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Product managers and the whole product

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The hard part is implementing the decision, not making it.—Guy Kawasaki

A researcher called organizations to evaluate how they handled inquiries. In three of the eight cases, the requested literature was never received. In five organizations, the person answering the call had no idea what to send.

A product cannot be shipped to the first customer until the product manager releases it. Because the product manager (or perhaps a product marketing manager) should be focused on whether the organization is ready, not just if the product is ready.

Is this true in your organization?

Some companies use checkpoints or “gates” that the product must pass before the next step can begin. In others, the product manager "accepts" work before it can be considered "done." No matter what technique is used, a product should not leave one area of the company until the product manager approves that the next group is ready to receive it. This ensures that the product still meets the requirements of the market and allows the manager to give status reports to all affected areas of the company.

While not directly the responsibility of product management, processes in other areas of the company that affect the customer—and they all do—should be reviewed by the product manager. How is the customer (and potential customer) greeted when he calls? How easy or hard is it to obtain information? Is the web site updated? Are the sales teams informed?

In his book, The Macintosh Way, Guy Kawasaki proposes that you call your own company to request product information; it’s often a humbling experience.

“What do you think is the most important quality of promotional material?” he asks. “Content? Beauty? Message? None of these. The most important quality of promotional material is that people can easily obtain it so that they don’t get frustrated trying to join your cause.”

A friend told me about calling a major software firm. He called the 800 number printed in an advertisement and reached the main headquarters in Virginia. He requested more information about the product. The operator suggested he call the New York office since that was where the product was developed. New York told him to call back to the main office and gave him the same 800 number. This operator suggested he call the local sales office, asking “Where are you located?” He told her that he was “across the parking lot from you.” She gave him the number for the local sales office, located in Maryland. This receptionist had heard about the product but said that no sales people were available to speak to him. Again requesting information, he was put through to a technical support person, who unfortunately didn’t know much about the product either. She did however know where the literature was stored and sent him what she could find.

Would your customers have been so persistent?

Effective product managers evaluate the company’s procedures in all areas—billing, customer support, training, and so on—to determine if the customers and prospects are getting the service they need to buy our products.

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