Product Marketing Rule #1: Rules are Meant to be Broken
Product Marketing Rule #1 from the best-selling book, 42 Rules of Product Marketing, was written by Gary Parker, Product Marketing Manager at FalconStor Software.
Never forget that the underlying driver is a passion to produce product messages that resound with our well understood buyer personas.
This Rule May Seem Unnecessary
After all, isn’t the point of having rules to share and learn from other people’s experiences and research?
We believe this is a Zen type of statement that is telling us to balance in-depth marketing knowledge with the need to retain passion and creativity.
The late Steve Jobs was extraordinarily successful at breaking the rules and was famously quoted in Fortune for saying “We do no market research. …. We just want to make great products.” Taking his statement literally and ignoring the good advice from Rule #7 on market research would be a career threatening move for most of us and certainly has contributed to the high rate of start-up company failures.
So, how do we reconcile this apparent contradiction?
The value of Jobs’ contrarian approach for us ordinary mortals has several aspects. The first is the importance of having a deep passion for our products, with our marketing tools being a means to express that passion. Jobs’ own words prophetically said it well: “We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? So this is what we’ve chosen to do with our life. …. And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it. And we think it is.” His insight reminds us that all the valuable marketing ideas from this book’s contributors and other sources are very important, but they are tools to be utilized to accomplish our marketing goals and express our profound underlying desire to succeed.
Another aspect is the importance of deeply understanding our buyer personas to the point that they become living entities that drive our work. Again, Jobs clearly understood his buyer’s persona and took full responsibility for meeting their needs: “Our DNA is as a consumer company — for that individual customer who’s voting thumbs up or thumbs down. That’s who we think about…” There was absolutely nothing subtle about this statement. He told us that, as marketers, we own our personas and are fully accountable for our ability to translate their real needs into succinct, compelling marketing messages.
There are many other aspects of Jobs’ apparent rule breaking legacy that can help us, but one final one is the importance of interpreting market data based on the real, underlying customer needs and not necessarily on the customer’s ostensible requirements statements. At the risk of being trite, we’ll close with Steve’s comments on asking what people want: “So you can’t go out and ask people, you know, what the next big [thing.] There’s a great quote by Henry Ford, right? He said, ‘If I’d have asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse’ ”. That traditionally applies to product managers, but also applies to product marketing when we use customer interaction and understanding and research to develop winning messages.