My last five years summed up in four words: no change, no change.

Early in my career, I heard Andy Grove speak and he said something that stuck with me to this day – “no change, no change.”  I took this to heart early in my career jumping from one marketing discipline to the next trying to find my passion – and I take it to heart today having found my passion in product marketing. There’s one thing about product marketing –  just when we think we have it figured out – things change. 

Change is what fuels me. I’m not averse to change. I am one of those marketing leaders that is not afraid to tweak positioning and messaging – and tweak it early and often, admittedly driving my peers crazy, but change is inevitable and when you know something is not working – you change it. 

“Know the buyer more than anyone else.” That was the mantra, vision, purpose, rally-cry of my Product Marketing team when I joined Code42 in 2016. It was perfect at the time. We were entering new markets with new products. We need to first and foremost know our buyers. The more we learned about our buyers, the more we understood the market.  The more we learned about our market, the better we could segment it.  The more success we had targeting specific segments, the more we learned about our customers in those segments. Wash, rinse, repeat. 

If Product Marketing was to succeed selling new products in a new market, we had to change. We changed from Product Marketing to Portfolio Marketing. We rallied around a bigger purpose to “know our buyers, markets, segments and customers more than anyone else, so we could be the best product evangelists we can be.”  We hired, developed and grew into a talented team of trusted advisors for the company. We built sales and marketing playbooks, message maps, web pages, content and training. And to this day we are constantly redefining (i.e. changing) product launch. 

Most of the time change is quick, tactical, a tweak here or there. Then there are those times when change is disruptive. When it’s not a tweak, it’s transformational. I call them market waves and they come once every ten years –  if you’re lucky. If you don’t catch them at the right time, you’re out. 

That’s what I love about Portfolio Strategy and Product Marketing (yes – my team’s latest positioning).  When you know the buyers, markets, segments and customers more than anyone else – you see the waves. You see them way out in the ocean when they are forming long before they begin to crest and crash into shore.  You pick one and start plotting your strategy, your plan, your timing. Then you commit to disrupt, transform, change the very thinking of the buyers, markets, segments and customers you spent years figuring out.  You just defined a new market and it’s energizing as a product marketer because we know it’s probably going to change. 

Time to Market(ing) vs Just being better

The Bad News Bears finished 2nd - but were they the better team?

The Bad News Bears finished 2nd – but were they the better team?

In the technology sector it seems that first to market is something almost every tech company strives to be the best at, but it is just marketing fluff?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a marketing guy first and foremost, and there are benefits to being the “first to announce” some new fangled feature, capacity point, or even form factor. Analysts love it because it gives them some perspective on who is innovating faster, who is the “market leader,” who is the “technology leader” in a given sector.  The press and bloggers love it because it’s something new to talk about, and of course, the tech company’s love it because their “first to XYZ” is being talked about, tweeted, shared, liked, commented on, etc.  But, to truly embrace the advantage of being the first to market / announce is to back it up with the evidence that it does indeed mean something besides being the first to issue a press release.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great when you are the first to announce something, but do you know what is better?  Being the first to actually ship something and see it get used in the real world, and make a difference for both users and, let’s face it, the company’s bottom line. This seems to happen quite a lot in the tech space.  A rat race to be the first to this, or the first to that.  Do consumers and business users really care who is first?  Or, do they care more about when they can get it, use it, advantage from it?  I would guess it’s the later.

Sometimes, being first doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best.  Des Traynor wrote a great piece titled “Why Being First Doesn’t Matter”  where he says, “more often than not, it’s the other way around. 47% of first-movers fail, compared with only 8% of fast followers…First-mover advantage isn’t automatically bestowed unto the first product in a category. It’s not even guaranteed to exist in your industry and, when it does, it is fought for and earned.”

So, being first is great and companies should continue to strive to being the first to announce something new and innovative that offers real advantage for users. BUT, maybe, just maybe, being first should not be the primary goal, because nothing is better than being the best.

Now that’s something to market.