Competitive Analysis

One core aspect of the product and marketing role is to get insight on the competitive landscape. Apart from what you can find from their websites, you will want to dig deeper, and gain understanding of their business.

Fortunately, there are several sources to go to. Some of these are free, and some are not, but if you can get access to these, I highly recommend taking full advantage.

Dunn and Bradstreet – This is the gold standard.  It is not cheap, but if you have an investor relations group, odds are good that you have access to D&B.  It is worth the effort to get to this source.  Far more information on even small and early stage companies, as well as the best information on privately held firms.  I doubt I could justify the cost if I worked someplace without a subscription, but it really helps pave the path, and fill in blanks. Continue reading →

Marketing Coolness – NanoWorld

Once in a while, I will stumble across something that is unique, and memorable. Being in marketing, I have a finely tuned eye for clever messaging. Recently, my spidey sense went all tingly.

NanoSensors, part of the NanoWorld group, was exhibiting in our distributor’s booth at the JASIS conference in Japan. They had some cool swag, nifty pens, and the like. However, as my hair had become long and unruly due to the fact that I was far too lazy to go to the barber before the trip, I angled to grab one of their baseball caps.

Made of high quality canvas with almost perfect stitching, it is a solid cap. No plastic, and the adjustable band is fabric, with a metal hasp. Again, top shelf.

Inside the cap is where the surprise is. Where there is usually a label that states the country of origin, material content (cotton, or man made), and possible care instructions, there is something unique. The label states:

We also sell AFM probes

Simple, understated, and effective – the tagline grabs the attention and mindshare without being obnoxious.

Brilliant marketing, hat’s off to NanoWorld!

Typical Product Marketing day

I am often asked what a typical day looks like. It is hard to describe in general, because one of the things about being a product manager is that I get tossed tasks, and crises all the time. So, what does a day in the life look like?

Rinse, lather repeat, a process that goes on indefinitely
Rinse, lather repeat, a process that goes on indefinitely

7:30AM – Arrive. Check email, find an urgent request to do a competitive analysis of one of our products with a down market competitor (clearly inferior, and a less complete solution to boot). Deliver that to the requesting sales engineer by 8:30.

~ 9:00AM – Dive into strategic planning homework.

~9:10AM – R&D director walks into cube. There is an issue with a component of our main under development project. We discuss for some time (seems like hours). Turns out to not be a big deal, but I am glad to be made aware.

~ 10:00AM Back to the strategy work. Research US R&D funding forecasts, and what the effect of the Budget Sequestration will have on funding (and hence the pool of money for many of our customers to buy our products). Fortunately there are lots of good, poignant analyses to wade through. Soon I have 60+ pages to read.

Noon – Lunch time. Had to run home to turn out the hounds (My wife is out of town).

1:00PM – meeting with marketing to discuss the new product introduction schedule. Surprise, it lasted a full hour plus (scheduled for 30 minutes)

2:00PM – meet with our ERP engineers to discuss the additions and deletions to the ERP system (part numbers, prices, ECO’s etc).

3:00PM – 5:00PM meet with R&D to discuss our bets for the future. Spirited discussion.

Run home and walk the dogs. Feed them.

5:00 – 6:30 – Backlog planning with our overseas development team. Glad I made this one (I do make most of the calls) as some key decision points were at hand.

6:30 – ??? Catch up on email, my news reading, and finally fade into bed at 9:00

Today will be entirely different. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Presentations that are SO bad.

About 6 months ago, I started a new job.  The former product manager had left about 18 months prior to my arrival, and they “limped” along.

Now, I am going through sales presentations, sales training decks and curriculae and I am aghast at what I have to work with.

The previous occumant of my role was a PhD scientist.  He had the attitude of “I’m the smartest man in the room” and he was out to prove it to the audience.

However, that led him to build very wordy powerpoints. 10 bullet points each with two rows of text.  No illustrations of complex concepts (I mean, you are talking to sales, and they crave handholding). No thread or story.  

In short, while there is some good information, the vehicle destroys the message.

Sigh, it is going to be a long holiday weekend whipping some of these into shape.


Market Analysis Oddities – Pulling my hair out

I am doing a market analysis to help us decide where we want to spend our next development dollars on.

To accomplish this, I really need to get a good idea of their revenue.

Top down, I took the bible, the accepted research.  I also took the number uttered during the Q4 2011 analysts call, and started from there.  I have some historical knowledge of the business, so I could subtract big swaths right away.  They also reported “strong” performance in two segments that I knwo A LOT about.  Cool.  More clarity.

I get a number that feels right.  It is damn close whether I do a top down, or bottom up analysis.

It falls apart when I try to model for product mix, and units moved.  There is NO FRIGGIN WAY that they sold as many units as we calculate with known ASP’s.  Try a two tier (higher ASP when non-competitive) model?  Still too high.  Adjust the ASP’s to make the number reasonable, and it just is ludicrous (the ASP’s have to TRIPLE to match with what we think we know about their capacity).

Poop.  Back to the grinding stone.