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Teaching Product Marketing Managers Think Innovatively – A Learning Expert’s Perspective

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Teaching Product Marketing Managers Think Innovatively - A Learning Expert’s Perspective

Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. – Steve Jobs

Novel marketing ideas go a long way in ensuring the success of a new product. Product marketing managers need to think-out-of-the-box to make their companies’ offerings a big hit. But, how can innovative ideas be generated? What does it take to ignite the creative spark that transforms a normal product into a best seller? Well, we need to LEARN to be innovative. And the good news is, it is not very difficult.

Research conducted by INSEAD academician HalGregersen, along with Clayton M. Christensen (professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School) and Jeff Dyer (professor of Strategy at Brigham Young University’s Marriott School) reveals that two-thirds of the skills needed to produce groundbreaking ideas can be taught. They point out that innovative people posses the following five skills.

  1. Questioning – Innovators often question the prevailing practices
  2. Observing – Watching the behavior of buyers, channel partners, and competitors
  3. Networking – Connecting with different people to know their perspectives
  4. Experimenting – Trying out new things to see if they work
  5. Associational thinking – Drawing ideas from unrelated industries

As L&D professionals who have developed several training programs for product marketers, we think that the instructor-led training format is ideal to impart these skills, as they require active interaction and collaboration between people.

Now, let us see how these can be applied to the marketing of products.

Questioning established practices opens the gateway to new ideas

Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. – William Pollard

Most companies “adhere to industry norms” when it comes to product marketing. But a few question the status quo and call for change, and this could result in huge benefits to them. A great example for this is the Indian firm Chik. At a time when selling shampoos in bottles was the order of the day, Chik introduced low cost shampoo sachets into the market. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Observing provides new insights that help market products better

Accuracy of observation is the equivalent of accuracy of thinking. – Wallace Stevens

Successful product marketing managers observe the behavior of customers and competitors keenly, and base their strategies on their findings. Staying on with India, Reynolds, the famous pen maker, observed that most Indians don’t like to throw away their pens when their “life” comes to an end. It rightly surmised that “use and throw” ballpoint pens wouldn’t be a big success in the Indian market. The firm instead opted for pens whose refills can be replaced when their reservoirs of ink gets exhausted.

Networking with people enables companies know how they respond

Networking is an essential part of creating wealth. – Armstrong Williams

There are plenty of companies who use social networks to promote their products. But only a few organizations use these networks to understand what their customers think about their products. This information is valuable as it highlights what the customers would like to have in the product, and needless to say, goes a long way in making products that people buy.

Experimenting with strategies to see which works best

I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. – Thomas Edison

Good product marketing managers are not afraid of trying novel strategies to acquire customers. A fine example to prove this point is JetBlue. This low cost airliner has come up with various bold flyer programs that many believed would doom the company, and indeed they were proven wrong.

Drawing ideas from other industries can do wonders

Trust your imagination. There is always something in the box. - Patricia Ryan Madson

Many a time, the best product marketing ideas come from “unrelated sources”. Innovative marketers use developments in other industries to market their products. For instance, the pioneers of the “e-tail” sector visualized the potential of the online medium to sell products.

Thus, by acquiring these five skills, product marketing managers can come up with innovative strategies that result in success. Hope you liked this post. Do share your views.

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