Free != Costless

I had coffee with my friend and mentor Neil Baron (blog) this morning. We were talking about methods organizations can use to drive adoption of new innovative products. At the heart of the conversation were tactics to identify the value that early adopters see in products, and how to translate these into benefits that the early majority will recognize and with which they will identify.

For some services and products, it makes sense to lower the price to $0, or “make it free”. If it’s free, and has value, why wouldn’t everyone take advantage of the offer? The thing is that even if the target customer is aware of the solution offered for free, they might not adopt. This is because there are still costs to adopting a solution. The customer still has to do something. Continue reading

True, Valuable, and Relevant

I was making spaghetti last week and thinking about customer research. I know, it’s not normal. Anyway, what I was thinking was how quantitative analysis can be true, valuable, and irrelevant all at the same time. And qualitative research can also be true, valuable, and irrelevant all at the same time.

Looking at my pasta I tabulated stats about the pasta. Continue reading

Product Stuck? Listen to your customers…

Last spring my company needed to make some important business decisions. We had been in business for a year, and things weren’t taking off as we had hoped. Our first thought was that we had the wrong product. We had the engineering know-how and could probably get the funding to enhance the product’s performance, but considering the opportunity and financial costs, we needed to be sure it was the right thing to do. Who could tell us what to do?

Qual Research

Customers are a wealth of information. Customers hold all the answers businesses need to grow, whether they know it or not. Continue reading

Book Review: The New Rules of Marketing and PR

Title: The New Rules of Marketing and PR
Author: David Meerman Scott
Topics: Social Media, Blogs, Tweets, FB Posts…
You should read if: You don’t think social media matters to you, or you want it to matter more
Description: In the New Rules of Marketing and PR, Mr. Scott does a great job establishing the importance of social media and new communications tools, and contrasting both the ease of use and efficacy with that of “traditional media”. As a blogging novice, naive tweeter, and limited Facebooker, this book inspires me to take advantage of social media. I recognize I have been ignoring it, at beast giving it lip service, because I don’t understand it. This book provides the tools to understand and take advantage of (in the good way) the “new rules”.

Quantitative Research: Make sure it is worth the investment

People really like quantitative research. You sound really smart when you can say “33% of iPod owners use their iPods less than once a month”, or “17% of white males between 25 and 45 who earn more than 60k a year own a game console”. Numbers are hard to argue with, and specificity implies knowledge.

Quantitative Research

Quantitative research can be a lot of hard work. There are the basic things you need to do for any quantitative research like:
Continue reading

Book Review: The Tipping Point


Title: The Tipping Point
Author: Malcom Gladwell
Topics: Awareness paths, Product adoption
You should read if: you are planning to drive adoption of a new product or service.
Description: In the Tipping Point, Mr. Gladwell describes three kinds of people, Mavens, Connectors, and Salesmen, and their roles in spreading ideas. There are similarities to the concepts of Inside the Tornado, though in Tipping Point they are grounded in pop culture examples as opposed to high tech products. A useful read for the product manager who is thinking about viral marketing campaigns as a component of a product launch awareness effort.

Book Review: The Innovator’s Dilemma


Title: The Innovator’s Dilemma
Author: Clayton M. Christensen
Topics: Strategy
You should read if: you are involved in product line planning, corporate strategy, or looking to commercialize a new technology.
Description: I heard Mr. Christensen speak at an innovation seminar in 2004, and was struck by his poise and obvious intelligence. This book defines and describes the impact of a disruptive technology. The book is a fun read well supported with anecdotes and data visualizations. From a product management perspective, the contents are both exciting and frightening, and if you can internalize the concepts, the book is a great resource for product planning. The ideas apply to both large companies and startups though these constituents are usually on opposite sides of the disruptive technologies. Mr. Christensen follows up this book with two others, The Innovator’s Solution and Seeing What’s Next, both good reads.

Book Review: Getting Things Done


Title: Getting Things Done
Author: David Allen
Topics: Time Management
You should read if: you have too much to do and feel like you are losing track of important tasks.
Description: I first heard about David Allen from an engineer I worked with who started carrying around a short stack of index cards in a home made duct tape wallet. When I asked him what it was and he explained that it’s his analog PDA, and referred me to this book. In the book, Mr. Allen lays out a framework for managing a hectic life, and freeing your mind from task management to allow your creativity to help solve problems. By capturing tasks on paper and getting them our of your head, processing them into projects, and knowing what the next step required to advance in each project, a practitioner of Mr. Allen’s Getting Things Done, or GTD, framework can be more more effective, and much less stressed. His two following books Making It All Work and Ready for Anything are great follow ups once you get the basic framework down, which took me about a year… This book is a must read for product managers.

Book Review: Innovation and Entrepreneurship


Title: Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Author: Peter F. Drucker
Topics: Innovation, Ideation
You should read if: you want a systematic approach to developing new product and service concepts.
Description: Maybe it was the context of my life at the time, but when I read this book, I was blown away, I felt like I’d found a gold mine. When I was reading this book I was working in a product planning role in an established, medium sized company and struggling to find appropriate new product concepts for the division. My group was attempting to create a systematic ideation process to incorporate into the division’s best practices. It was a struggle! When we mapped out the origination of our best ideas, they seemed to come from random sources. When we analyzed why concepts we expected to be great failed, we did not come to an actionable conclusions on how to better evaluate concepts. Drucker’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship provides excellent insight into both of these issues. In this book, Mr. Drucker identifies and describes the seven most likely sources of new concepts, and ranks them in their likelihood of succeeding. He supports this by explaining how established companies struggle with new concepts because of their mature and often inflexible practices, and also presents some ideas on how to structure a new concepts group within an established company to allow exciting new concepts to flourish. The book is well written, an easy read, and provides real and rational guidance on identifying and developing new concepts.