You Need A Website For Your Start-Up, Not Your Product

The always incisive and effervescent April Dunford has a great post at her blog Rocket Watcher about the reasons why your start-up needs a website, before you have a product to talk about. I couldn't agree more, for the following reasons:

  • Customers are buying your business model, not just your product. Your product is one source of value to potential customers, but not the only one. A good case in point: the many SaaS start-ups that attracted a lot of initial attention, then quickly lost their users to competitive products. If there's more to keeping your customers than just the product, you'd better start communicating those other sources of value.
  • You need the opportunity to test your marketing. You won't get the communication right the first time, so market testing before the moment when you release the product is critical. Who wants to slave over a great new invention, only to discover that your marketing sucks?
  • You need early product feedback. All new products are based on a set of assumptions, some of which will be wrong. You can use your website to understand your potential customers better through the website. If there's something wrong with your personas, use cases, or any other guiding principles of prioritization and design, identify the problems now, unless you really enjoy re-engineering.

SaaS: More Fundamental Change Than We Realized?

[More in a series of posts inspired by the "PM in an on-demand world" research that I've been doing. Here's the link to yesterday's thought du jour.]

During the research interviews about PM and SaaS, I was struck by how philosophical the conversations got. To the interviewees, SaaS was not merely a delivery vehicle, but a fundamental decision about their business. Bringing technology producers and consumers closer together forced many vendors to admit that they had a vague, incomplete idea of who adopts their products and services, why they do it, and how they do it. The subscription model led to many hard questions about how the company makes money. Marketers had to deal with a significantly modified value proposition, while simultaneously knocking down some new potential objections (most notably, security). 

But those are just the most obvious consequences. The deeper we got into the research, the more I felt that we were talking about other ripple effects of SaaS, PaaS, and the other aaSes. At least a couple of Big Industry Trends – the kind that Very Serious People spend a great deal of time talking about – owe a great deal to SaaS. Without the success of SaaS, many organizations would not have been as open to embracing other changes. I'll mention just two of them, Agile and social media, among several that we'll discuss in the final report.

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On Demand: It's A Business Model, Not Just A Delivery Mechanism

As promised, still more SaaS! Following an excellent day of discussion about PM in an on-demand world, I started over here at the fresh-out-of-the-shrinkwrap Forrester community site. Topic: On demand is a business model choice, not just a delivery mechanism. Discuss.

SaaS Brings Technology Producers And Consumers Into Sync

I'm working on a report about the role of PM in an on demand setting (SaaS, PaaS, and all the other aaSes). As often happens in discussions about PM, the role is a window into many bigger issues. Since their responsibilities span both business and technology, product managers and product marketers find themselves in the middle of many fundamental questions for technology vendors, such as, How often should we deliver something new to our customers?

That question has two sides: (1) how often do customers want to receive something new, and (2) how often can the vendor deliver it. Both questions can be difficult to answer. Customers often want tech vendors to deliver value faster, but they also complain if the changes happen too fast. Vendors know that they could deliver new technology every time they do a build, but they also know that the entire company (sales, marketing, support, etc.) won't be able to keep up at that pace. There must be some golden mean between the pace of technology production and consumption, but what is it?

By shortening the distance between producers and consumers, on demand, and SaaS in particular, has made it easier to reach a meaningful answer. The on-premise model creates a very long value stream between the development team at the beginning of the technology adoption process, and the users at the very end. In fact, adoption is, at best, a blurry image on the distant horizon of the development team's field of vision. Since the success of a development team's work products depend on its adoption, lack of information about adoption is not an information gap, but a yawning chasm.

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The Collaboration Device – Dell Streak Fits New Category

The Dell Streak launches this morning in the UK at O2 and Carphone Warehouse. Dell calls the Streak a 5” tablet – I see a slightly larger touchscreen smartphone that I hope will be ideal for collaboration tasks. While I have not performed a hands-on test, I did talk with Neeraj Choubey, general manager of tablets in Dell's Communications Solutions Group.

What does the Streak have? A 5” screen displays navigation, browser, and social networking. In addition to connectivity via Wi-Fi, 3G, and Bluetooth, the Streak boasts two cameras – a 5 megapixel camera on the back for taking pictures with the dual LED flash and a backward-facing VGA camera for videoconferencing. All this runs on Qualcomm's Snapdragon chipset and Google Android operating system.

Dell Streak Picture from Forrester Briefing

In today’s mobile world, information workers attend one or more meetings every day, and almost a third of their team members are not collocated with them (Ted Schadler writes about this in his report, “A Day In The Life Of A US Information Worker”). They are also out of the office more and more frequently – more than a third of information workers are out of the office regularly. This calls for solutions and devices that enable these mobile workers to communicate and collaborate – and the Streak fits nicely into market whitespace to fill this need.

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StrateTalk No. 3: Mark Foster, Group Chief Executive – Global Markets And Management Consulting, Accenture

StrateTalks (Strategy Talks) are summaries of my in-person exchanges with leaders at service and solution providers.

[05/13/10] It was 6:30 a.m. on Thursday morning when I checked out of the hotel and headed to Prudential Tower, where Accenture’s Boston office is located.

On the way there, I saw Mark Foster walking in front of me.

Mark joined Accenture in 1983 and has been the group chief executive for Accenture’s management consulting growth platform (technology and business process outsourcing [BPO] represent the two other growth platforms at Accenture) since 2006. However, Mark not only oversees the management consulting business but is also responsible for the growth, differentiation, and innovation agenda for Accenture overall.

He was also the person I was scheduled to meet at 7:00 a.m. to discuss Accenture’s strategy for innovating itself. Over the course of several meetings with executives of the management consulting leadership team, I identified some interesting ongoing initiatives intended to drive Accenture’s differentiation. I’d been wondering if these initiatives were just brewing in isolation or were really part of an overall strategy. This was the reason I needed to talk with Mark.

I called out to Mark; he turned around and greeted me. Together, we walked to the Prudential Tower, passed security, and took the elevator up to the Accenture floor.

What interests me about Accenture, besides the obvious facts around strategy, service portfolio, and go-to-market approach, is its culture — the true source for innovation and differentiation for any company. Accenture’s culture is in my opinion very consistent. If you talk to a consultant, manager, or an executive such as Mark, all reflect this open and collaborative culture.

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StrateTalk No. 2: Amy Quigley, VP Of Marketing, Continuum

StrateTalks (Strategy Talks) are summaries of my in-person exchanges with leaders at service and solution providers.

[05/11/10] After a long, but interesting, briefing with a service provider on its green IT and sustainability consulting services portfolio at our Cambridge, Mass., office, I jumped in a cab to Harvard Square.

I then met with Amy Quigley, VP of marketing at Continuum, an interesting firm. Why? More on that later. Amy has been with the company for about two years now. Prior to Continuum, she was in leading marketing roles at other firms, including Molecular and ATG.

What is Continuum? This was the overarching question I had had in my mind since contacting Amy about having this more philosophical-flavored chat.

Continuum’s Web site notes that it is an innovation and design consultancy. According to Amy, Continuum has three domains of expertise: brand, design, and strategy. I’m primarily interested in Continuum’s strategy approach, which is truly different. The firm leverages primarily design and creativity, rather than analytical, tools to help clients with their strategy. Some call this approach “design thinking”.

However, I do not like this term, and Amy agreed that it does not perfectly capture how Continuum attempts to position itself at executive levels. This is also one of the reasons why her company is currently undertaking a major repositioning effort. Amy shared some of the company’s early slides with me, and I agreed that the company is going in the right direction; for example, the firm is merging its areas of expertise and is creating research communities focused on business opportunities.

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StrateTalk No. 1: Kevin Bolen, Partner, Innosight

StrateTalks (Strategy Talks) are summaries of my in-person exchanges with leaders at service and solution providers.

[05/11/10] It was a sunny Tuesday morning in Cambridge, Mass., when I met with Kevin Bolen, who is one of the eight partners of Innosight. Before joining Innosight in 2007, Kevin was the chief marketing officer (CMO) of Lionbridge Technologies.

It’s been a while since our last chat and I was eager to get an update from Kevin on Innosight’s business and his perspective on the innovation consulting landscape.

As with most of the innovation consulting services specialist firms, Innosight was born through the innovation of a new paradigm/model. In this case: disruptive innovation, introduced by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen. He founded Innosight with Mark Johnson in 2000.

Ten years later, the firm employs about 50 people and is a publication machine. Why? At Innosight, partners/directors aren’t the only employees publishing articles and books such as Mark’s latest book, Seizing the Whitespace: Business Model Innovation for Growth and Renewal; even analysts (who are entry level at Innosight) are eligible to write.

For more than a year the firm has focused in particular on business model innovation (BMI) in publications and client engagements. BMI is certainly one of those buzz words that is slowly starting to annoy me. Why? All examples mentioned in this context are just a handful and always the same. Certainly, innovating a business model is as easy as grabbing an “Apple” from a tree.

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AT&T Business Solutions Drives Technological Innovation Into Practical Use

A New Resource For Answers To Marketers' And Product Managers' Top Issues

I'm excited to introduce a new way for marketers and product managers to get answers to their most pressing issues and challenges.  Forrester has launched an online community for technology marketers and product managers as the premier destination for leaders to exchange ideas, opinions, and real-world solutions with each other. Forrester analysts will also be part of the community, helping facilitate the discussions and sharing their views.

The community is open to all technology marketers and product managers. 

Here’s what you’ll find:

  • A simple platform on which you can pose your questions and get advice from peers who face the same business or technology challenges.
  • Insight from our analysts, who weigh in frequently on the issues and point to relevant research. 
  • Fresh perspective from peers, who share their real-world success stories, best practices, and templates.
  • Content on the latest technologies and trends affecting your business — from Forrester and other thought leaders.

 

I encourage you to become part of the community:

  • Ask a question about a business or technology problem.
  • Start a discussion on an emerging trend that’s having an impact on your work.
  • Contribute to an existing discussion thread from a community member.
  • Share templates with your peers for common artifacts like social media guidelines or campaign outlines.
  • Suggest topics for upcoming Forrester research reports.
  • Create a community profile.
  • Share your perspective with others.

 

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