Real Time Marketing – BS or Blitzkrieg

BlitzkriegIt seems like marketers are rapidly becoming more and more enamored with the concept of “real time marketing”. It’s easy to understand why, but first let me define the terms I’m using.

During the Super Bowl “brownout” of 2013, social media marketers began to popularize the term as a way of explaining the clever and quick  reaction of the Oreo brand with its “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet. Now you can find social media agencies that have popped up focused on this theme and the RTM sucks blog does a great job of lampooning the usually lame attempts of big company marketers to utilize social media channels in near-real time.

I’m happy to see that the real time concept has not been totally co-opted by social media marketers. David Meerman Scott has broadened the concept to include virtually all elements of the marketing mix, responsive and running at high speed (that’s what I call Compound Marketing). In December, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) will hold their first Real-Time Marketing Conference in which “social, mobile, search and other channels” will be leveraged in real time via “data analytics and technology”.

So social is included but it’s not only social. Now we are getting closer to a definition that resonates.

Definition of Real Time Marketing

Marketers also appear to be starting to converge on a definition.  As reported by eMarketer, in a recent DMA survey on behalf of integrated marketing firm Neolane (recently purchased by Adobe for $600M), 43% of marketers indicated that real time marketing was defined as “Dynamic personalized content across channels”.




Channels for Real Time Marketing

(As an aside: it’s interesting that marketers consider good old-fashioned email to be their #1 real time marketing channel today.)




In my opinion, combining the ANA and survey definitions produces the most satisfying definition:

“Real time marketing is the practice of leveraging big data and advanced analytics to drive dynamic, personalized content across all channels in real time.”

Now to the question at hand: BS or Blitzkrieg?

There is no doubt that the data clearly shows marketers are jumping on the real time trend. The optimization of campaigns in real time is a near-tidal wave sweeping over marketing organizations. Magna Global’s recent advertising forecast shows that real time programmatic buying (largely via the new crop of demand side platforms and DMPs) is now 17% of all online display advertising in the US, rising to 48% by 2017 and already topping 30% in some more advanced markets. ClickZ also recently ran a lengthy article focusing on an IDC forecast with equally impressive growth statistics.

Google recently announced that it is also making it easier for marketers to serve dynamic content on websites, in near real time, via their new Real Time Analytics APIs. It seems like the forces of real time marketing are overwhelming. Here comes the blitzkrieg!

Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil

But can all effective marketing happen in real time? Is there still a place for the (non-real time) considerations of marketing judgment made by real people? Recently, Japanese and German computer scientists simulated 1 second of brain activity in the lab. It took 83,000 microprocessors and 40 minutes of run time. The singularity (where machines become super-intelligent, surpassing humans) will probably get here one day (Ray Kurzweil predicts 2045) but, until then, creative and intuitive minds will be necessary to keep the marketing machines humming.

Another set of wildcards in the future of real time marketing relate to growing concerns about privacy and data ownership. Currently, real time marketing is based on the premise that marketers (or their solution providers) are able to amass and leverage huge profiles of past behaviors, both on and off the web, to push relevant content. It seems entirely possible that, at some point, people will decide that they want to own (and control) their own profiles. In that scenario, the whole model of real time (push) marketing could be turned on its head to be replaced by personal infomediaries that can become effective finders and filters (pullers) for people without sacrificing their privacy. It’s the same real time approach based on the same set of technologies, but utilized from the opposite perspective – about pull instead of push.

Historians have come to use the word “blitzkrieg” to denote a highly mobile force “utilizing speed and surprise” to encircle and ultimately overwhelm the enemy. It turns out that the Germans never ‘officially’ adopted a recognized strategy of blitzkrieg but the method is simply what evolved into a winning approach on the battlefield. Similarly, real time (push) marketing will win more and more battles over time because it’s simply the most effective approach to take today – it’s clearly not BS.

But will it win the war?

Posted in API, B2B, Compound, real time | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

A Compound Approach to Great Leadership

Colin Powell on Leadership

Colin Powell on Leadership

What makes a great leader? That is truly one of the most written-about topics in business today.  Even the Wikipedia entry on Leadership would take a fast reader the better part of a day to work through.

And no wonder. So many theories – some grounded in research and others based on real-world experience. All contain at least some truth.

I’m not going to claim this article will advance the state of the academic discourse on the theory of leadership but I do want to highlight what I have found to be two of the best practical explanations of what makes a good leader and then combine them with my opinion of how to execute them most effectively.

Back in 2001, Jim Collins released the business classic, Good to Great. Based on primary research on companies that had sustained “greatness” over an extended period of time, Collins outlined a theory of a five-tier hierarchy of leadership, detailing the characteristics at each level. At the highest level, Collins describes leaders having a “paradoxical combination” of personal humility and professional will.

I’m sure you have met many leaders that demonstrate one or the other, but very few have both – especially the personal humility part. Larger-than-life leaders with big personalities are very attractive to boards and others who make such hiring decisions, but Collin’s research showed that lasting, positive impact on an organization comes from a leader who is willing to sublimate his or her ego to the benefit of the organization.

Well worth at least reading the summary linked to above, and the entire book for those that haven’t read it, or read it many years ago. (It actually takes more than just a level 5 leader to create a “great” company.)

My second favorite description of the characteristics of a great leader comes from Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, care of an interview he did with The New York Times in 2012 and that he has since elaborated on in various forums. In short, the characteristics are:

  • the ability to inspire others to achieve shared objectives
  • a clear vision for where the organization needs to go
  • the skill to effectively communicate that vision
  • and, ultimately, the courage to overcome challenges and doubters

Inspiration, vision, communication, and courage – Weiner’s 4 key characteristics of any successful leader. But don’t take my summary as sufficient – do take a few minutes to read the entire article. I’ve met Jeff and he absolutely exudes these qualities – no doubt a significant contributing factor to the incredible success of LinkedIn.

Finally, to my small value add, as per the overall theme of this blog. Taking an integrated (or, so called “compound”) approach to leadership will create returns far in excess of a piecemeal approach. Effective leadership is a system, not an act. The six key elements of this system are each powerful on their own but doing them together multiplies their power dramatically.

CompoundLeadershipCloudLet me leave you with one other gem. Today’s new generation of leaders may have missed being exposed to one of the most interesting and powerful summaries of the requirements and characteristics of leadership ever written. Back in 2003, a widely distributed slide deck contained Colin Powell’s “A Leadership Primer.” Irrespective of your opinion of Powell, these are timeless principles and highly recommended reading.

Perhaps there are other characteristics of effective leadership that contribute to your personal approach. No matter what makes up the core elements of your style of leadership, taking a compound approach is certain to increase your likelihood of driving a successful organization.

Blaine Mathieu

Posted in Compound, Integrated, Leadership, LinkedIn | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Quickie: New Experian Report on Integrated Marketing

I just finished reading The 2012 Digital Marketer: Benchmark and Trend Report. 150 pages and a lot of solid content – worth the read – and so I thought I would do a “quickie” blog post about it. You do have to fill in a lead-gen form to download the report (as you would expect a good B2B marketer to do). Note that I have no affiliation with Experian whatsoever (in fact, I used to be CMO of a quasi-competitor). Some highlights:

First, I thought the Customer Engagement Framework described on page 5 was a very simple, yet powerful way to think about how marketers should interact with the customer’s journey. How effectively does your marketing strategy reflect your customers’ journeys?

Customer Engagement Framework

Next, the Marketing Sophistication Curve on page 6 does a great job of capturing the theme of this blog – that optimized, cross-channel (compound) marketing initiatives are the way that the most successful marketers drive their businesses. Where does your organization fit on this curve today?

Marketing Sophistication Curve

Another great graphic that caught my eye was Experian’s Marketing Technology Ecosystem on page 8. I’ve seen (and created) many graphics like this to explain the elements of integrated marketing, but this captures most of those elements in a simplified way, better than most I have seen. How effectively are you taking advantage of each of these methods?

Marketing Technology Ecosystem

Finally, fast-forwarding over lots of great content and best practices to page 109, Experian recasts a Forrester Research graphic about Data Management Platforms. The basic point here is that advanced marketers increasingly need an integrated system to manage all the “big data” that their marketing efforts produce, in order to enable continuous optimization. What’s the state of your company’s marketing data management platform? (I’m guessing it doesn’t look like the graphic below.) Do you have a plan to get from here to there?

Data Management Platform

These are just a few highlights. I do recommend downloading the full report as it contains a lot more solid content. Although it has a strong B2C slant, B2B marketers can definitely learn a lot as well. Thanks Experian!

Blaine Mathieu

Posted in B2B, Compound, Integrated, Marketing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Compound Approach to Bringing Combined B2B Solutions to Market

Combined B2BAs a business-person involved in running a successful multi-product business, at one point or another you might have found yourself in the following situation: Companies that sell to other companies (B2B marketers) develop products to meet the needs of individual target market segments. These markets are often defined by particular departmental use-cases, i.e., meeting a need that the marketing department has, or the finance group, or the sales team, etc. All good.

At some point, what often happens is the company/solution provider starts to cover so many bases (segments) in the client base that it becomes obvious that a more integrated (compound) approach presents itself as an opportunity. Rather than take a piecemeal approach to the client – selling it point solutions here and there – why not present a more integrated or combined offering? Perhaps you feel it’s time to become a true strategic partner to your clients, rather than simply a provider of individual products. Bringing that combined offer to market successfully is what this article is all about.

Step 1: Agree on goals/targets/outcomes

It is important to define exactly what are you trying to achieve with this effort. Some possible outcomes might include:

  • Increasing customer stickiness/retention (under the premise that the more elements of your offering they are using and the more widely they are using it, the less likely they will be to leave).
  • Grow your “share of wallet”. Chances are, your client/prospect has limited and defined budgets for how much he can spend in the domains you cover – at least in the short/medium term. Taking a larger share of that budget is a driver of revenue growth.
  • Leverage your installed base. Companies with a significant installed base for one element of the (to be) combined offering can use that as part of an effective and relatively inexpensive “land and expand” strategy to get the entire solution into that client. It’s almost always less expensive to expand an existing client than to gain a new one.
  • Attract new customers. If the value proposition is clear (see below) then there can be a significant attraction towards buying “whole product solutions” that meet an entire category of need vs. just partially addressing that need. An combined offering is more likely to be a whole product solution which will attract new customers that might not have considered the offering before in its component pieces (especially if pricing/packaging is set correctly).

A key element here is to quantify all these goals against current operating metrics and then measure the outcomes. The success of any initiative like this should be clearly defined and readily measurable, otherwise it’s impossible to know whether the effort was worth it. And it will take a lot of effort, so the ROI will have to be clear.

Corporate SilosStep 2A: Break down internal silos

This is the hardest step in this initiative and the one most fraught with danger. Organizational change is always hard. It is likely that, in order to ensure the success of its individual product lines, your company has organized itself, put reward structures in place, and set team and individual goals that are focused and do not at all take into account the success of a combined approach to customers. Failure to address the silo issue aggressively will guarantee the failure of this initiative.

The hard work of leadership begins here, and it must start right at the top. The CEO has to clearly build alignment with all stakeholders that this is the way forward for the company. Then actions need to be taken in terms of organizational structures, compensation plans, and goal setting to ensure that all key players are aligned. Half-hearted measures will never work because – as the saying goes – it’s impossible to be half-pregnant. Either you are in, or you are out.

[This is not to imply that the marketing/sale of the individual, component products must end. Far from it - there will be many prospects (perhaps the vast majority, initially) who are truly only in the market for one particular component of your offering. Clearly you must make it easy for that prospect to discover the value that they are looking for. But, at the same time, it is important to build the awareness that - when the client is ready - you can offer much more than an individual point solution and that it will be easy for the prospect to engage with you as more of a strategic partner. This is the essence of a successful "land and expand" go-to-market strategy - more on that in a future posting.]

Once executive leadership has demonstrated commitment, then constant communication needs to flow down and throughout the organization so momentum is maintained (and continually increased). Old habits die hard and the temptation will always be to go back to what worked so well in the past. Assigning someone as the clear executive sponsor of the initiative will also be critical to building momentum when all the reasons it is “too hard” or “seemingly impossible” start to crop up. Get the people/organization/structure right and the rest will follow.

Step 2B: Create integrated positioning, pricing, and packaging

Okay, so everyone is aligned. Chances are that you’ve already begun this next step because, without a compelling positioning statement for the integrated solution, it will be impossible to build the internal support necessary to break down the silos. (That’s why these steps are listed as 2A and 2B.)

At its simplest, a positioning statement generally contains the following:

For <target market>,

<solution> is the <category in which it competes>,

that <competitive advantage>,

so that you can <customer benefit>.

You can believe this because <proof point>.

It continues to amaze me how few products/solutions have a clearly defined and widely understood positioning statement. Having said this, it is somewhat understandable because getting this right is really hard. On the positive side, the process of getting this right should probably involve many key stakeholders and therefore can be part of the silo busting that I discuss above.  Nothing helps enroll people in change efforts better than having them involved in creating the plan.

As part of setting positioning it can be very helpful to agree on the core personas that make up this new, combined target market. From there, understanding the user journeys that each of these personas take in order to accomplish their objectives can be highly informative as to what the position of the combined offering should be. Of course, this work is also extremely useful in future product development to enhance the combined offering and will also become important later in perfecting all the various go-to-market implementation details.

Following that is the task of setting packaging and pricing. Building the business model for an integrated solution combining many elements is much more complex than simply adding up the prices of the individual elements. In some cases, the price of the combined offering will end up being less than the individual elements – unless the value of having them integrated together is truly compelling and takes the solution into a whole new realm of value. If the value is less about product synergies and more about simplifying the purchase and ownership experience, then pricing of a combined offering will likely be under some pressure.

Whenever possible, try to involve the “voice of the customer” when doing this step. While classic “market research” may not always be timely or within budget, another alternative is to test market the combined offering in a geography that is insulated from your primary markets. At the very least, ensure that there are significant flexibility and pre-arranged fall-back plans in place in case the new approach does not resonate as clearly or as quickly as intended. Having said that, resist the temptation to give up too early or easily – organizational forces and historic momentum are probably not in favor of this new combined approach and so you must be prepared to weather some adversity.

Step 3: Get ready to sell

Goals are set, plans are ready, some early market feedback is in – now is the time to bring it all together. Chances are that you already have a significant installed base using at least one of the individual elements of this new, combined solution. The obvious path of least resistance is to go after them and leverage your existing (hopefully positive) relationships to upsell to the new, complete solution.

The first thing to do is to complete a detailed account review for each significant client. Make a map of all the various touch-points and relationships that exist between your company and the target company, across whatever products they might have purchased in the past. Tools like LinkedIn and Jigsaw can be extremely helpful in mapping out a complete view of potential organizational stakeholders that may not have had a direct relationship with your company in the past.

Ultimately the goal is to build out a complete strategic account plan. As noted above, many account management organizations use Mindjet maps to make this happen, and then track activities relative to this client in Mindjet as well (often linked into a CRM system like salesforce). Building and maintaining this living document is the key to integrated account management, which is even more important when you are selling a complete, combined solution and not just individual products.

Of course, supporting the sales process must be effective marketing communications. Ensuring that the value proposition is easily understood on the website and via all marketing/sales materials will be critical. (It is also possible you have a self-serve sales model in which case marketing and sales are virtually the same thing.) Finally, don’t forget the back office – usually a model change such as this will require significant prep work to ensure sales are able to be recorded and accounted for correctly.

Go!Step 4: Go!

With all this prep work – it’s now time for the fun to begin! An overriding theme should be simplicity. Providing a combined/integrated, cross-organizational solution should make it easier for your customers to understand, purchase, implement, use, and reorder than it was previously. If bringing things together has results in making any element of the customer experience more complex, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

As a Forrester analyst noted during a recent conference on customer experience, “If the customer is your boss, then the voice of the customer is your performance review.” You should always be attending to the voice of the customer, but at the initial stages of launch you need to be hyper-vigilant in this regard. Be ready, be agile, and have backup plans in place in case things don’t all go according to plan (as they rarely do).

The Economist noted recently that, “The product is the outcome, not the goods.” In other words, your customers are not really buying your combined solution – they are buying the results that solution delivers. Focus on the customer, provide real value, and you will take your business to the next level.

Blaine Mathieu

Posted in B2B, Complexity, Compound, Integrated, LinkedIn, Mind map | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Everything I Know About Marketing I Learned From Tony Horton

Tony Horton - P90X

Tony Horton – P90X

If you have ever watched any late-night TV (and that’s probably the only time successful marketers have to watch TV) you have certainly seen fitness guru Tony Horton promoting his P90X video series. For those of you that miss it because you fall asleep on the couch during the closing credits of Mad Men, P90X is an exercise program for people that are already in pretty good shape. If you can’t do 3 pull-ups or 15 push-ups for men (1 pull-up and 15 push-ups on knees for women) then you might not be P90X-ready. But – ready or not – if you are a marketer then there are some lessons in P90X for you.

I’ve been doing the program, along with the various offshoots it has spawned, for almost 3 years now and I am a big fan. I’ve always been in decent shape but, because of P90X, I’m in better shape now than I was at half my age. The most interesting thing I have observed about P90X is that the lessons I have learned from doing this program are perfectly correlated with marketing lessons I’ve absorbed over the years. Let me share some of them with you.

Mix It Up: Use Muscle Confusion

At the core of P90X are 12 video routines that include weight training, body weight exercises (pull-ups and push-ups), yoga, kenpo karate, core exercises, and functional fitness such as cardio and plyometrics. Not only is the program itself highly diversified but, even within each individual routine, you are constantly using many different muscles in an integrated way. One result of this is that the “plateauing” effect of regular exercise programs – that point where it seems you just cannot see any more improvement – is overcome. Tony Horton calls this concept “Muscle Confusion” and the parallels with integrated or “compound” marketing approaches are clear.

Sitting on a machine in a gym working on a particular muscle are likely to build some impressive looking spot-results but not an overall fit or athletic person. Similarly, successful marketers must exercise every element of their marketing arsenal – in an integrated way – to ensure that results don’t plateau and that the overall marketing machine is as strong as it can be.

Measure and Track Everything

As marketers we understand the value of metrics and measurement better than most. But the P90X program really helped reinforce for me, in a visceral way, how truly important measurement is. For most workout routines, P90X provides detailed worksheets that are used to log your performance for each individual exercise. (In most cases, the only rest you get between exercises is the few seconds it takes to write your performance down.) This historical record ends up serving as an invaluable guide to driving increased performance in the future. In my experience, most marketers do a pretty lax job of keeping such a record of past activities – a big mistake.

Omron Scale

Omron HBF-514C

On top of that, a few months into the program I bought one of those cool Omron scales that measures body fat and many other factors beyond simple weight. It shouldn’t have surprised me but it turns out that having the ability to precisely measure your progress towards increasing fitness was a key motivator for me and remains so to this day. Sometimes the obvious metrics (like weight) aren’t the ones that really need improving and the same principle applies to marketing measurement.

Build a Strong Foundation

Tony Horton continually reinforces an elemental principle of P90X which is that the “sexy” muscles will only work effectively if they are tied to a strong core. The core of the body (from the shoulders to the waist) are what ties everything else together and the program spends a lot of time working on these areas. The result is a person who is overall more fit and less prone to injury.

Similarly, the “core” principles and practices of marketing hold as much power today as they ever have. Programs like social media marketing and mobile marketing are very sexy and can produce powerful results. But many marketers today are under-emphasizing  core concepts such as keeping a clean email list, putting compelling and clear content on the website, and choosing search marketing terms that best fit the company’s positioning. Don’t ignore the sexy and innovative stuff but always make sure the core is strong.

Form is King. Corollary: If it Hurts, Stop

Like my dad always told me, “If you are going to do something, do it right.” The principle applies equally well in physical training as in marketing. Through no fault of the P90X program, I have injured myself a few times over the past few years while doing some of the routines. In each case it was because I was pushing too hard and doing an exercise with bad form on the mistaken impression that pushing harder is necessary to get better results. Instead, the result was that I have had to take some extended breaks as my body needed to recover from injuries I inflicted on it. (No permanent damage – thank goodness.)

Marketers, likewise, should always use “good form” when exercising their programs and activities. The biggest marketing mistakes I have ever made were done when I pushed too hard, beyond the boundaries of common sense and best-practice in hopes of a “home run” result. Sometimes that works – but usually not.

A related principle is: if it hurts, stop doing it. Most of the times I injured myself during P90X my body gave me an early warning sign. Usually this was in the form of a little twinge of pain or a popping sound. I know for sure (because I do eventually learn these lessons) that stopping early at the first sign of danger usually avoids a much more serious issue later on.

If you are watching for them, you will get early signals that programs might be coming off the rails and need to be stopped, or at least pivoted into another direction. Always keep your mind open to the warning signs and don’t dismiss them just because you are determined to see a prearranged plan through to the bitter end.

Make it a Habit

Working out, especially the tough workouts in P90X, are no joyride. Tony Horton’s wry sense of humor definitely helps keep the spirit up but, occasionally, the knowledge of the sometimes grueling workout to come can be a disincentive to pressing Play on that DVD (especially if you get up at 5am every morning to do it). Similarly, with marketing, we understand all the tremendous work that is involved in launching a new program or campaign. Especially in the early days (before tracking and measurement start to show their benefits) the results are uncertain. How to get over this hurdle?

The best way I have found out of this trap is to make working out a “habit”. I do the program at the same time every day and I purposefully bought an alarm clock that was hard to adjust so I could not reach over in the middle of the night and give myself an extra 30 minutes sleep. At some point, it just became habit and now I get an uneasy feeling if I don’t do the program on any given day – even when I’m traveling on business.

Marketing is so varied in its potential activities that it may seem hard to make habits out of them. But many aspects of a successfully run marketing organization can and should function like a well-oiled machine. Adopt the repeatable habits of good marketers and don’t let them go, no matter what.

Exercise is Only Part of the Story

Fruit and VegetablesP90X is a great exercise routine. But the producers realized, early on, that aggressive, integrated exercise was not enough. A good diet is the other half of great fitness and P90X goes to great lengths to help people understand and adopt an improved diet. Now I don’t claim to eat the best foods every time but I strive every day to improve and many of the principles described above apply equally well to a healthy eating program as to an exercise program.

This is precisely the principle of compound marketing. Great marketing and communications programs need to be combined with strong products, a coordinated sales channel, a coherent business model – all based on a deep understanding of the customer to be maximally effective. Any individual element, no matter how well-executed on its own, will only get you so far. Success is about exercise AND diet.

Final Lesson: Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

Despite learning all of the above lessons over and over again, I continue to break every one of them on occasion. Sometimes I still push too hard, or turn off the alarm clock and go back to sleep, or eat that extra large piece of chocolate cake that I didn’t really need. Similarly, as a marketer, we all sometimes run campaigns without adequate preparation or measurements in place and without having every component completely integrated. That’s life – nobody’s perfect. Don’t beat yourself up when that happens. Just put it behind you, get back in the saddle, and make tomorrow a better day for fitness (or marketing).

Thanks Tony

Okay, so maybe I didn’t learn everything I know about marketing from Tony Horton. But the principles I have learned and practice in my physical fitness program absolutely reinforce the concepts I have learned and try to practice as a marketer and high-tech executive every day. I hope you do as well.

Blaine Mathieu

Posted in Compound, Integrated | Tagged | Leave a comment

IF (Agile NOT Compound) THEN Fail

IF (Agile NOT Compound) THEN Fail

IF (Agile NOT Compound) THEN Fail

According to Wikipedia, agile software development is “a group of software development methodologies based on iterative and incremental development, where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams. It… encourages rapid and flexible response to change. [Emphasis mine.]

Agile was developed as a response to the many challenges of the prevailing approach to product development known as “waterfall”. In waterfall development, teams follow a well-defined step-wise process in which requirements are fully fleshed out prior to any implementation (development) work actually happening.

In very stable markets, the waterfall approach can produce good results based on a deep understanding of the market. But, increasingly, the pace of change is accelerating and a more “agile” response is needed. As this great survey from VersionOne points out, many software development organizations have already made the transition to some flavor of agile development.

At my previous company I was part of driving the shift from waterfall to Scrum (a form of agile). That transition was already underway at Mindjet when I joined and I have truly learned in both cases that becoming agile should be thought of as a journey, not a destination.

As my Product organizations have become agile, what has become more and more obvious is agile development will fail to achieve the goals of the organization unless the other parts of the it are agile as well. This is particularly true with respect to marketing and sales. Potential disconnects:

  • Product functionality changes every few weeks but marketing materials don’t keep up
  • Product documentation, training videos, and FAQs are outdated by the time they are produced
  • Both of these issues are exacerbated by then having to localize (outdated) content into other languages
  • Finally, salespeople constantly feel that they are ill-informed to sell the products

Solving this conundrum is one of the most critical issues facing organizations that currently have – or are moving to – agile product teams. Clearly, such organizations need to take a compound approach to implementing agile practices across the organization – including not just product, but also marketing, sales, and other areas. Being agile only in the product function may work for small startups where the product is the company. But for more complex organizations, it is a recipe for failure.

There are many great books and documented processes for how to become agile. But, more than anything else, embracing agile requires a mindset change. Product people began making that change ten years ago and it is critical that other areas of the organization catch up. Look for these behaviors as proof that the appropriate change is taking hold in your organization:

  • Marketing let’s go of producing the 80% of materials and content that nobody really reads anyway and just focuses on the critical core
  • Sales begins to see it as an advantage that the actual shipping product is even better than the one they “sold” and they begin to promote this as a value to the customer
  • In general, the entire organization is willing to give up being 100% correct in order to move faster or be more responsive to the market. In other words, enjoy the fact that sales, marketing, and product will live in a real-time dance where they are never perfectly aligned but the market doesn’t care about that anyway

Will your business really die if your product has a new feature that didn’t make it into the documentation for a short time? Will sales crater if a feature was dropped at the last minute and gets released only 3 weeks later? I didn’t think so. You are selling benefits and value – not features – anyway, right?

Mindjet has recently written a lot on this topic in their new Conspire blog. In fact, they have an entire section on “Agile Business”. If the topic of taking a compound approach to creating an agile organization interests you, I highly recommend you check it out. Until next time.

Blaine Mathieu

Posted in Agile, Compound | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Compound Product Strategy in Action

MindjetMy first year as Chief Products Officer at Mindjet has been an incredible whirlwind. Mindjet has long been known for its great products – especially on the desktop – but my mandate was to help take the company to a new level. That level is all about taking a “compound” approach to product – and that’s what I will describe in this posting. I am so excited that the fruits of that labor have now launched.

A key challenge for Mindjet was to reposition the company into the space we call Collaborative Work Management. At its simplest, collaborative work management is all about helping people work better, together. To enable that, we had to initiate and execute on a product strategy that was truly integrated from many different perspectives.

First, we had to create an offering which connected the benefits of ideation (capturing of ideas and information to figure out what work to do), to project planning (allocating resources and scheduling that work), to task management (coordinating and tracking the execution of the work). And all of this had to be done in a highly visual way that both enables, and benefits from, team collaboration. This kind of integrated approach to getting work done has never been fully executed in the market before now.

Mindjet ConnectSecond, to execute on this technically, we had to build a system that included and integrated the functions of document management, project management, collaboration, and information visualization/mapping (Mindjet’s historic area of strength). That’s what Mindjet Connect and Mindjet Cohuman are now all about.

Third, to provide anytime, anywhere access we had to create a system that works from the web browser, via rich desktop applications, and via mobile devices – all integrated with a centralized, cloud-based service that enables real-time communication and information sharing. Very few companies (and none Mindjet’s size) can claim such an integrated, multi-platform product offering.

Finally, from a business model perspective, Mindjet has designed and now implemented the most integrated model that it has ever brought to market. Our totally free mobile products drive users to our free cloud-based applications (Mindjet Connect and Mindjet Cohuman) which, in turn, drive business to our paid applications (Mindjet Connect Business and MindManager on the desktop). In addition, these products are being brought together as targeted whole-product “solutions” that both Mindjet and its customers will derive even more value from. Mindjet is now working to bring this targeted whole-product solutions initiative to market in 2012 – but you can see the beginnings of it here.  The bottom line of all this: Mindjet now has a “compound business model” that will certainly further accelerate its success in the months and years ahead.

So from four perspectives – benefits, functions, platforms, and business models – Mindjet has executed on a compound product strategy that truly enables it to deliver on its Collaborative Work Management positioning.

But that’s not all, since whole product marketing is about much more than the core product itself. Mindjet is now using the wider principles of compound marketing in a very powerful way [for inspiration, see my previous posting on Apple's use of compound marketing principles] to get Mindjet’s new positioning and products/solutions to market. These include integrated channel strategy, promotions and communications strategies, and support strategy to bring it all together for our users.

Results of this have been extremely encouraging so far, with tremendous press coverage (just a few example articles here and here, and some rich media below) and hundreds of thousands of new users for our new applications within just a few days.

PART 1 - Small Business Advocate Radio - Nationally syndicated show

PART 2 - Small Business Advocate Radio - Nationally syndicated show

As of this writing, it is still early days. Stay tuned for an update as things progress.

My takeaway for you is simple: take a compound approach to every element of your market strategy, including your whole-product strategy, and your odds of success go up dramatically! Until next time.

Blaine Mathieu

P.S. – Let me thank the great folks at Mindjet who did all the great work I describe above.

Posted in Cloud computing, Compound, Integrated, Product | Leave a comment