Ready, Set, Launch: Taking the Product to Market

This evening, I attended the SVPMA event featuring Chris Shipley Co-Founder and Chairman, Guidewire Group, Inc. The title of the presentation was Ready, Set, Launch: Taking the Product to Market. Surprisingly, Chris brought two additional speakers with her; Steve Larsen, Co-founder and CEO of Krugle and Arya Barirani, Marketing Manager, HP Software Global Campaigns. This was a great panel presentation where I took away two key insights from the question and answer discussion.

1. The Importance of Product Management Experience
2. The Difference Between Product Management and Product Marketing

You often see teams of developers build in house tools inside of big companies. The tool is widely adopted throughout the company so there must be a market for it. This is not always true, but naive teams of developers leave the big company and try to form a business. Without effective market research they are basically just throwing something out there and hoping it sticks. Sometimes this works, but overall it is not an effective strategy.

Steve Larsen recommends that if you want to be a CEO start your career through product management. As a product manager you work with all parts of the business. Every departments success relies on product management. Product managers work with engineering to develop the product, help with sales and marketing, talk to customers, help finance with budgets and forecast. The secret to being a good product manager and a future CEO is make everyone feel like they own the idea.

Arya Barirani talked about his experience as a Director of Product Management for Mercury Interactive before the company was acquired by HP. He was responsible for working with the product managers, product marketers, and developers. He had to convey a vision and look beyond the release, the launch, the roadmap, and figure out customer acquisition. He had to work hands on with the sales people to figure out why the product was not selling. It was not because sales did not know how to sell it.

Product management always wants to wait until the product is perfect, meanwhile product marketing is always ship now. The biggest challenge for both departments is when is it ready? Launch is when we have a meaningful value proposition that allows us to sell in the market place. Revisions are when we have enough feedback from customers and high demand.

Unlike HP, Krugle and for the most part all startups do not enjoy the luxury of having product managers and product marketers on staff. Founders have to play the roles of both. Most importantly, they need to sell. No one understands the technology better than they do. Therefore hiring a sales guy before the product is robust and the messaging is accurate, will be a waste of time and capital. Founders need to talk to prospects and understand in their customers language the benefits of the offering. In addition, it is important to keep the product lean and mean by only developing features that customers will pay for. We often see startups spend too much time over developing compared to selling.

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