Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Inbound & Outbound marketing

Its nearly the end of the year, I’m about to close one Blog archive and start another - don’t worry, this means nothing for readers, its part of my admin. But it does mean that I put behind me all those half written blog posts, and single line ideas, that have been building up during the year.

Before I do so though, there are a couple of days to quickly get important backlogged entries out!

Two weeks I blogged, not for the first time, about Product Manager (Product Management an open secret, a differentiator). When I talk to people about Product Managers I often find myself in a conversation about marketing. Clued up people realise that good Product Management is, in part, a marketing function, others are surprised. They think marketing is about advertising and sales.

It is important, very important, to differentiate between the two sides of marketing: Inbound and outbound. So, for the record, I want to record it:

Outbound marketing: is the marketing most people think of when someone days “marketing.” This is about letting people know you, and your product, are here. Its advertising. Its public relations. It is generating sales leads. It is improving awareness. You get the picture?

It is called outbound because it is from you and your organisation to the wider world.

Inbound marketing: is from the wider world (customer, potential customer, competitors) to your company. It is about bringing that information inside and then acting on it. It is about building the products your customers want to buy. Get it right and sales should be like a knife through butter, people want your products.

In software companies, and other tech companies inbound is largely the role of Product Management. Product Marketing is about outbound. Although Product Manager is the usual job title some places call this role an Architect, others Programme Manager, and occasionally Project Manager. More often or not it is just absent.

Most companies realise, sooner or later, that outbound marketing is needed. Unfortunately, in all too many companies inbound marketing does not exist. Or inbound is “what the sales guy says the customer wants.”

As much as we love sales people (after all, they bring in the stuff that pays us) they are not the best people to decide what goes into a product. The reason why they are good at selling is that they get over customer objections and sell the product. This means the customer, the next customer, the next sale, is king. What the next customer wants isn’t what every customer wants.

Lets make this simple: if you are running a software product company and you don’t have a Product Manager then get one.

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