Thursday, August 06, 2009

billy mays: lessons for product managers

Have you heard people don't read anymore?

"Ain't that the truth."

Which makes it all the more remarkable that you're reading this.

"I'm not reading - we're having a conversation. It's different."

So, Person Who Doesn't Read, have you read the article from Copyblogger on The Billy Mays 5-Step Guide to Easy Selling?

"No. I don't read blogs. They're shabby shadows of what I remember newspapers being, you know, back in the day."

If I promised you it was short and easy on the brain would you go read it?

"Does it have pictures?"

It has one picture.

"Is it of a girl?"

It's of Billy Mays.

"Hmm. I suppose you'll want me to read the comments too."

No, just the article.

"Why are you asking me to read an article about a recently-deceased pitchman's approach to selling that doesn't even have any nice pictures?"

Because it's a very crisp distillation of what product managers should build if they want their software to sell like hotcakes.

"I'm a software product manager. I'm not going to build a C++ version of the ShamWow."

But that's the rub - you could. And you don't have to be Vince Schlomi either.

"Who is he?"

The ShamWow guy.

"How do you know these things?"

Don't distract me. You need to read the article because product managers get too hung up on big brand ideas, about building segments and impressing analysts and whatnot and often forget that building products that people want to buy means you have to really think about the buyer, and what it's going to take to energize him or her to take action, and feel good about it.

"And. . .Billy Mays can tell me how to do that."


"For a software product."


"Do I need to double my customer's orders if they call in the next ten minutes?"



Alain Breillatt said...

You know, Barry Densa (the author) was doing great until he got to the last section "You Don't Need TV Air Time To Be A Successful Marketer" and it just went off a cliff after that. Billy Mays demonstrates the key point: find a problem, offer a solution, demonstrate in quick, memorable, snippets why exactly your product is the best available at solving that problem.

For a moment I thought it was parody when he started listing out "describe all your benefits and features in bullet points and then build the comparison table from hell to show why your competitor sucks." Then I realized by his links, he was absolutely serious.

Which left me feeling cheated because it started off so well but in the end I had to shake my head and say, nothing new here, move along. Billy Mays would not list out dozens of benefits in bullet points. He would stick to a handful of key leading benefits and demonstrate how masterfully the product delivers this solution.

Yes, I know tech product buyers will insist on their checklist, but that's just because tech marketers have conditioned them to expect it.

bob said...

I wasn't worried about the checklist - it's even a useful tool for the PM to make just to stay honest.

I always love it when folks describe "marketers" with the same sort of broad brush that they save for "sales".

What Billy did well was exactly what you highlight in your third paragraph - he was ruthless about positioning and the call to action.

"Death by comparison chart" is exactly the sort of thing that he would not have done.

Jim Foxworthy said...

So, first off: well done. Your post got me to read the other post. and I am functionally illiterate.

Second (off?), I read the post AND the comments. I think 'cuz you dared me not to. So now I am illiterate AND easily manipulated. Sigh.

Third Off, the list is great from a Product Builder's Point-of-View. That's cool, but we must never forget that even with a unique, demonstrable, instantly gratifying problem solver (for a segment large enough for us) there is still a ton of work to do. And that is called selling.

Do all five things on the list. Please. But do not then assume that you are finished, and the product will 'sell itself'.

We must still develop an intimate understanding of the buyer persona, their buying process, then create the collateral and sales tools to support our sales team. Because they are going to develop a relationship of trust with that buyer, and guide that buyer through the buying process.

My three cents. Thanks for reading this far.

Stewart Rogers said...

Even the ShamWOW guy is diversifying.