Within Product Plans, Content Marketing Often Overlooked

calendarI have been a long-time user of the Integrated Marketing Plan and the resulting Integrated Marketing Calendar.  I came across this blog post written by Jacob Warwick in May, 2015, on Percolate.com.  I am sharing this post on Content Marketing and am thinking in terms of how content marketing planning and expertise is often overlooked by product managers and new product development professionals (NPDP certified).

Even the Product Development and Management Association’s (PDMA) NPDP certification doesn’t focus much on the importance of using content marketing as a way to engage with users to gather insights that can be translated into new or improved product development and the total product experience.

While the post is promoting Percolate’s SaaS solution (and there are many others to check out), the overall value proposition of content marketing, as a critical function, role, and vehicle in today’s marketing plans is made, and wise product marking managers will work to improve their understanding and expertise of this often overlooked part of the product experience.

product managers“wise product marking managers will work to improve their understanding and expertise of Content marketing, this often overlooked part of the product experience.”

HOW TO BUILD A CONTENT MARKETING EDITORIAL CALENDAR

https://blog.percolate.com/2015/05/how-to-build-an-editorial-calendar/

 Jacob Warwick – May 27th, 2015

We’ve all seen spreadsheets and templates of content calendars. These calendars tend to focus solely on creation due date and the day a story is published onto the brand’s blog, microsite or elsewhere. What’s often missing is how each piece of content should be produced and distributed, how each individual content piece connects to marketing’s broader branding objectives, which channels are most optimal for the specific content, any supporting media plan, and the best publishing cadence moving forward.

Without these elements, the typical content calendar tends to focus on filling gaps rather than the bigger picture, creating effective, consistent content at scale to drive customer actions. To build a more effective content calendar, make sure you address the brand, creation and distribution aspects of your marketing, all powerful capabilities we’ve built into our own integrated marketing calendar.

UNDERSTAND YOUR DISTRIBUTION CHANNELS

Distributing content and campaign creative can appear to be pretty straight forward at first—but when we take a deeper look at the tactics behind effective content distribution, the process starts to look much more complicated. Each of your distribution channels are home to unique features, evolving audience expectations, design format considerations, and other factors that can affect the cadence and strategy behind your content. Media planning and paid amplification adds an additional layer of complexity and collaboration, often with an external agency partner or team that’s separate from the content creation process.

With so many variables to keep in mind, it can be difficult to structure the best content scheduling process for your business. By analyzing how your audience interacts with your content on each channel and adapting your editorial calendar accordingly, you can build stronger messaging that aligns with your marketing and business goals.

Start by evaluating your current content on each of your distribution channels and take note of any data that indicates an important trend or insight into your content’s performance. Look for content and creative variations that drive the most interactions, conversions, or ranked highest on other guiding marketing metrics. Then work to identify common, recurring factors that might have led to the outperformance.

For example, Entrepreneur recently published a tweet that received over 150 retweets, well above their average tweet performance range of 70-80 retweets. The challenge for many marketers is understanding why certain content like this performs so much better.

Was it just a coincidence? Was it because the content was published on Saturday at 11:10am? Did Entrepreneur run it as a targeted Twitter Ads campaign? Or perhaps because it includes an inspirational quote, includes an image, a link, or a combination of all three? Was it because another Entrepreneur Twitter account retweeted the tweet? These are the types of questions you need to ask about your content, and should actively look to develop your own hypotheses around.

CREATE AN INTEGRATED TOPICS SYSTEM

Every good editorial system is built on an organized, thoughtful foundation of categories and topics. Newspapers (or the more modern digital publising organization or e-zine) divide their editorial across sections like Business, Sports and Entertainment, and brand publishers should approach their work in a similar way. At the brand level, what are the values, ideas and topics marketing should be talking about? Establish and formally document these topics, then use them as anchors to segment your content development.

For example, MasterCard organizes its brand publishing across 5 core topics:

  1. innovation and the future of payments,
  2. financial inclusion,
  3. safety and security,
  4. travel, and
  5. small business.

By committing to make Global Engagement Bureau a thought leadership engine across these five topics, MasterCard’s leadership ensured that its editorial focus was transparent and consistent across the organization, and relevant to its audience.

Once you’ve established and encoded high-level brand topics, you can start to develop and track sub-topics, which can act as links to specific products, seasons, campaign themes, SEO keywords, geographic markets, or creative approaches. Ultimately, the right topics system will be specific to your organizational structure, needs and marketing objectives, but it’s critically important to make sure your content calendar has a clear organization system that maps back to your brand and goals. Additionally, if your marketing planning relies on multiple calendars for different regions and/or agency relationships, standardize and centralize your calendar system into as few files, editorial rules and systems as possible.

ADAPT YOUR APPROACH BASED ON CLOSED-LOOP TESTING

To better understand how different factors and variables can affect your content’s performance, you should vary the days, topics and types of content you publish within your editorial calendar, then carefully track the results of your testing across channels. As you begin to gather and evaluate this data, you’ll be in a position to better identify how each content type, distribution channel, and communications or media strategy affects the performance of your campaigns.

Adjust your content and find formats that work well for your target audience, start to incorporate these notes into your content distribution guidelines within your editorial calendar.

Your editorial calendar should give you a view of both content creation and distribution aspects:

creative view in planner

By having this data documented in your editorial calendar, you can better maximize the efficiency and performance of your content. Evaluate each of your distribution channels until you have an editorial calendar that clearly details the type of content that should be created, the time your content should be published, the distribution networks where audience demographics are most relevant to your creative, and any paid amplification, targeting audiences or press syndication that will extend its reach.

In addition, plan to adapt your strategies as your company grows and learns from past content performance. Marketing trends and distribution networks are constantly evolving, particularly ones that are transitioning from web to mobile-first consumer usage. You should schedule time to analyze and review campaign performance at least once per month to account for these changes, as well as plan ahead for innovation with your next activations.

This type of organized, portfolio approach will help you continue to optimize your content creation and distribution tactics, as well as help your broader integrated marketing efforts stay ahead of industry trends. Although each brand and agency will have slightly different editorial calendar needs, by planning for both content creation and distribution in one central place, your team(s) can make more informed, collaborative decisions that achieve your objectives.

To summarize:

  1. Analyze how your content performs on each of your distribution channels; think about how comms and/or media strategies, content types, channel-specific audience demographics, and other unique characteristics affect your content’s performance.
  2. Design an informed editorial calendar by around a system of brand topics and sub-topics.
  3. Measure and reference your content’s performance data to optimize production or distribution steps and tactics. Remember that distribution channels will change over time, and your editorial calendar should proactively plan for these changes, not react to them.

Together, thoughtful use of these strategies and tactics will help you successfully define, develop, and deploy a marketing editorial system that effectively represents the brand, encourages creativity, scales across teams and geographies, and achieves your marketing objectives.

Picture credits: Green Life Designs, LinkedIn, Percolate

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6 Steps to End the Fight Club Mentality in Your Portfolio Team

INSIGHTOVATION®

office-fight

Is Everyone Fighting for Resources?

6 Steps to Better Portfolio Management

1. Have a standing cross-organizational portfolio team:

A Portfolio Analysis and Recommendation Team – ‘PART’ with a structure, process, cadence,  measures, metrics and portfolio goals will create an efficient and credible environment for portfolio issues to be managed.  The PART Team must know the overall business strategy and work to deliver the strategy by establishing functional department strategies and product-line strategies.

2. Develop and define product-line strategies:  

With organization and management input, define product-line strategies within the portfolios so they are clear to the organization and the cross-organizational project teams.  Without this critical information the teams will not be aligned on ‘where to play and how to win’ at each point of the functional strategies.  Create leverage for your product lines by developing them with a product-line platform approach.

Here is a link to a white paper discussing the…

View original post 432 more words

Signs your NPD process is stuck in the 1980s

1980s

Your NPD process is stuck in the 80s when…

  1. Your organization still calls it ‘stage-gate’.
  2. Your teams think NPD is about project management.
  3. Your portfolio of projects consists of an Excel spreadsheet.
  4. Projects get into the process and never get killed.
  5. Concepts are generated from random brainstorming or are management pet projects.
  6. Your product line roadmap is a powerpoint that someone from marketing created.

A marketing friend of mine called me last week to complain about the behavior of his executive team during a recent gate meeting.  The gate meeting turned into a senior leadership debate on business and product line strategy.

The senior leadership team declared the stage-gate process broken and wanted to shut everything down to fix it.  wrong way

My friend was frustrated and indicated they didn’t have an innovation problem or even a lack of ideas.  He indicated they knew how to run a project effectively through the development process.  Clearly, NPD was not working though.  What was the problem?

The answer, I explained to my friend,  was that they did not have a stage-gate process problem.  Instead, they had a product line strategy and roadmapping problem.  There was no alignment on product line strategy and no working product line roadmap that guided new products into the pipeline, allowed decisions to be made on product projects, or a process for projects that didn’t meet strategic and risk criteria to be killed.  Without that alignment, gatekeepers and portfolio managers have no framework in which to make decisions.  What a mess!

When everyone knows it’s not working, and no one knows how to get it back on track, “Where do you start?”

Let’s go back and look at some of the components of the new product development (NPD) process.  Phase-gated and stage-gated new product development processes are only subprocesses of a full architecture of NPD and innovation.  If any of these subprocesses are suboptimal then your results will not be as strong as they could be, you are not gaining the benefits,  and the competition may be winning the game.

The full architecture of NPD and innovation links the following processes together:
  1. Business strategy
  2. Product line strategy
  3. Product line roadmapping
  4. Concept generation
  5. Stage gate project management
  6. Lifecycle management
  7. Portfolio management

Let’s start with my friend’s executive declared ‘stage-gate’ problem. Gated processes have been around for decades now.  They started in the 1950s with NASA and have gained momentum  in industry since the 1960s.  Over the past 30 years these processes  have become a mainstream staple of new product development project management.

The stage-gate type process lays out an effective way to manage a single project at a time.

turtle catching-up

The gated process is considered by many practitioners to be mature in its lifecycle.  Because of its mature lifecycle, many companies have come to understand that stage-gate alone is inadequate to achieve strategic new product development and innovation goals.  If your company is stuck at the stage-gate capability level you have some catching up to do.

While the stage-gate type process helps streamline work flow, information flow, and decision flow of single projects, it is portfolio management that allows organizations to manage sets of many projects effectively, especially given the usual constraints of time and money.  When trade-offs need to be made and resources need to allocated, it is portfolio management that optimizes the allocation of human resources, expense dollars, and capital expense, to achieve the product line and business strategy.  If your portfolio management still consists of rolling up a list of projects into a view and report-out of all projects, and stops there, your company may need to take portfolio management, portfolio analysis, scenario building, and portfolio recommendations for management decision, to the next level.  

Using portfolio management work flow and information flow to make strategic portfolio decisions is critical to maximizing your creation of value and conversion of products to cash flow.  

How-to-increase-conversion-rate-by-effective-landing-pageCould  your company be behind in utilizing these best practices?  If so, you may be missing the point of portfolio management, and not capturing the maximum value of an optimized portfolio.

In order to make portfolio recommendations, portfolio managers, analysts, and review teams need to have a framework from which to reference the gaps in the product line and business strategy.  This is what product line roadmapping provides.

house_of_cards

However, if the product line roadmap is simply a powerpoint created by someone from marketing, without cross organizational input and alignment, then the framework is a house of cards that has not been embedded into the organization and is not understood by the senior leadership team.

In addition, without the framework of the product line strategy and product line roadmaps, concept generation is random and not targeted to the gaps in your strategic plan and you increase the risk of missing your goals.

Roadmapping links the front end, stage-gate, and the portfolio to product line strategy to carry out the execution of business strategy for the purpose of converting products to cash flow.

My marketing friend asked if they really had to shut everything down to fix the process.  The answer is NO.  Companies build skills in these areas in parallel and one level of capability at a time.  If a company conducted the implementation of each of these subprocesses sequentially it would take decades to gain the benefits.  This frustrated marketer was relieved.  I gave him an outline of areas on which to focus to help move his organization to the next level.

How to start:

  1. Everyone needs to be involved.  Form a cross functional and cross organizational team to assess capabilities.
  2. Conduct work in parallel.  Build capabilities in each sub process in of the full architecture of NPD one level at a time.
  3. Keep it simple.  Don’t burden the organization with unnecessary steps.

Are you ready to take your NPD process out of the 80s and use the current best practices to create maximum value for your company?  What are you waiting for?  Let’s get going!

6 Steps to End the Fight Club Mentality in Your Portfolio Team

office-fight

Is Everyone Fighting for Resources?

6 Steps to Better Portfolio Management

1. Have a standing cross-organizational portfolio team:

A Portfolio Analysis and Recommendation Team – ‘PART’ with a structure, process, cadence,  measures, metrics and portfolio goals will create an efficient and credible environment for portfolio issues to be managed.  The PART Team must know the overall business strategy and work to deliver the strategy by establishing functional department strategies and product-line strategies.

2. Develop and define product-line strategies:  

With organization and management input, define product-line strategies within the portfolios so they are clear to the organization and the cross-organizational project teams.  Without this critical information the teams will not be aligned on ‘where to play and how to win’ at each point of the functional strategies.  Create leverage for your product lines by developing them with a product-line platform approach.

Here is a link to a white paper discussing the value and benefit of product-line strategies, written by Paul O’Connor of The Adept Group.

The PART (portfolio team) analyzes portfolio scenarios based on cross-organizational data.  It optimizes and rationalizes the opportunities.  The  PART then makes portfolio recommendations on execution paths forward to business decision makers.

bubble chart

3. Create product line roadmaps:

Using the product-line strategies, and targets for innovation and development, create and align around product-line roadmaps that create a framework of ‘critical-to-roadmap’, events, milestones, technology development or procurement, to track portfolio execution, metrics, and progress.  If you need some help on how to create smart effective product line strategies and product-line roadmaps, there are many workshops, white papers, webinars, and conferences.

4. Optimize the portfolio:

Collect the right data to create and analyze portfolio scenarios, identify gaps, and make recommendations to decision makers on resource allocation, based on data not emotion.
Try software support like  Sopheon Accolade,  Sopheon circlefor straightforward management and visual graphing of portfolio scenarios from innovation planning, targeted idea generation and development, process and project management, through portfolio optimization.  It is an easy-to-use, efficient software and a robust way to compare the options.

5.  Allocate resources:

Track and allocate resources by project and by total portfolio. Make decisions one level above where the resources are shared, so that each decision does not turn into a boxing match.  Software can identify resource constraints and help to prioritize the reallocation of resources to those critical-to-strategy products and projects.

6. Analyze the risk:

Analyze the risk to your projects and assess the risk of your total portfolio so that you can add resources, kill, hold, speed up slow, down and add more projects to meet the goals the business has set.  RiskAssessor™ SoftwareFind a smart and practical way to assess project and portfolio risk.

If your portfolio team is not recommending some projects slow down, while others get killed, or be replaced by projects with more impact, then you may not have a strategy or critical roadmap activities identified.

If your team doesn’t have a framework such as product-line strategies and product-line roadmaps then it will not be able to optimize the allocation of resources and recommend the most strategic and impactful path forward for the development effort.  You will be slower and less efficient than you could be otherwise,  or worse slower and less efficient than the competition!

roadmap picture


Stop wasting time and energy fighting for resources and get behind a common roadmap and execution plan.  
Use these six steps to create a data-based approach to the management of your product portfolio, new product development and innovation.

Your comments are welcome at INSIGHTOVATION.COM

Innovators! You want bigger, better, bubbles!

Product and innovation managers!

You are falling short of your goals, yet you are effectively and efficiently conducting your gated projects and you are analyzing and optimizing your portfolio scenarios. Your problem may not be your skill and capability level at these processes but instead, after you have mastered the gated project and portfolio subprocesses, you need BIGGER, BETTER, BUBBLES to feed the front end and fill your portfolio pipeline.biggerbetterbubbles

Focus on the front end.

The front end of the full architecture of NPDI (new product development and innovation) is the process where concepts for development are generated.  Many call this ‘concept generation.’

Your problem may not be portfolio management.  Your problem may be the front end concept generation process.  In addition, your concept generation process may not be linked to your product line strategy and product line roadmap.

Bubble charts

But let’s take a step back.  Are you a bubble charter?  Let’s explain the purpose of a bubble chart (statisticians, mathematicians and academics please feel free to contribute).  Bubble carts are a staple for partitioners of new product development and portfolio management.  The charts show the opportunities for new products and services in terms of revenue, volume, margin etc. compared to other opportunities for the purpose of investment of resources over time. The charts compare the metrics of opportunities in visuals and display them in circles or bubbles.  The bubbles are sized based on any number of metrics.  Many companies draw the size of the bubbles based on volume, i.e., $ volume and physical volume moved or processed through the operations or plants.

Making_big_bubbles_DSC_2521

As a product manager or a portfolio manager you want BIGGER, BETTER, BUBBLES, i.e., bigger better opportunities for development.

Bubble charts compared to one another over time show the progress of projects through the development process.  Projects move through stages and are eventually launched to the market. So bubbles move over time.  Bubbles move in the intended direction and sometimes the move in the wrong direction.  Portfolio and project managers manage these bubbles (projects) to keep them on track and moving in the right direction.  The bubble charts can give you a better visual than a table of numbers.

The criteria for portfolio management and these charts are pretty clear and usually focuses on converting products and services to cash and creating value for the organization.  The bigger the opportunity,  the lower the risk, the higher the opportunity to claim intellectually property, the better the strategic fit, all come together to create these bigger,  better,  bubbles.

First steps for corporations are to be efficient and effective at the gated project processes, portfolio management processes, and resource allocation.  Once these portfolio processes and scenarios are refined, focused and embedded within your organization, your quest for bigger, better bubbles are the next level of skill to achieve and gain benefits from the full architecture of the new product development and innovation (NPDI).

portview

portview visual graphFront End of New Product Development and Innovation

Alert!   It is difficult to create targets for innovation or a framework within to develop innovative concepts that have strategic impact without a product line strategy and  a product line roadmap.

Four steps to better concept generation through using product line strategy and product line roadmaps.

  1. Develop your product line strategy and create a roadmap that connects your technology building blocks to your target market segments.
  2. Map out the product line over time (3 – 5  years) based on development cycles.
  3. Diagnose critical gaps.
  4. Target your concept generation efforts based on the product line gaps for achieving business strategy, and product line strategy.

Within each of these four steps there are many work elements, cross functional inputs and work steps.  However, the reward and benefits from the work are better targets for your front end process for NPDI activities and targets for innovation.  This is key to delivering BIGGER, BETTER, BUBBLES.

Learn more about this at adept-plm.com.

10 Tools to Focus Your Funnel

Is focusing your front end frustrating?

Thinking out-of-the-box puts fun into your funnel! It is interesting and creative.  It may be a useful way to approach problem solving and spark innovation.   But is your team drunk on divergent thinking?  At some point brainstorming becomes unproductive.  It alone doesn’t generate profit and it may leave you with a long list of unfocused, disconnected concepts.   convergent-vs-divergent2Eventually your product development team has to converge and focus on a product concept and business model that generates growth and profit.

Where to focus?  How to bring clarity?  The front end of product development does not have to be fuzzy and unfocused.  Get the fuzzy out of your front end with 10 steps and 10 tools that will help you bring clarity.

Get the fuzzy out.

Here are 10 tools to help focus your new product development funnel.

10 Steps

10 Tools

1.  Know the business strategy Strategy map (Ascendant Strategy Management Group Blog)
2.  Segment your market Segmentation schemes (Prizm® or other, or create your own.)
3.  Size the market segments Explorics® Nascent Market Sizing Calculator (Free download)
4.  Know your customer (user) Voice of the customer (VOC) research
5.  Know your competition Competitive analysis
6.  Know your value chain Value chain or value stream analysis (Check out MindTools®)
7.  Know your product life-cycle Product life-cycle curve
8.  Create a product line strategy Product line strategizing and road mapping (The Adept Group)
9.  Set targets for innovation Front end innovation tools (ibO Free)
10.Use selection criteria to screen and prioritize Screening process (Stanford Biodesign process)

This is a simplified 10-step view of a more complex front end process.   However, start with a simple approach and build capabilities one level at a time in order to bring the needed focus to the front end of your product development.

Along the way, please share tools that you find useful and effective in focusing your NPD teams and practice.  Make clear the path for other practitioners.

image credit: Phil Charron

Focusing the Fuzzy Front End of New Product Development

BinocularsYour new product development team has time constraints and has to make decisions on a project, but marketing does not have enough information on the size of the market, the customer requirements, or the user needs and sales doesn’t know what the retailer needs for margins.   R&D and engineering don’t have a solution and may not even understand the problem.  Are there competitors?  How are we better?  How will we win?   There are so many unanswered questions.  Does the front end of new product development have to be so fuzzy and unclear?

To continue allow the front end to be fuzzy in some cases is a professional cop-out.

For more than 25 years we have been told by the experts, authors and academics that the front end of new product development is fuzzy.  Robert Cooper writes in his book Winning at New Products, ©1988, that ‘quality of execution of the fuzzy front end impacts strongly on innovation success’.  In the PDMA Handbook of New Product Development, ©2005 (the bible for NPD, a unique and must-have resource) editors Kenneth B Kahn, Abbie Griffin, and George Castellion devote an entire chapter written by Peter Koen on the fuzzy front end, ‘The Fuzzy Front End for Incremental, Platform, and Breakthrough Products’.   (Note, this is referring to the second edition.  The third edition has just been released April ©2013.)  Many of us have been taught to accept this degree of fuzziness.  We have been told it is the nature of the front end to be fuzzy.   And while we have built more than 25 years of experience implementing robust processes to reduce the risk of innovation (processes such as stage-gate npd processes, portfolio management, ideation, concept generation and selection, etc.) as practitioners, we have spent little time increasing our capabilities around incorporating and embedding processes and practices, systems and supports, measures and metrics that build clarity and focus into the front end.   To continue allow the front end to be fuzzy in some cases is a professional cop-out.  Isn’t it time we build up a front end that is less fuzzy and more focused?

…debunking the myth that the front end of product development is inherently fuzzy.

The front end of product development does NOT have to be fuzzy.  Oh sure, it can be ‘crazy’ fuzzy if you let it.  Any process can be unclear and unfocused.  The literature lets the practitioner rationalize that it is fuzzy by nature.  To be fair to these authors and academics, they are only reporting on the state-of-the-process as they observed it in practice.   But practitioners! The front end doesn’t have to be fuzzy.

How does the NPD professional lead his or her organization to better clarity.  There are a number of practices that will help an organization focus around targets for innovation.

In this discussion we start debunking the myth that the front end of product development is inherently fuzzy.  We start off at the basic level and go through one very simple way to start to bring clarity.

First ask yourself these five simple questions that help de-fuzz and focus the front end of new product development.

Five simple questions that help de-fuzz and focus the front end of product development:

1. What problem are you trying to solve?

2. Who has this problem?

3. How do you solve it better than anyone else?

4. How will you make money solving this problem?

5. Is it sustainable?

Simple, right?   The questions may be straightforward but the answers may be trickier.

Next, do you want to see how fuzzy your front-end team is?  Ask your team the same five questions.  Try this qualitative approach.   In your next front-end product development team meeting ask each member to write out his or her individual answers to these same five questions.  You don’t need names, just answers.  Collect and compare the answers.

confused team

The extent to which the team can answer the questions and the answers are consistent will provide a quick assessment on how fuzzy the team is.   Review the answers.  Determine and summarize any gaps.  Report back to the team.  Resolve differences and bring about alignment by normative group process.

There is no right or wrong, just learning.  If there are gaps in understanding you work to align the team.  Please share your experience.

This discussion is a start down the path of debunking the myth that the front end of product development is inherently fuzzy.  We  began at a very basic level and reviewed one very simple way to start to bring clarity.  There are many other tools to share.  As practitioners we continually must improve these processes to make them more productive in terms of impact, speed and quality.  The time has come to focus the front end.

image credits:  Criswell Davisand and Chad Weinstein