Monday, January 30, 2012

Use of Social Media - Services Product Manager

Use of Social Media is gaining popularity and momentum in the IT services industry. According to a recent survey by Nielsen, 57% of B2B marketers are using social media to connect to customers, generate leads and build relationships. Social media is one of the powerful tools which any services product manager cannot overlook. Important social media channels to be targeted are - LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Blogs.

Why is this important?

Social Media ChannelsAccording to a recent 2011 report by Social Media Examiner, the benefits of social media marketing as cited by the marketers are: Generated Exposure for my business - 88%, Increased Traffic/Subscribers - 72%, Improved Search Rankings - 62%,New Business Partnerships - 56%,Generated Qualified Leads - 51%,Reduced Overall Marketing Expenses - 49% and  Improved Sales - 43%.

Social media is playing a very big role in influencing the B2B tech decision makers. In a recent B2B social media report by Schwartz communications, the daily usage of various social media channels by tech buyers are ( sample - 3648 Tech buyers ) - Facebook 29%, Youtube 16%, Twitter 12% and LinkedIn 8%.

How do we start ?

Create profiles on each of the channels you want to target. Start following the target groups/companies on the channels for the latest happenings. 

Blogs  - Create a profile either on blogger or wordpress. But the most preferred is to host blogs on your company website. The blogs should address the market need and how your company can help solve it. The blogs should be updated fortnightly and should truly represent thought leadership. It should be compelling enough for people to follow it. Social bookmarking websites such as reddit, stumble-upon, delicious should be updated with every blog. 
Used for -  Search Engine Optimization, business and or ideology written content
How to measure success -  Number of views and the number of people following it.

LinkedIn - Give a compact and solid description of your job profile in the company. Join groups for discussion and to add people part of that group. While adding remove the already present message and add your custom message. Start your group and invite people to start discussions. Any company achievement should be shared on LinkedIn so as to spread the word among your connections.  
Used For -  Lead Generation, Web traffic
How to measure success - decision makers you add and how active your groups are.

Twitter - Micro-blogging is growing tremendously across globe. The account should be updated everyday with company news or market news which should generate interest among the userbase. You should follow your competitor twitter accounts for updates. Proper usage of hashtags and retweets helps in spreading the message to millions of people. Its a very powerful social media tool.
Used For -  Short and concise promo, Social Buzz, See who's talking about you
How to measure success -  Number of followers.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

6 Product Management Blogs I Like

There are many product management blogs online, but below mentioned are the ones which I like :

Product Management Blogs I Like
The Accidental Product Manager - Being an accidental product manager, I relate to it very well. The articles here are mix of concepts and examples. The breadth of topics this blog covers is commendable. I have also interacted with Dr. Jim Anderson , author of this blog, over mails and he has always responded to my queries. This is the first blog I started reading after I got into product management and is one of my favourites.

The Cranky Product Manager - What I like about this blog are the article topics which compels users to go through it. There is a humor element present in each of the articles. Its a five year old blog and brings out the ugly side of software product development! That is what they say !  

On Product Management - Very plain simple interface with quality content. Lots of guest posts brings more credibility to the blog. Another good thing about the blog is the resources, events and download-able material. I think this is something which every product manager looks. There is not much in the downloads section but to sum it up a very good blog to follow.

How To Be A Good Product Manager - The articles are targeted towards problem areas and what product managers can do to solve them. These articles brings a whole new perspective of the approach and can really prove beneficial. An interesting thing I like is the prefix 'If you want to be good product manager' before 'Keep reading'. Well nobody would want to be a bad product manager !

Product Management Blog - The articles on this blog are amazing and any product manager can undoubtedly relate to it. The articles are very well written and to the point. Excellent use of images and videos to supplement it. This is one of my favorite blog !

Software Product Management - Author of this blog has written articles which deals with the day-to-day kind of job of product managers. I like the opinions expressed and the use of presentations which catches eyes of the reader and is rich in content.

There are many other product management blogs but above written are the ones which I follow and like the most.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Product Management - My Story

The Beginning -  Its not that I always had a problem with which career path to choose , the same was with 90% of my batch mates. After my first year of MBA, I was pretty much sure that career in finance is definitely which I would not want to pursue. I was inclined towards Marketing & IT as my career path in any sector.

My StoryMore than 60% of my batch had an IT background and more than 95% of them would never want to go back to IT. I was in the remaining 5% who would have loved to move back to IT. I decided on marketing in FMCG as my first choice followed by any management profile in IT firms. I had never heard of product management till the time one of the IT firm which came to campus for recruitment, offered this profile. I read the job description and it seemed very interesting to me. I applied for it and got selected.

Before Joining - I researched a lot on product management and found that it is very interesting, creative and offers tremendous opportunities. I could not find much on the role of product managers in service industry but I was very excited to join this IT firm as a product manager.

After Joining - The concept was new in the company thus the array of responsibilities was not fixed and it was amazing how our product management group defined our own responsibilities. Product management happened to me as an accident and is definitely the career I want to pursue.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Product Management Key Responsibilities - Services Industry

Key ResponsibilitiesThe responsibilities of product managers varies from company to company. The key responsibilities as defined in any website are: product conceptualization, product implementation, product road-map, go-to-market strategy, product positioning and building differentiation. . Here we will only talk about the services industry and to simplify it, we can divide the responsibilities into five main areas:

Marketing - The marketing activities include mailer campaigns, webinars, user conferences, working with industry analysts, use of social media, white-papers, surveys and content management. Now how is this different from the responsibilities of marketing team in the organization?. It indeed is ! All the activities are part of road map and its the product management responsibility to initiate these work with the delivery and marketing team  to implement it.

Sales - Product managers do not involve in front end sales but are more of facilitators. Product managers have the complete knowledge about the product and know where to sell it. Thus they work with the sales team to take the offerings to the market. Product managers also involve themselves in the proposal making by coordinating with various teams and making sure that the proposal is completed within time.

Competitive Knowledge - One of the primary responsibility is to gather competitive knowledge to come out with the differentiated offerings. Doing competitive , customer and market analysis through primary and secondary research methodologies helps in identifying the gap , needs of the customers and the trends.

Collateral - A very critical thing is collateral development as these are send to customers for reference.Collateral should be appealing, differentiated, and should have a very high recall. Collateral such as decks, brochures, pitch book should be given time as the right message should be conveyed properly to the customers.

Vendor Relationship - An important aspect of business is vendor management. Plans for joint marketing and the level of partnership should be laid out well.

Apart from having short term and long term vision for your service offerings , the above defined responsibilities is in my opinion what product managers in services industry do.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Product Marketing Techniques - Services Industry

In terms of marketing activities, we have Above the line(ATL) & Below the line(BTL) activities. ATL activities comprises of mediums like television, radio, newspaper, magazines etc. while BTL activities comprises of trade marketing, roadshows, direct mail, webinar, conferences etc. Here we will only talk about few of the BTL activities:

Direct Mail - A direct mail campaign is an effective way to reach out to your customers and generate leads. This activity is generally a 3-6 weeks cycle wherein a series of mailers are designed to showcase capabilities and attract target audience. Generally 2-3 mailers with capabilities brochure or small deck is followed by cold calling. Product manager responsibility is to create mailers, collateral & the target client list.

Webinars  - A webinar is a powerful way to connect to business decision makers. Webinar is a presentation on certain business issues and how a company can help solve it. The complete activity takes around 2-3 months from initiation to execution. A topic is decided keeping in mind the capabilities and Subject matter expert for the same. Once the topic is finalized and approved, content preparation starts. This activity should not take more than a month. After the content is finalized, it is promoted through company website and social media channels for a month.

Website & Social Media - It is a medium through which your clients get information on your products & services offerings. Thus website should be constantly updated with your latest offerings. Social media is a very hot topic nowadays and a way to reach out to a larger group. It is also helpful in getting close to your prospective clients. Tweets & blogging can help showcasing your strengths in specific areas and also to demonstrate thought leadership. Social media is in itself a very broad topic and will be dealt separately.

Industry Analyst - Joining hands with the leading industry analyst like Gartner, Forrester, IDC etc can help you in building your brand. The reports published by them are read by the decision makers and a good way to feature in the consideration set for some activity is to feature in these reports. Other activities include joint webinar, surveys etc. for which reports can be published and send to your target audience.

Internal Selling - Mailers campaigns should also target the company sales team and the leadership. Objective of this activity is to push your offerings through sales team as they are the one who are directly in touch with the clients. Another thing to do is internal survey and take feedback of the employees on the campaign.

The above techniques are used frequently and represents few among many BTL activities.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Product Management - Service Industry

Product Management for service industry is a relatively new concept. Product manager should have a complete knowledge of what the offerings are and be wise in terms of technical know how and domain knowledge.The two main aspects of it are product planning and product marketing. The first part deals with planning of  packaging/productizing your offerings while the latter deals with how to take your packaged or productize offerings to the market

Product planning plays a very crucial role as it will define your market strategies. First step is gathering the market requirements. This process involves both primary and secondary techniques. The primary intelligence can be gathered by talking to your friends in other companies. Secondary research involves use of analyst reports. This will give you a fair amount of  idea as to where the market is heading and what the trends are. Now to package/productize your offerings you have follow a specialist approach. Figure out the offerings/industry verticals wherein you have carved out a niche. Among these you have to mix and match to come out with the packaged/productized offerings.

The only way to test your packaged/productized offerings is by taking it to the market. Product marketing thus plays an important role. It involves both internal marketing as well as external marketing. Internal marketing involves selling your ideas to the internal audience. The external marketing involves taking your offerings to the target client. This can be done through various product marketing techniques which I will explain in my next blog.

Product management in a service industry is still in its nascent stage. Many companies are now recognizing importance of it and helps in non linear growth of a company.