Product Management & Product Marketing
Expert Product Management by Jeff Lash
In Search of Stupidity second edition by Merrill R. Chapman
Software Product Management Essentials by Alyssa Dver
Catch! A Fishmonger’s Guide to Greatnessby Dr. Cyndi Crother
The Product Marketing Handbook for Software, 4th Edition by Merril R. Chapman
Now, Discover your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham
Those new to product management often spend most of their time on a few areas — researching market needs, developing business cases, writing requirements, monitoring development projects. Though these are indeed crucial aspects of the product manager role, there are many other responsibilities that often get overlooked. Not surprisingly, these are the areas for which there are often fewer resources available, so product managers may feel as if they have to “go it alone.”
Luckily, Expert Product Management succinctly covers four crucial areas which can improve a product’s success. Brian Lawley provides clear, practical advice on Product Roadmaps, Beta Programs, Product Launches, and Review Programs — the value of any one of these sections alone can justify the reasonable price.
Each section begins with an explanation of the concept and its importance, then covers examples of different approaches and best practices. The writing style makes it easy to read from cover-to-cover and also easy to refer to as a reference. Don’t let the size fool you
– at under 100 pages, this can easily be read on a short plane ride
– yet there is sufficient depth to the information contained within to make it practical and actionable.
The chapter on Product Roadmaps is especially comprehensive and useful. Brian describes six different types of roadmaps — even experienced product managers will likely discover one they were not aware of here — and presents an easy-to-follow eight step process for creating your own roadmap. Similar level of detail is provided in the other sections — enough information that the reader can use it as a guide to implementing on the job, though not so much to make it laborious to read or hard to locate later for answers to specific questions.
If there is any flaw in the book, it is that the design of the book itself does not do enough to support the high-quality content. The text and graphics are clear and easy to read, yet a more compelling design could have enhanced the text even further. This is a minor quibble, though, since it is still a very useful resource regardless.
As the name implies, this book may not be the best complete introduction to those new to product management, though that is clearly not its intent. For experienced product managers who have mastered the basics and are looking to take their job to the next level, Expert Product Management is a highly recommended guide which can help already good product managers to better plan, create, and launch a successful new product.
Author, How To Be a Good Product Manager: http://www.goodproductmanager.com
Software Product Management Essentials
By Alyssa S. Dver
Review by Brian Lawley
When I began my career in Product Management years ago there were few, if any books that taught the art and science to newcomers. Most of what I learned had to be absorbed by osmosis while working at multiple different software companies, each with different Product Management roles, responsibilities and processes. Were there a book available at the time it would have saved me many headaches and given me a much better idea of what to expect during each part of the product lifecycle and how to be more effective.
Software Product Management Essentials solves the need for a resource for introductory to mid-level software Product Managers. It helps them learn how to do their jobs more effectively and covers the fundamentals of solid Product Management. Targeted primarily at smaller companies, who oftentimes have little or no process in place and tend to demand that the Product Manager do the widest variety of tasks, it is also a great resource for those thinking of getting into Product Management. I found that it gave a clear and accurate view of what the life of a Product Manager is like, including all of the pros and cons.
Topics covered include “What is Product Management?” (including interesting and useful industry statistics about Product Management in case you need to argue with your boss about what a reasonable number of products for you to be responsible for is), the “Product Development Process”, “Managing Product Requirements”, and the ”Product Delivery Process”. Also included are sections on “Running Beta Test Programs” (this is the only resource I’ve seen that covers this), “Product Launches”, “Software Pricing Models” and “Going International”. There is even a section on the basics of outbound Product Marketing.
The book also includes a variety of useful forms and samples, including beta license & test agreements, requirements document, business plan, nondisclosure agreement and PDT (product delivery team) checklist. All of these can also be ordered as templates in electronic form on CD ROM for $25.
Software Product Management also goes a bit beyond the basics, including information about how to use the BLIP (Baseline Level Integration Process) development method and several other more advanced concepts. But the main value of the book comes from the author’s deep background and experience as a Product Manager. Full of practical and useful tips for how to do the basic blocking and tackling of Product Management, Software Product Management Essentials is a great resource for newer product managers (and even perhaps for those of us who have been around the block a few times.)
More about Software Product Manager’s Handbook at the 280 Group Product Management Books page
Catch! A Fishmonger’s Guide to Greatness
By Dr. Cyndi Crother
Review by Brian Lawley
Many years ago when I was a product manager for the MacOS at Apple I took a trip up to Seattle to brief several software companies on our upcoming plans. In between meetings at Microsoft and Aldus (now Adobe) we stopped by Pike Place and I witnessed the Pike Place Fish Market in action. That short visit made quite an impression – it’s funny how I can still remember it clear as day – watching the fish mongers throw fish across the store and entertain the crowd.
Catch! A Fishmonger’s Guide to Greatness is a book about what goes on behind the scenes at the Pike Place Fish Market and how their philosophy and way of doing business has led to it becoming world famous. Catch! is billed as both a business book and a personal growth book, and I believe it hits the mark in both categories.
To write Catch!, the author worked at the fish market and learned the techniques and philosophy being applied by the team there. The basic premises that the company operates under include things like “Everyone should take personal responsibility for how they react to each situation”, and that each employee should strive to “Be great in ALL that you do”.
The book covers many different concepts, from using Intentions to guide our lives and work to coaching, communication and resolving conflicts.
In this time of continued tight budgets, overworked and unhappy employees, and companies that view workers as expendable resources it was refreshing to read about a company that is doing things differently and that is dedicated to truly making a difference.
Catch! A Fishmonger’s Guide To Greatness is an easy and enjoyable read, and full of inspiring ideas for both personal and business growth. If you aspire to personal greatness or want to build a great team or company, put this book on your reading list.
The Product Marketing Handbook for Software, 4th Edition
Review by Brian Lawley
5 out of 5 stars
This week I received one of the first copies of the 4th edition of the Product Marketing Handbook for Software, by Merrill Chapman.
Initially I was skeptical that the book would have much to offer me. Given that I’ve spent the last 15+ years building my career around Product Marketing and Product Management, I thought there wouldn’t be much that I hadn’t learned on my own over the years. In spending a little time with it, however, I found that it actually includes many valuable insights and information that I hadn’t uncovered before. Weighing in at 690 pages, this book is an extremely valuable resource for anyone doing Product Marketing or Product Management work.
The handbook is incredibly comprehensive, covering positioning, pricing, naming, distribution, research, direct marketing, PR, sales promotions, advertising, bundling, trade shows, product marketing and management processes (MRDs, product road maps, beta programs), web and internet marketing and more. It includes case studies, checklists, and even a CD with sample budgets, forms and charts and videos of the author being interviewed. Also included is an appendix with estimated costs for marketing programs, which is invaluable when crafting your marketing plans.
Given the wealth of information it contains, at $69.95 this book is a bargain. It will help you save money, increase revenues, avoid costly mistakes and launch and market your products far more effectively. To order a copy visit Aegis Resources.
More about The Product Marketing Handbook at the 280 Group Product Marketing Books page
Now, Discover Your Strengths
By Marcus Buckingham
Reviewed by Brian Lawley
An acquaintance of mine named Jim Reekes (www.reekes.net) recently mentioned a book to me, and told me that it was a very powerful and useful tool for him. Jim is a very smart guy – a great strategist with a strong blend of technical, marketing and business insight. On Jim’s recommendation I decided to read and review Now, Discover your Strengths for this issue of the 280 Insider.
Now, Discover Your Strengths provides a refreshing way of looking at managing your career and other parts of your life. The premise of the book is that truly successful people focus on what they are really good at, and minimize spending time doing the things that they aren’t good at. While this may sound obvious at first blush, it is actually contrary to the messages we often hear. Many times we are told that in order to succeed we need to look at where we need to improve, that we should strengthen areas where it turns out we have may have no desire, natural talent or aptitude for success.
For example, if a child gets an A in math and a C in writing on their report card, what are they told to do? Work harder on writing, right? Maybe they have no chance of becoming a great or even above-average writer. Instead they are destined to become a world-class mathematician. No matter how hard they work on writing they may end up with minimal improvement and maximum frustration.
Rather than focusing on areas of weakness, the book argues that you should focus on your absolute greatest areas of strength. For areas of weakness find workarounds – other people or resources that can help you get the critical work done without sacrificing the quality or your own enjoyment.
The book also includes an online test. To take the test you go to Strengthsfinder.com and enter in a code that comes with it. You then go through a fairly rigorous set of questions and are provided with a report that shows your top 5 strengths.
My report showed that I am a problem solver and that I am motivated by what is possible in the future. I found this to be right on target – much of my work as a consultant is with companies that are trying to create an exciting and meaningful through new products, and I’m brought in to help them solve the problems they are facing.
The latter half of the book is about how to use the strengths approach to manage your team. Most of the good managers and leaders that I have known in my career end up doing this anyway, but I don’t believe it is necessarily intentional. Spending some time thinking about this as a strategy can yield even better results.
Overall I recommend this book. However, there are two things that I think sell the book short and make it much less worthwhile than it might have been.
First, the code that is provided to do the Strengthsfinder online test is only valid once. This means you can’t re-take the test, you can’t loan the book to anyone else and you can’t resell the book. I see this as a short-sighted tactic by the publishers and author to get corporate managers to buy multiple copies for their entire teams.
The second thing that the book didn’t deliver was concrete suggestions for using my own personal strength report. I was surprised when immediately after I got my results the book shifted to “now here is how you use this as a manager”. I was expecting to get some insights as to how to use the report for myself. On further investigation the website indicated that if I wanted to learn how to use the results I should sign up for their $99 newsletter.
Despite these two misrepresented product promises, I still recommend this book. It is an easy read and provides a refreshing way of looking at how to use the unique set of talents you have to pursue success.
By Seth Godin
Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable.
Reviewed by Brian Lawley October 2003.
New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Businessweek Bestseller
I first became a fan of Seth Godin’s books when he came out with Ideavirus, a study of viral products and ideas. Ideavirus was marketed very cleverly. In fact, you can get a free copy of the entire book at www.ideavirus.com. Seth’s bet was that the book was so good that you would end up buying a printed copy and buy products from him for years to come. His bet worked with me.
Seth’s latest book is Purple Cow: Transform your business by being remarkable. The book is an easy read. Entertaining and informative, its message is even more critical now than ever for companies that want to create winning products. With all of the half-baked products and broken product promises that customers endured during the boom, this book preaches that it’s time to get back to creating products and services that are truly remarkable.
Purple Cow advocates that in order to stand out, in order to have your marketing and all of your other efforts make any impact, you must go beyond “good enough”. For me, Seth was preaching to the choir, having been a Product Management professional for most of my career working on breakthrough products like the Macintosh Human Interface, Symantec Café and the Whistle Interjet. I’ve always been convinced that what makes a product phenomenally successful is taking care of the little details that add up to something customers can’t stop talking about. Seth’s book is somewhat of a manifesto on this topic.
One of my favorite parts of the book is where he discusses the concept that “The opposite of very good is remarkable”. Companies like Microsoft make products that are very good (or in many cases their products are just good enough to sell). But look at products that have become phenomenons – the Macintosh, the Palm Pilot, Hotmail, IBM Thinkpads – these are products that truly shined (at least when they were first released). They went far beyond “good enough”.
Seth also argues that your marketing needs to be just as remarkable. Combine it with great products and you have the recipe for cutting through the noise and having your product be noticed. As he says in the book, “Safe is risky”.
Full of case studies, including Krispy Kreme, Jet Blue, and many other tech and non-tech companies, Purple Cow is a must read for anyone involved in product development and product definition. Every entrepreneur, CEO, general manager, product manager and marketing professional interested in creating industry-changing products should read this book.
More about Purple Cow at the 280 Group Product Marketing Books page