Friday, August 31, 2007

answer: why demonstrate at trade shows

Steve Johnson at Pragmatic Marketing asked the question:

Why demo at trade shows?

Going to the link above, I discovered a large-ish number of the Product Management tribe have already weighed in on this momentous question.

But I, dear reader, have not (beyond describing how it feels to Go To Las Vegas. . . again).

"Why haven't you answered this question yet?" you ask. "For ____sakes, Bob, you've been doing this stupid. . .blog. . .for almost two years and you haven't gotten around to this? You disappoint me."

That is exactly why I haven't written about it. It's the one activity that people expect of product managers, and the one activity that hurts us the most. It perpetuates the worst product management stereotype of all, the one I've been working for years to transcend and the one I hope you're working to transcend too.

"What stereotype is that?"

Demo Monkey.


You heard me.

"No, you said it too softly. Speak up."

OK. You asked for it.

Demo Monkey.

Product managers are stereotyped as the company's number one Demo Monkey. And all too often, regrettably, the product manager takes great pride in being the Demo Monkey.

All too often product management is the here's a feature, there's a feature, bang the cymbals, pull the red fez up then let it snap back to your skull on its elastic chin strap Demo Monkey.

If that's what you want to do, swell. Have at it. But being a Demo Monkey diminishes you at the same rate it reemphasizes your place in the organization as an expert tactician - someone who knows how to create products.

It diminishes you because the people who care most about features are the people who have the least significant agendas, organizationally-speaking. Focusing on product - and being the person in your organization most closely associated with product - keeps you locked at the lowest level of alignment with your customer.

Products are what you bring to the buyer/user of that product. The buyer/user cares about price and pain avoidance. They will know the most about the features of your product and how they compare to competitive features.

Processes are what you bring to the manager of the buyer/user of the product. Middle management will want to know how the processes you contribute to or enable are better than other processes.

Outcomes are what you bring to upper management. They will want to know what the ROI over time is for the solutions (which equal your products, processes and unique value-add know-how) you offer vis a vis other potential investments. If the outcomes you can deliver match the agendas they've established for their company, you win.

Put another way:

Show a senior manager a product and he/she will aim you down the organization at a user. "We have people who look at products," is what you'll hear.

Show a senior manager how organizations like theirs (or best yet, their competition) use your solutions to help achieve their outcomes, and he/she will aim you at a contract.

"You didn't answer the question. Why demonstrate at trade shows?"

As the product manager, what you need to demonstrate at trade shows is:

  • insight into how your
  • solutions (product+process+unique value-add knowledge) can deliver
  • compelling outcomes for the
  • key senior management agendas

"But what about the demo?"

Let the systems engineer do that. That's what they're good at, and you win when they are tightly aligned with the user/buyer. As product manager, you need to aim higher.

1 comment:

Cliff Allen said...

At a trade show I'll have a client's product manager and top salespeople stand on the outside edge of the booth so they can talk to people about their needs first.

Then, after qualifying the lead, I'll have them move to the demo stations and introduce the technical person who will do the demo.

This technique has several benefits for building the relationship with the prospect - and keeps the product manager from being the demo monkey.