…. it’s WHY the number is the number and HOW you are going to change it.
When I first started in a Product Marketing role this lesson was drummed into me at velocity. Coming from a technical sales background I thought success as a Product Manager was understanding the market place, the product, it’s value proposition and my intended target audience. For the first couple of months in the role this turned out to be true. Then I experienced my very first Quarterly Business Review and the real purpose of my role became a lot clearer.
Wanting to make a great impression I loaded up my biggest laptop with Excel, connected to the sales reporting database and DRILLED for England. Spending 100% of my time slicing and dicing numbers, working out my Qtr on Qtr % and Year over Year %, performance vs budget and forecast. Then I did comparison vs the US, Germany and France. After that I diced the numbers at a Product SKU level. Rapidly followed by a pricing and licencing perspective. I memorised the numbers. I could quite literally recite an entire A3 piece of paper filled with 8 point Arial data off by heart. Walking into the review armed to the teeth I had an attitude along the lines of “Bring it on pal, I know my numbers so let’s do this review thing!”
I settled into the meeting eagerly awaiting my turn. Relishing the prospect of 30 minutes of data wallowing glory followed by accolades on my numeric prowess. The review began and I started my monologue with a torrent of data that rivalled the world’s fastest auctioneer. Only to be stopped after 5 minutes with a question from the boss.
“On the performance vs forecast, can you tell me why the number is over?” my rapid response was “Over performance in Enterprise Commercial accounts, notably the finance sector, with a 22.4% increase in our volume licencing agreements.”
This was followed up with a repeat of the question and my first slap down. “Yes I can read the spreadsheet too. What I would like to know is WHY the customers are buying the product?” Undaunted I ploughed on and promptly dug myself into a bigger hole. “It is the British Market we are 10% ahead vs Germany and 17% ahead vs France, British customers like this product!”
Stillness then fell over the room with a silence that can only be described as deafening. I awaited slap down number two with mounting trepidation. Thankfully my boss decided this was a coaching opportunity. “Understanding WHY customers and Partners are buying our products is fundamental to your role. It allows you to identify HOW best to market the product in the future.”
I took the lesson to heart and never looked back.
It’s not WHAT the number is, it’s WHY the number is the number and HOW are we going to fix it. A formulaic expression being Data + Intelligence = Insight. Putting this into practice I subsequently spent 15% of my time drilling and analysing numbers, 60% of my time speaking to Customers, Partners, Sales Teams, Press and Analysts and then 25% of my time brainstorming and creating marketing campaign proposals based on the Insights I had learned. The lessons you learn the hard way are often the ones you never forget. Taking knowledge from these lessons, and then adapting accordingly, helped make me a stronger marketer.
These are my views, please take a moment to share yours ….