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The problem with great products

Marketers often lament the missing features in their products, telling me about the absence of some capability that they are convinced is absolutely necessary. I always wonder where they are getting their information.

I know I can be a bit of a contrarian, but I’m convinced that marketers have a bigger handicap when their product has the best-ever implementation of a multi-threaded interactive real-time process percolator, or some equally obtuse function that thrills the socks off the company’s CEO and developers. When this wonderful new product or version is ready, the product marketer is expected to announce it to the world. Ahh, first we need a positioning document. So schedule a meeting attended by someone from sales (who has already sold it to one customer), plus the product manager and a writer. Spend a few (miserable) hours wordsmithing the features into benefit statements, and you’ve got a positioning statement that can be converted directly into a press release, collateral, demos, and so forth, right?

Wait. Where’s the buyer in this process? Who in that meeting room is a voice for the market, a buyer persona expert who is a proxy for the target customer?  The sales person? Hardly. Sales is an expert on the customers who were willing to get into the sales process, but they cannot speak for the market as a whole. Relying solely on their data means markets they have not yet penetrated will be left out. To be effective, the positioning, messaging, and go-to-market strategy belongs to product marketing, the person who should be the company’s buyer persona expert. I’ve seen product marketers who are steeped in knowledge about what matters most to a target buyer override the opinions of even the most strident senior executives, avoiding the useless, annoying messages that David Meerman Scott quantifies in his excellent post The Gobbledygook Manifesto.

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