Donations for Haiti earthquake victims

Sincere request to all readers of this blog :

Unconfirmed reports in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake put the death toll at 50,000 and the suspicion is that 100,000 may have perished. The earthquake has affected more than 1 million people. This makes this earthquake a disaster of epic proportions.

I am making a request to all of you to make a donation towards rescue and relief efforts in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. The two organizations that are well known for their disaster response and also for administration of their donations are the American Red Cross and Oxfam America.

If you already have made a donation, Thank You  and if you have not, can I count on you to make any donation that you can?

If you could let me know the donation amount you have pledged by leaving a comment to this post, I would sincerely appreciate it. My sincere thanks to all of you in advance and God Bless.

Biogen CEO James Mullen forgets to be human

This post has nothing to do with product management. Andrew Baron, founder of RocketBoom reported yesterday that his father Frederick Baron, is dying of multiple myeloma, a particularly nasty form of cancer. Last week doctors gave him days to live – as of this morning he’s still fighting.Sad story indeed and my heart goes out to the family. But this story has an even sadder twist.

In a blog post, Andrew says that the family was preparing for the worst. But then one of Frederick’s doctors discovered last week that a multiple sclerosis drug called Tysabri, produced by Biogen Idec, may cure the cancer. But Biogen CEO James Mullen has refused to authorize use of the experimental drug to save Fred’s life, in spite of pleas from former President Clinton, Senators Kennedy, Harkin and Kerry and Lance Armstrong. Why he says No is beyond Andrew and the readers. It is one thing to say No, but you at least have to explain why.

I feel so bad for Andrew and his family, but this is a case where corporate folks stop being human. Yes, we live in a litigious world, but can Biogen not have Andrew say that Biogen will not be sued in any event and save a life? When did a life stop being precious to a pharmaceutical company?

Companies ignore social media at their own peril

Last month, I slammed Infusionsoft when they started spamming me with email after I had downloaded an eBook from their website.

The very next day, CEO of Infusionsoft Clate Mask apologized via comments to that blog post. Here was his comment:

“Gopal–very fair point. We should have had the language on there that communicates we will send follow-up messages when you hit submit. My bad. We will change that. I complete agree with you about permission marketing. And I admit that sometimes we get going too fast and make mistakes that result in unwanted messages. But believe me: we do want to send value, build a relationship and become a trusted advisor to folks who want to know how to build their businesses more quickly and effectively. Thanks for your comment. It will cause me to examine things and see if we’ve been too heavy on promotion and light on valuable content to our prospects. BTW, I really appreciate your perspectives and am a little embarassed to be called out by you.”

I was impressed – a CEO was reading what was being said about his company on my blog and he took the time to admit the mistake, apologize and promise that the issue will be fixed. However, I was not going to be convinced until I saw that changes were made.

I went to their website last week to see if anything had changed and nothing had. Then I received another comment from Clate last night about this same issue.

Hi Gopal, I just want to thank you for your “criticism” a few weeks ago about our opt-in and follow-up marketing practices. Your post resulted in a meeting between me and our marketing director. We have already changed a couple of things in order to be more transparent to folks who opt in to my eBook and various white papers. And we are revising some other things we are doing–toning down the frequency of communications, etc. As our company has grown, I think we have gone a little overboard with the amount and frequency of email communications we send. Again, thanks for the nudge in a better direction.

Clate had kept his word, made the easy fix and is now working on fixing his messaging problem.

Think about it – how many CEOs or others in companies are paying attention to what is being said about their products/companies in the social media, how many of them take the time to correspond with this new media, admit that a mistake has been made and then make sure it gets fixed.

I have to applaud Clate for doing this. All of us make mistakes, what takes effort is the willingness to admit that it was wrong and then take the time to fix it. I am not a customer of InfusionSoft, but people who could be their customers may be reading my blog.

Clate – you are way ahead of your CEO peers. I have to say I am impressed.

Folks, if your organization is not paying attention to social media, you are digging a big hole for yourselves. Your existence is threatened and you should be worried.

Product Management lessons from the latest iPhone debacle

The media (social and real) is abuzz with how Apple botched the launch of the 3G iPhone last Friday. Yes, they could have done it a whole lot better but I don’t think it is going to make much of a dent on the how many of these phones Apple will sell.

Seth Godin in his blog writes about the concept of scarcity that is written around this misstep by Apple and AT&T. It is a very fascinating read and has a lot of lessons for product managers in how creating a product experience and how treating your higher spend customers differently is crucial to eventual success of a product. Apple is likely to get away with this misstep because their product truly has a great product experience and they have the world beating to their door and hence willing to give them a longer leash.

Permission Marketing gone astray – InfusionSoft

Couple of weeks back, I came across this company called InfusionSoft. I signed up to download something that looked interesting to me called “9 proven techniques to double sales”. To do this, I had to fill out the following form.

When you do this, they send you a link via an email to download the white paper. I was fine with it until this point.

Then the trouble started – there is nothing in the above dialog that gives them permission to send me anything other than the above white paper. Now I get daily emails from their CEO Clate Mask. Here are some of the titles of the emails and some of the content in the email.

Email 1: How one incredible number skyrockets your income

…… Just imagine being able to double your sales (even when businesses all around you are falling further and further into debt.) Think how great you’ll feel when customers are begging you to serve them AND you can stop wondering if you’ll be in business next month. ……

Email 2: 7 Magnetic Marketing Secrets To Explode Your Profits

……when you’re in harvesting mode, you’re working smart and scooping up sales left and right. You can spend your time at closings, on the phone with hot leads or out on the golf course because you know your prospects will call YOU when they’re ready to move forward. ….

Email 3: Double your sales with one powerful secret

and on and on it goes.

What? Customers coming begging to me to serve them? Go and play golf because prospects will call you? Am I living on the wrong planet or what?

Do you think I will ever buy anything from InfusionSoft? No, but I sure am writing about them so that I can save others from this experience.

The emails also say this – which I thought was even more hilarious

We value your privacy, we really hate spammers, and we’re not going to sell your info to spammers (or to anyone else). If you really want to read the boring details of the privacy policy, you can read them here.

We Product marketers should take note – Just because we allowed a customer/prospect to download something free from our website, it does NOT give us permission to send them stuff. If we want to engage with them, we need to do it using Permission Marketing, a term coined by Seth Godin. Ask for their permission and then send them useful stuff that will help them get better at what they do. We need to build a trusted relationship with them such that they will hopefully buy something from us in the future. It is not a guarantee, but if we help someone, they are bound to at least invite us to the “purchase” party if we indeed have what they want.

Permission marketing is NOT getting permission from the customer to spam them – this will absolutely kill any chance of getting any future business.

Yes, InfusionSoft does give me a way to unsubscribe from these emails, but it is work I have to do.

Clate, you will not be getting the phone call from me begging you to serve me while you are having a good time playing golf.

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Social media and impact on marketing?

Talk about social media is everywhere – it is being used by everyone and some don’t even understand what it means. Francois Gossieaux has a very interesting blog post titled “We don’t do marketing with social media – social media is what caused marketing game to change” – a very interesting 5 minute read.

To me, the game changer brought on by social media is putting the customer in charge and not the vendor. I don’t spend on anything that does not have “real user” reviews whether it is making a hotel reservation, buying an appliance etc. I don’t go to any vendor’s website to read how their product is the greatest thing since sliced bread – the only thing I do is google “<productname> reviews” and if nothing comes up, conclude that the product is not any good or does not have enough buyers and just move on finding another seller who can sell me the same or similar product.

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How would your future users behave?

Product Managers pay (or should pay) a lot of attention to finding out more about why people are NOT buying their product more than why people are buying their product. This can be framed based on the current population of users.

But we are at a tipping point in history where a large number of baby boomers are approaching retirement and their places are being taken by a wave of new entrants. Many of these new entrants are currently in colleges. So if you are planning to develop a long term roadmap, make sure you are taking into account the behavioral aspects of the new generation.

I thought that the survery results shown below (Source: eMarketer.com) was very interesting in understanding the adoption of the latest technology by age (Low adoption of RSS feeds in the younger age group was a surprise to me). It is important that we pay attention to this because these represent the future users of our products.

The full article is titled Baby Boomers and Social Networking and is worth a read. Pay equal attention to some of the similarities called out in the full article.

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