Friday, July 10, 2009

The balance between marketing and hype with a new product

Sometimes it's hard to contain your enthusiasm when you have a new product to market and the temptation is to get carried away and over hype. It's this behavior that can give engineering a bad rap with marketing and marketing a bad rap with sales.

Here's the classic typical scenario

R&D truly believes the product is way ahead of where it really it. It's ready, it's fast, all the functionality is basically there, it's usable today etc. This comes from (often justifable) pride in the technology that's been developed. Note technology, not whole product.

Marketing, trying to bridge the gap and get revenue going on a new product presents the product to sales as ready to do. You can show it to customers and start them using it, it's got 80% of the functionality and the rest is coming in the next release, yes take it to your best customers and get them using it. Sell it now.

Sales lives with the ultimate reality - what the product actually does, how easy it is to use, how fast, and how much functionality is really ready for prime time. Often sales stubs their toe, has to work through who they can really take it to and who should wait for the next release? Seasoned sales team are naturally cautious.

Typical right?

Sometimes however, it works the other way around and hype can be used as a carefully orchestrated momentum builder - the Steve Jobs reality distortion field is a great example. If you say it enough with enough integrity and conviction it will become truth.

It's the tension between the normal experience sales and marketing teams have with new products, and the extreme of Apple's strong stance on every new product that makes this new video from Palm (below) so funny.

Roger McNamee (a wild and crazy guy - but a really good guy) is known for his hyperbole, especially about the new Pre coming from (his majority investment in) Palm. Jon Rubinstein is ultimate innovator and product designer - the brains behind the iPod - and a much more low key guy.

I'm happy to say that as we bring out our new research engine into the market my team, while human, is working hard to balance the process pretty well and manage our natural enthusiasm for what we think is really big. But it's tempting...


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