On the outbound side, there’s usually no shortage of ideas about how you should be describing your product. It seems like everyone is ready to offer a pithy phrase, a topic for a blog article or an idea for a new sales tool that would help the number of orders skyrocket.
It’s been my experience that the vast majority of these contributions have merit. They come from intelligent, experienced people who want the company and the product to succeed. The problems are you rapidly collect more ideas than you could ever implement given finite resources and many are offered in solitary without a broader context. Unless the contributor is directly involved in product planning, they probably aren’t aware of your product roadmaps or platform strategy. In some cases, their product idea many not be consistent with what your research shows are your targeted customers’ highest priority, unmet outcomes. Communication ideas, while catchy in isolation, may not be consistent with the corporate brand, the messaging strategy, the customer value proposition or the product positioning. Experts will tell you that consistency and repetition are keys to effective communication.
Naming a product may be one of the best examples. Everyone seems to think it’s great fun to play the “name game” and send you emails with creative and clever names. In one example, I had the wife of the Chairman of the Board, call me with name ideas she came up with for the company’s next generation product. And don’t get me started on internal “design a logo” contests.
So what’s a person to do? You can’t just ignore these submissions because people deserve to be listened to and their ideas acknowledged and considered. Even if the suggestion isn’t aligned with your product or messaging strategy, it is another data point that may point to a future trend or an area for future consideration. On the other hand, you shouldn’t blindly implement the
suggestion based on who screams the loudest, who has a senior title, or who offered the most recent idea.
The people filtering and selecting from all these suggestions should be the ones who have the big picture, the master plan for where the products, the messages and the desired user experiences are headed. In most cases, this is the Product Manager or the Product Marketing Manager. For product planning, the Product Manager knows what the whole product needs to look like,
the competitive strategy, and how the product family is evolving. The Product Marketing Manager contributed to the messaging strategy based on what the research shows the targeted customer values and what messages will resonate with them.
These people need to demonstrate experience and business judgment to select the ideas that best support the strategies. They need to have a steady hand on the tiller so the team senses continuity and steady progress, not a change in direction and a new priority every other week. Because these individuals usually have little authority, they must manage by the influence derived from data, analysis and strategy.
Do you have an example of how ideas are collected from a wide range of sources and are filtered down to the most appropriate ones?