Tag Archive: product marketing


How do you kill a product that just isn’t selling?

Keeping the product pipeline primed and innovating great new features to existing products is the core function of most product development folks. Throw in a little ideation and product roadmapping you are now a product development specialist. Wait, one more thing, you need to make the company money and either grow existing revenue or create new top line. This is where the job gets tricky.

When you look at products through the lens of the customer, you are forced to be objective and quickly realize which bring value. Overlay the financials and you land on those that need to be augmented, revamped and killed. This is most often a pain point in product management. How do you kill a product that just isn’t selling?

The Plainview Group has performed a study for the 3rd time on product portfolio management. http://www.planview.com/product-pulse-blog/comments/companies-streamline-product-developement/. It is clear that sunsetting products is not an easy task. ” This year, 320 product development executives and managers across the globe shared their priorities, risks, and pain points around product portfolio management (PPM). Because this is the third study on PPM, we were able to identify some encouraging trends, show patterns in corporate behavior, and see small movements towards maturity within the discipline”.

Once you have come to grips with the necessity to sunset a product, you have to develop a strategy to do so with the least amount of customer stress. Any good strategy involves solid customer communication and resolution paths. Here are few key steps:

  • Segment the customers into buckets
    • Customers likely to churn
    • Customers likely to stay and can be upsold
    • Customers likely to stay and will need a sweetener to buy the upsold product
  • Determine what if any churn is acceptable
  • Develop customer communications on product sunset with any upsell or sweetener messaging including dates for force sunset if applicable
  • Create sub-channel or online link to complete first responders and converters
  • Sunset product

It is important that customers see you have put yourself in their shoes as a user and have pre-defined paths that each customer can take before they lose access to the product. This should make them respond more favorably to your messaging. It is important to execute correctly to retain and even grow revenue. A product that is not performing in the market is simply an unneeded drag on support and sales forces that could be used promoting and supporting high revenue producing products.

Why should I care about UX as a Marketer?

I wanted to share a few thoughts on UX and marketing since some of my recent work has focused on that.

Since my last post, I have been focusing heavily on projects that require a new tight UI and UX design. For those that need a refresher, check out this link for a detailed breakdown of the differences between UI and UX. http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2012/06/ui-vs-ux-whats-the-difference/. Essentially, UX design deals with the overall experience associated with the use of a product or service, while UI design deals with the specific user interface(s) of a product or service. Effective UI must include UX design elements. I am going to answer the question today of why you should care about UX as a marketer, because you should!

There are a ton of different resources that give opinions on the principles of UX. Here are my simple 3 “big rules”:

1. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes                                                                                                                                                    You should always be thinking as a customer to contextualize their experiences with you.  Think of the journey from the customer’s perspective.  Customer mapping at different points depicts the journey over time and channels, and shows what the customer is thinking, doing and feeling throughout the whole experience.

2. Clearly define the Rules of Engagement
Engagement Principles are guidelines for the interaction of the service.  These need to be defined up front before development begins. Much of a UI deals with how the service looks and feels and the voice/tone, but where many products are lacking is in customer experience. Think of the process flow. Your brand is on top as the centerpiece. All branches, PDM cycles etc., must support brand tenets. The Brand feeds a style guide, which defines how a product looks and feels. It also feeds a product’s voice and tone  and experience principles or how you interact with the product.

3. Measured Delivery
Figure out how to ship products to customers correctly the first time.  Don’t release a poorly executed product no matter how great the planning and roadmap says it is. Adaptive Path’s CEO Brandon Schauer has a great analogy using cake as a product. Don’t ship the bare cake as v1 and then the filling as v2 and then the icing as v3. Customers don’t think like that. Ship a product that has a little cake, a little filling and a little icing and then your next release can be a larger cake. And of course we need to be concerned with the experience of the first run, since that is the first impression a user has with our product.

I’ve talked about the VOC (voice of the customer) in previous posts as a necessity in the product development process. It is just as important for marketers. If you ask any User Experience Professional what the principles of their profession are, one of the first principles you’ll hear is “Know Your Users”. Makes sense, right?

 If you want to create great experiences for users then you must know something about them.  Plus if you don’t know the customers, how do you know what they want? Figuring out what they want and targeting the offer to that is the special sauce.  The marketing industry existed long before UX came along, and good marketers are as focused on their users as any UX professional is. Wikipedia defines marketing as: “Marketing is used to identify the customer, to keep the customer and to satisfy the customer.

Too often marketers focus on macro demos (age, gender, income marital status, other metadata) to determine users and target offers. I’ve even espoused this as a pillar of good marketing tactics. However, these factors only provide the most basic insight into the life of a user. It does not tell the whole story.

Additionally, good marketing often goes unnoticed. When a marketer does their job and presents a timely and valuable product or service we don’t even notice we are being sold. Similarly, a good UX pro can go unnoticed: great design is invisible to users because they’re too busy enjoying the product or service to even think about it. However, when a marketer focuses on the wrong product attributes or misses the market need, it distracts us and we  notice it.  

As job responsibilities often dictate, UX professionals are more focused on design than marketers are. Usually, people start considering UX as part of the product design or development process that ignored or assumed too much about its users. UX Pros try to right this wrong: they have seen how hurtful a poor understanding of users really is. That’s why the phrase “Know Your Users” is so central to UX. UX pros push to have all of this considered during the ideation phase of the PDM cycle.

In essence, UX is really just good marketing. It’s all about knowing who your market is, knowing what is important to them (walking in their shoes), knowing why it is important to them, designing accordingly (rules of engagement) and measuring the delivery. Once released it’s the job of PLM folks to consistently listen and adjust to the marketplace; improving the experience of those in your market.  If you think about it, good marketers actually do a lot of UX work,  and vice-versa. The next time you are ready to start the PDM process, consider UX and marketing as legs to the product stool. They are inexorably connected. 

You may have the best GTM strategy, an excellent project manager, built and brought your product to market with the customer in focus, but if your offer is not surrounded with marketing programs that match your brand, you are sure to miss your mark. The continuum of the GTM cycle must include marketing programs as part of the LEARN Phase of LBGUPS that add to your company or product line brand.

Let’s assume we are starting our brand, launching a new product line or transforming our offer plan for a product line. We need to ask a few key questions:

  1. Is our brand and marketing programs conveying consistent messaging, and building on our established brand?
  2. Have we done research and segmented our customer base to target our offers?
  3. Do our offers leverage each other?

Tamsen McMahon adds another apropos question to the list from a recent post on her blog shared with Amber Naslund http://www.brasstackthinking.com/2010/08/offer-or-sell/ “Offer or Sell?”.  Are we offering what we sell or selling what we offer?

Companies need to further the customer relationship and offer value vs. a product. Do you want to be perceived as a company that pushes widget after widget with little value add? You might  sell units, but will might fail to build a lasting relationship with your customer.  The marketing activities you use to support your product should not only push your current offer, but enhance brand awareness and elicit brand resonance/loyalty. If your brand fails to resonate and people don’t buy in to, you are doomed.

In today’s climate of corporate distrust fueled by bankruptcies, accounting scandals and non-transparency, your brand must be consistent truthful and respected to continue to enjoy success. As David Kiley explores in the clip on my vodpod widget on the right for Business Week, brand trust is what sets the stage for great performance and consumer trust.

In a nutshell, bring your product/service to market, build your reputation, treat your customers as your #1 commodity and watch the profits roll in.