Dan Naden

Run a product or business? Do your best work when no one’s watching

If you’ve a product to sell or market, your fate is usually not decided in a team meeting or based on a brilliantly-crafted e-mail campaign. Those activities are important, but they won’t be a pivotal leverage point, defining whether you make it or break it.

The greatest decisions about your product and service happen with research — back-breaking, soul-searching digging into your market, customers, competition. It’s just you, a pad of paper, and a Google browser, answering the following questions better than anyone else.

  • How big is your market?

  • What’s does this market want AND need?

  • What’s the competition doing?

  • How’s the competition pricing their products?

  • How are they uniquely positioning their products?

  • Is there a profitable, advantageous position for your product in this market?

Let’s be real. It’s not easy to find the time to do this unglamourous, yet valuable work. Your calendar keeps getting filled with meetings and your colleagues keep drifting by your office to talk about the weather, the football game, the Oscars.

Be firm and insistent about your need for this ‘heads down’ time to be successful. Tell your colleagues that you are doing some research for the next hour. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb. Close your e-mail — that supposed life-changing e-mail can wait until you’ve made progress with the research. It’s now your time to perform some critical analysis on your market.

Let everyone else at your company or in your product space impulsively send knee-jerk social media campaigns, push out long-winded emails to a tired, overloaded subscriber database, or spin up an ill-fated PPC landing page without a clue to how these activities fit into the overall strategy.

Because you’ve taken the time to think and research, you actually have a well-thought-out plan. Reactionary mode has been replaced with a clear, fact-based strategy on where to go and how to be successful. Once you feel confident that you’ve analyzed your market, product, customers, opportunities, bring in a few colleagues for feedback. Nothing great was ever created in a vacuum.

Be careful – don’t take it personal if your colleagues have some constructive feedback. If you want what you’ve produced to help steer and guide the organization, you must get others on board – this is leadership (and it’s rarer than a snowstorm in Central Texas).

As unglamorous as it sounds, your growth as a business owner, product manager, market guru may come through some sweat-stained, coffee-fueled work with market analysis, positioning and differentiation. Do the work that others want to do, but never get around to it. You’ll stand out and make yourself as indispensable as you can in this frenzied, frazzled economy.

Until next time,
Dan Naden

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