at the Rockcliffe Flying Club. Essentially, its purpose was to show us how to be a better—and safer—pilot by using all the tools available to us.

As I sat there, I realized how much this course had to offer me as both a pilot and a business leader. After all, efficient operations are important in both arenas.

Even if your business isn’t as heavily regulated as the aviation industry, some simplified versions of the methods used in aviation can apply to just about any business.

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