Last night I went to my first Toronto Product Marketing Association meeting (TPMA http://www.tpma.ca) . The topic was CEO of Your Product, Prove it with Revenue. I found the presentations and discussions to be relevant and thought-provoking. I became a fan of the group and will be attending more of their events in the future.
The first speaker was Elizabeth Caley, VP Product Management and Marketing at Firmex (http://www.firmex.com) Elizabeth approached the topic by discussing five points that people outside of Product Management have said make Product Managers lose their credibility. With the opposite of these errors being a great description of key characteristics of a CEO – being decisive, setting limits and knowing when to say no, owning responsibility and protecting cross-functional contributors, knowing your ROI, and finally getting direct input from customers.
The second speaker, April Dunford is a Product Marketing expert and consultant working with expansion-stage startups. As well as author of the Rocket Watcher blog ( http://www.rocketwatcher.com/ ). April discussed how the traditional sales process has been turned on its head because consumers have so much access to independent information that they don’t come to you until they are ready to buy. This has resulted in a shift of focus on needing marketing to be more active in the process before and after the actual sale. Before in influencing the information that is out there for buyers to make buying decisions and afterwards to ensure customers use the product and renew or buy again. April then went on to detail ways that people in Product Marketing can work on their industry footprint and general credibility as experts in their field – from blogging, speaking engagements, and building relationships with customers and media. Much like a CEO needs to build on their presence and industry reputation.
What made the night interesting was that the presentations included interactive discussions and drew on real world experiences of both the speakers and the audience. A common thread in the questions was that a Product Manager’s “CEO” credibility comes from knowing the customers/market and having data to back up your point of view. Information from the market comes from direct access to customer base, and is a necessity for Product Managers. Data comes from keeping track of contacts, sales outcomes, and financials, something collected from having a good CRM strategy. I definitely had a few knowledge takeaways from the night and will attend more of their meetings in 2013.