Saturday, May 15, 2010

Product Managers, You can out teach your competition even if you don't have a budget

I am an admirer of the company 37 signals. In their book Rework, the founders of 37 Signals talk about how they out educate their competition even though they cannot out-spend, out-sponsor or out-market their competition.

I agree with them and want to share an example of how it worked for me.  Since I manage a product that brings several ten of millions of dollars to SAP, you may think that I have all the marketing budget in the world. That is not true. It is easier for me to get an $8000 plane ticket to Frankfurt approved than to get a $20 book purchase approved. Don't ask me why. That is how things work in large companies.

I realized that my product, SAP Enterprise Learning, was getting drowned not only among competitors products but also among other SAP products. Competitors were spending heavily on advertising, sponsoring events and marketing. Since I was not in a position to out-spend, out-sponsor or out-market the competition, I decided to take matters into my own hands and out-teach the competition. I started by writing a book to educate customers about my product. Teaching customers about your product creates a bond between you and your customers that you cannot get from traditional advertising or marketing.

Once the book was published, the term "SAP Enterprise Learning" appeared in thousands of web sites and started showing up on "Google Suggest" list when anyone typed "SAP Ent".

Publishing a book can have this kind of incredible effect on the product. Hundreds of potential customers bought the book and it was a big driver of customer education and revenue for the product. The publisher also released an eBook version, which made it easy for customers from Asia to order, access and search the book quickly.

Although I cannot put a dollar value on the training and education received by customers, I am certain that it is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions of dollars.

Add information about your product to a public wiki. Adding product related information to a public wiki or blog will significantly increase the information available to your customers and engage them.

Create informal learning activities in SAP Streamwork
Recently I have started creating informal learning activities for sharing information about my product with customers using SAP Streamwork. The response from customers is promising. You can read more about it here.

Go ahead out-teach your competition. Write a book. Create a wiki page. Post a blog or create a very personal learning activity for your customers using SAP Streamwork.

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