Guest Post: 5 Things That PMs Should Do To Get Their Products Noticed


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NOTE: The following is a guest post by Dr. Jim Anderson of the Accidental Product Manager blog. Enjoy. And if you feel inspired to write a guest post of your own, click here to find out how to submit it to us.

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Just how many ads for products do you get hit with each day? 10? 100? 500? No matter what the number is, the end result is the same – you shut down.

Something in your brain switches off and you stop “seeing” ads because you are in overload. This is bad news for a product manager who wants to get his / her product noticed. Is there anything that can be done to get your customers to notice your product’s advertising?

What Doesn’t Work?

You are the CEO for your product and so you’re going to have to find a solution to this problem. Dr. Sridhar Balasubramanian and Dr. Pradeep Bhardwaj are marketing professors at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and they’ve been studying this problem of how to reach customers that have tuned traditional product advertising out. The professors point out that most product managers take the aggressive approach and attempt to get their products noticed by simply TALKING LOUDER (remember those TV ads with “Crazy Larry”?) This simply doesn’t work.

Things You Should Be Doing

There are 5 things that as a product manager you can do in order to ensure that the advertising for your product is actually working for you. Here’s what you need to be doing today in order to get your product noticed tomorrow:

  • Pick The Right Time: You know your (potential) customers better than anyone else. When will they NOT be getting hit with too many ads – when they get their postal mail at work? Via Twitter? Via FedEx box? Find your customer’s quiet time and seize it to get your message across.

Examples: the in-flight magazine that everyone reads is a great opportunity to reach the right type of customer when they are “locked in” and have nothing else to read. Also, adding your product to those videos that they are starting to show in elevators would be a great way to reach your target customers in their building.

  • Arouse Curiosity: Ads that just talk about how great a product is are boring. Ads that trigger your customer’s curiosity are something special. Is there a puzzle that you can create that they have to solve? Once they solve it can they go to your product’s web site and claim a reward? Talk about a great way to get your message across!

Example: Google did this when they were hiring – they created billboards with math problems and a URL where you could go to type in the answer.

  • Piggyback On Another Brand: If your product is new, you are going to be fighting for your potential customer’s attention because they don’t know anything about your product. However, if you can join forces with an existing brand, then both brands can benefit from combined advertising.

Example: you see this all the time – summer movies do cross promotions with McDonald’s and Burger King.

  • Physically Move Into Your Customer’s World: Where does your customer spend most of their day? In days of old, companies sent out calendars to their potential customers (Pirelli’s is world famous) because they knew that they would be on the wall for a year.

Example: Today providing your customers with a browser widget might be the best way to promote your product.

  • Trigger All 5 Human Senses: Ok, so maybe you can’t hit all five senses but can you at least do one better than sight? A clever tune or a pleasant scent that becomes associated with your product could help it stand out from all of the other ads that your customer encounters.

Example: The Coke “jingle” and the Southwest “ding” sound are both audible sounds that we all now associate with the brands. If we hear the sounds, then we automatically think of the brand!

Final Thoughts

As though being a product manager was not hard enough, now we have to be advertising experts? Well, no. However, you are the one person who is ultimately responsible for the success of your product. You need to be thinking about these 5 actions so that you can steer the advertising for your product, and so that in the end, it works to make your product fantastically successful.

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Dr. Jim Anderson has been a product manager for individual products at small start-ups as well as entire products lines for some of the world’s largest IT shops. His popular blog, “The Accidental Product Manager“, is where he shares the product management secrets that he’s discovered along the way.

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4 responses to “Guest Post: 5 Things That PMs Should Do To Get Their Products Noticed

  1. Insightful as ever Jim. Do you find that the pressures of the current climate are impacting launch marketing budgets? A couple of recent launches haven’t been as successful as expected, and having a pretty good track record of product launches I found myself refering to massive marketing budget cuts – maybe I’m looking for a scapegoat, but maybe this is a trend that you’ve seen?

  2. Pingback: Guest Post At The “On Product Management” Blog | The Accidental Product Manager

  3. Nice post! I really hope software companies don’t take the Pirelli calendar suggestion all the way to it’s logical conclusion…..
    Early in my marketing career I sold a lightweight database. In those days we actually shipped CD’s in a box with a book. We also included a poster that was the nerdiest thing around. On the one site it showed our data model (and no, that’s not the fashion kind of model we’re talking about) and the other side documented a set of shortcuts and tips for SQL programmers. Whenever I did customer visits I was amazed at how many folks had the poster up on their walls. It’s amazing what a bit of old fashioned promotion can do.
    April

  4. Jim, thanks for all these great pointers. Reminds me of a book I recently reviewed on my blog called “Made to Stick.” It discusses six qualities of “sticky” ideas. My favorite is “unexpectedness.” In this day and age, you definitely need to get creative to get people’s attention! More here: http://productmanagementzen.com/2009/05/27/book-review-made-to-stick/