3 Comments

Manage Your Marketing: Grappling With Product Developers

2994135488_64a3a9e4ed_mIf you had to promote your child, say for an acting career or a contest, you’d have no problem discussing all of her greatest points. You would mention her hilarious sense of humor, some of the strange little words she made up, her outgoing personality, and all of the other things you find particularly endearing about your child. If you received feedback that your child’s sense of humor was strange or that their cute little words were actually incomprehensible, you’d probably immediately go on the defensive. How could these people not see your child the way that you do?

This scenario is akin to how a product developer feels about his or her new product. They know their product inside out. They have a rationale for every detail they infused into their creation. They know exactly who they want to target and who could benefit most from using their new offering. From a marketer’s perspective, this is exactly why it can be beneficial to remove the product developer out of the initial stages of planning a marketing campaign.

You need an outside perspective

A few months ago we wrote a post about the importance of having a devil’s advocate as part of your product development team. Before beginning to promote a new product, it is truly essential to make sure the new product makes the grade with people who are seeing it for the first time. What kinds of questions does the new product generate? What problems do people encounter if they aren’t as familiar with the product? What features, which seemed so integral in the development process, are actually viewed as extraneous?

Not only do you need an honest evaluation of the product to make sure the product itself is a valuable offering, but you need to make sure that your marketing team understands what potential product weaknesses are. These points can be avoided entirely in body copy while other stronger features are accentuated. Understanding that certain features may be received unfavorably can guide the marketing team in terms of message and strategy. If the product developer is the only person offering information to the marketing team, the entire process could be flawed from the start.

The best laid plans

Hopefully the marketing team was part of the initial product development plan. Market research can indicate gaps in the market along with complaints that competitive products commonly receive. Even if this was the case, however, once the product is finally ready to promote, the industry may have changed. Perhaps a different demographic has increased in strength during the time the new product was being developed. Perhaps new purposes for that specific kind of product have been uncovered. The product developer may not want to hear about these changes. They may want their initial reasoning and their initial focus to hold true. It is important at this critical time for the product development team, the customer service team, the sales team, and the marketing team to be completely seamless in communication.

The point is not to take swipes at product developers. However, it is important within a company to understand that the person or people behind the development of a product carry a strong prejudice about the potential success of that product. As a marketer, it is your responsibility to promote products in the best way possible, but you do need to put that product through typical SWOP (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis.  While gaining insight on technical details from the product development team is important, there needs to be a process wherein the marketing team can also take a step back and view the product more as the industry at large will view it.

How do you handle this kind of relationship management at your company? We’d love to hear from you!

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3 comments on “Manage Your Marketing: Grappling With Product Developers

  1. As a guy who did software development since 1992, and who now employs several developers, I completely agree. We do tend to fall in love with our solutions and we anticipate their success. We also can’t understand why users do not see the product as “intuitive” like we do!

    Of course, we’ve been on the other side of the equation, too. Marketing is out there selling something that is vaporware, and then we are on the hook to not make the marketing folks look like liars. That adds a wonderful level of stress on all parties…

    Let’s work together, shall we.

    • Yeah – essentially this is another anti-silo argument. Product developers can offer a lot of valuable insight, especially when it comes to technical details. However, if your customers are ultimately buying the overall product and not the minute details, you can over-bombard them, and for marketing, that is not ultimately going to work for you.

    • (1) OK, Brian’s answer explains a lot. Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!

      (2) But seriously…
      If the product developers understand a 360° marketing point of view from the outset, and understand that business is about the customer, not about the product, some of these problems can be avoided. When I was doing work with tech companies, I ran into marketing and product marketing folks had no clue what was important to customers. They just looked at competing products and decided what features they wanted to emphasize.

      Taking the customer’s point of view is what marketing people need to do, because too often in an organization we’ll be the only ones who will.

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