Goto Meeting – Free or not free? – Misleading free trial

The other day I was kinda ticked off that I had to reschedule two customer presentations because Webex just would not work for whatever reason. Webex customer support had all sorts of technical reasons as to why it does not work and what the customer should do (yah, great, it is all user’s fault). It sure turned out to be something on the customer’s end, but Webex gives no clue when it does not work – why and what could the customer or me ask the customer to do.

Having very good experience with GotoMeeting in my past job, I decided to try out their free 30 day trial. It said “FREE’ all over the place and so I started signing up.

Specified my personal information, created a password and then landed on the third page to see that a credit card was required – there was nothing in the earlier steps that told me that this was needed – everything was about this is easy – unlimited – takes only 2 minutes etc.

Then I saw the hyperlink which said “Why do you need my credit card?” Clicking on it told me why they need a credit card – but it is all about them – not me the customer.

I like the first sentence – but the second, I have no idea – if they want to restrict it to one trial per customer, why can they not do it using email accounts. Yes, there will be people who will try to get multiple accounts and try to get more than one trial, but how many – the majority? Or do you want to penalize everyone because there are a few that may be unscrupulous?

So what did I do – I walked away. Interestingly, they found out (I am assuming they are tracking this on their website) and I get this email the very next day.

So what happened to their cost proposition for the free service? They don’t have these costs anymore? They don’t want to restrict it to one free trial per customer?

I understand that there are many vendors that do require a credit card for a free trial – magazine subscriptions, NetFlix, credit card protection services, travel insurance etc – but these are more of transactional or consumer facing applications. Goto Meeting to me is a B2B application, so why not trust your prospects?

Believe me, GotoMeeting is the best web conferencing tool that I have used – it is so easy to use – so what do they have to hide? – I would invite the world to do a drive thru of their awesome product – the hardware costs that they have to bear is nothing more than a marketing expense. I would rather spend on this (you have a much more qualified prospect you could try to convert because you have a great product) as opposed to spending the same money on SEO, ads etc. whose sole purpose is to attract someone to your site – but I am already on your site, way down the funnel and you threw me out.

To me this is an example of poor marketing execution of an awesome product. GotoMeeting, are you listening?

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Build products that customers will buy ….

We as product manager are well tuned with doing a market read, determining the unmet needs of the market and then getting someone to build products that will satisfy the need.

But there is an important trap that product managers should avoid. History is full of examples of products that fell into this trap. You want to build products that customers will BUY and not JUST LIKE. You could build a product that satisfies the unmet need in the best possible manner, but if it is not something that the customer is willing to pay for, you are out of luck. Your product will languish on the shelf and it will join countless number of other products that have met a similar fate.

We have four different scenarios of Like vs. Buy as shown below.

Obviously, the two categories you want to avoid are the red ones and the places where you want to be are the green ones.

You may wonder how you could ever make a customer buy a product that he does not like – there are many classes of products that fit the bill here. For example, insurance products – not that I like them, but I have to buy them – isn’t this such a sweet category to be in? Other examples include anything related to taxes (Turbotax for example), funeral planning products (that one needs no explanation) etc.

The biggest trap among all this is the Like and Don’t Buy category. Lot of customers may tell you how much they love your new product idea, but you absolutely need to find out if they will put their money down to buy it – or in other words, is the painpoint you are attempting to solve painful enough that they will be willing to spend money on it? If not, it is not worth pursuing.

Beta programs kind of fall into this category – everyone is all excited to be part of your Beta, but not many give you feedback. It is OK to have this happen on your Beta, but you don’t want this to happen to your product.

One way to avoid this trap is to try to get customers to buy the early version of your product at a heavily discounted price – you would get them the Beta version, they will give you the feedback and then you would ship them the real product at the very low price that they paid you. If you run a subscription model, you could offer the customer a heavily discounted price upfront and the opportunity to lock down the price for say the first 2 years. If you cannot get enough customers to bite on this and sign on the dotted line, then the writing is on the wall – your product is in the trap category – how are you ever going to sell at the full prize?

Having said this, I would love to hear from my fellow product managers on other techniques that could be used to avoid falling into this trap.

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PS: I have to thank my mentor Jon Hirschtick, founder and ex CEO of SolidWorks for having drilled this into me whenever I have had different product discussions with him.

Has definition of leadership changed?

Has definition of leadership changed over the years – over the century? Countless books have been written on the concept of leadership – Amazon returns 263,761 results when you search for leadership – The 21 indispensable qualities of a leader, 21 irrefutable laws of leadership, leadership and the one minute manager and then another 263,718 more entries.

But who exactly is a leader? Have the skills needed by a leader changed over the years, over decades, over centuries? Tom Peters says it has not – his 4 minute video on this is worth watching (BTW, do you see a single Powerpoint slide in this video?). And I have to agree with Tom.

Good Product Managers exhibit strong leadership skills because they lead by influence and make their team members collectively achieve more than what each of them thought was possible.

Surveymonkey messaging …..

I was checking out Surveymonkey to see if they have made any improvements since I last used it. Among the three survey tools (Zoomerang, Surveymonkey and Key Survey) I have used so far, Surveymonkey is the best hands down.

So what impressed me about Surveymonkey this time? Check out their top 10 reasons why you should choose the Monkey – do you see even one mention of a buzzword like enterprise, scalable, flexible, architecture, configurable etc. – NO, they speak like real people do – in simple sentences people can understand. Why? – because they have nothing to hide – they have a great product and they lay it out clearly in their messaging – how customers can buy without any commitments, how you can easily cancel, how well you will be supported, how they want to hear your ideas etc.

Surveymonkey, kudos to whoever wrote this masterpiece – give a pat on his/her back on my behalf. Other companies, take note and do the same. Your customers will love you because they will now understand you.

Customer motivation to buy your product?

There is a great article on Business Week titled Johnson & Johnson’s Big Design Challenge which talks about how their design director Chris Hacker is promoting sustainable design.

I thought the key sentence was when he says “The key to growing sales is not to load up the packaging with “marketing bullets,” but to “think about what motivates the consumer to take the product home.

So well said. Always challenge your team to answer the question “What is the Customer Value?”. Agreed that you also need to appeal to the emotional side of the customers and do need to have some sizzle features or demo candy that makes the customer buy your product – but if it is all sizzle and no steak, the product will not have sustainable sales.

Product Review – Service Magic rocks

Last week, I had to get a tree cut in the yard and then my garage door broke down with the door bent and the rollers popped out. Not knowing who to call, I checked out ServiceMagic. What an awesome experience that turned out to.

Within minutes, they send me names of three pros rated very high by their customers. I called the pro, got a quote, scheduled the job and got both of these issues taken care of in a hurry. Their customer service is outstanding – they called me to find out how the project was going, they send me thank you notes via email after I had rated the pros – they did not have to do any of this.

This is one of the rare occasions in the recent past where I could say that I have received just an excellent service. We hear all the time about service is being shortchanged by companies due to the current tough economic times, but here is a company that has figured out how to use technology to the hilt to provide such a great service – their website is awesome with easy navigation, customer ratings and reviews of their pros, the results of their 10 point screening etc. They use email communication very well and as a result take many of the pain points involved in finding/hiring a contractor off their customer’s chests. Think about the effort it takes to make sure that the contractors you want to hire have the necessary license, insurance etc. to do the work? All this is done by ServiceMagic for you. Dealing with contractors has never been easy and they seem to have made this easy.

ServiceMagic sets the benchmark against which other service companies should be considered. If you have not used them, I would strongly recommend that you give them a try.

Their success is because they have thought through the entire user experience from the usability of their website through every touch point with the customer either via email or phone. Plus, their service is absolutely free for consumers, they make their money from the pros who get referrals.

Thank you ServiceMagic.

Software product manager’s elevator pitch?

When I interview software product manager candidates, the first question I ask them is to give me their elevator pitch in one minute. Many candidates resemble a deer caught in the headlights and I am very surprised. If you cannot explain who you are, what you can do for the company, your strengths in one minute or less – are you a good software product manager candidate?

I give them one minute only because I have sat through 4-5 minutes of torture when I used to ask the question “Please tell me about yourself” – believe it or not, I have heard everything from how the CEO in one of their previous employers sucked to how the candidate filed a patent on some esoteric stuff that had nothing to do with what we do. If the open position is for a software product manager, it is a good question to ask because a software product manager has to help create product positioning statements and give an elevator pitch about his/her products to prospects. This also displays the communication skills of the candidate.

Elevator pitches should highlight your strengths so that it piques the interviewer’s interest that he wants to know more about it – now the ball is in your court where you can further substantiate on your strengths and make the connection as to how those strengths can help the company.

So what is your elevator pitch?

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Software Product Manager’s toolchest

I have been thinking lately of all the software tools and resources I use everyday to get my job done and to get better as a software product manager – here is my list in no priority order.

1) MS Office
2) Outlook
3) Google
4) GotoMeeting, Webex – to have customers take a look at early mockups, do usability testing, review comments on specs from customers in real time, webinars etc. – GotoMeeting rocks, webex and live meeting suck.
5) Photoediting software – Photoshop Elements, Paintshop Pro etc. – to do very quick mockups of concepts
6) Snagit – I can’t tell you much I love this tool

7) Websites – LinkedIn, ZoomInfo – get information on who’s who at a prospect or a customer

8.  Salesforce.com – to get customer contact info and understand what products has the customer bought etc.
9) Internal Bug database – report bugs, do bug mining before I land up at a customer site.

What I read regularly though not as much as I want:

1) Business Week
2) Fast Company
3) Enterpreneur
4) Ask a Good Product Manager blog
5) How to be a Good Product Manager blog
6) Ecommerce times

I would love to hear other great tools or resources you have found very useful as a software product manager.

Is Saas the real solution to address software piracy?

Software vendors have been struggling to find a solution to thwart software piracy with very limited success. Anywhere from 70-90% of software used in Asian countries like India, China, Vietnam and in the former Soviet republics is estimated to be pirated. There was nothing you could do when pirates made copies of packaged software and easily cracked the reg codes and other security measures devised by the software industry.

Now that software as a service (Saas) is picking up steam, would’nt this help thwart piracy? You pay for such software based on a subscription model and the software is hosted with the software vendor. You don’t pay, you don’t get to use it and this can be done easily by flipping a switch. You buy licenses for 10 concurrent users, the vendor can allow just that – 10 concurrent users.

Is this the nirvana that the software industry has been long waiting for?

9 elements of a good functional spec

A while back, I had written why a functional spec is needed in addition to a PRD. So what does a good functional spec need to contain?

Here is what I consider elements of a good functional spec. I tend to use smaller paragraphs or bullets to make it readable. People tend not to read lengthy sentences or large paragraphs.

1. Problem statement: This section should clearly explain the problem you are trying to solve. This should not contain anything about the solution to the problem. You want readers to clearly understand the problem first.

2. Proposed solution: Now briefly explain the solution you are proposing to solve the problem.

3. Marketing Information/Justification: Things such as how big is the customer base that has this problem and why should we solve this problem (differentiation, tablestakes etc.)

4. Target Users: Who are the typical users who will use this? Internal to your company? External users? Experienced users? New users? All users?

5. Committed or Minimum Requirements: The requirements that have been reviewed and committed by Product Management and Engineering should be listed here. Unless all of these requirements have been implemented, the project will not solve the problem it is intended to solve to customer expectations. Or in other words, the new thing cannot be shipped in the product. Number the requirements instead of using bullets so that it is easier to refer to them during reviews, in emails, during discussions etc.

6. Requirements under Consideration: The requirements that needs to be considered by Engineering for implementation should be listed here. These are not committed to make this release. If time permits, Engineering will try to implement these in the current release (this never happens by the way). However, more importantly, Engineering has agreed to take them into account such that the current implementation will be able to support these requirements in the future. Again, number the requirements instead of using bullets so that it is easier to refer to them during reviews, in emails, during discussions etc.

7. Out of Scope Requirements: These would be requirements that have been agreed upon by Product Management and Engineering as out of scope for the current implementation. However, Engineering has agreed to take them into account such that the current implementation will be able to support these requirements in the future.

8. Proposed User Interface: This is where you would propose as to what the user interface needs to look like, what the interaction needs to be. This section will be written by an interaction designer or a graphics artist and if you don’t have such people, you should write them. I would not leave it to engineering to design the UI, you very well know what that will end up to be.

9. Typical Use Cases: Here you should list the most common use cases that should be supported by the current implementation. QA should be able to generate test plans based on these use cases. Flow charts are a very nice way to document use cases because it would mimic the workflow you expect the user to experience and are also very easy to understand. Doing flow charts also makes you realize the requirements you may not have accounted for.

I have used such a format for about 14 years now and engineering have always liked them because it tells them why to do something, how it needs to work etc.

Small decisions can impact product success …..

Last weekend, I volunteered to spend an hour at our local grocery store handing out flyers to shoppers on an upcoming Town hall vote on Grafton school feasibility study. We had a simple decision to make – do we hand out the flyer when shoppers are coming into the store or when they are exiting the store after they are done shopping. We chose to do the latter – for a very simple reason.

When shoppers walk in, they are thinking about one thing and one thing only – SHOPPING – what do I need to buy? where do I need to start? I should not forget to pick up the gallon of milk etc. – anything that breaks their train of thought is an interruption and an unwanted intrusion. If you now give them the flyer, here is a very likely scenario:

  1. They are unlikely to read it
  2. They will put it in the empty cart and the groceries they buy, end up on top of the flyer
  3. When they check out, they will leave the flyer in the cart
  4. They will load the groceries into the car and the flyer ends up left behind the cart.

When shoppers are exiting their store – they are happy that they finished shopping and are headed out. They are more likely to be receptive to your pitch when you hand them the flyer. Here is a very likely scenario:

  1. They are likely to put the flyer into one of their grocery bags or carry it with them in their hand.
  2. The flyer makes it to their car and their home
  3. It has more chances of being read

Now you can see why the simple decision to hand it out at exit works in our favor.

I can think of many such scenarios when I use different products:

  1. When I visit a website that offers a free service, I get interrupted by ads that I have to get past before I am allowed to complete the task. Just because you offer something for free, it does not make it acceptable to force an ad on the user – allow them to have a positive experience and then once they are done, thank them and have the ad appear. They are more likely to look at the ad now that they have had a sense of accomplishment of having completed their task – they are more relaxed. You helped them and they are more likely to help you.
  2. Asking users to register before they can read marketing white paper that brought them to your website. Let them read enough of an outline so that they know if it worth their time and then if they want to read more about it, ask them to either login or register – and tell them why your are asking for the information – so that you can improve their user experience, provide them more of such material etc. – whatever will benefit them. They are likely to give this information to you, now that you have helped them. Or give them the first one free without needing to register and ask them to register when they try to access the second white paper or on their repeat visit.

These may sound obvious when we are the consumers of products or services, but when on the other side designing these products or services, we may get too hung up on our business agenda as opposed to the needs of the users of your product. Try walking in their shoes and see if it makes a whole lot of sense. Go with your gut feel, you will usually be right and if not talk to some real people (people outside your company and get a second opinion.

Your perspectives and comments welcome !!

Five guidelines to prioritize feature requests

As a product manager, you are very likely to have more feature requests than what you can put out in a given release. In my case, a good product manager’s job at release planning is figuring out what to eliminate from consideration – you have to make hard decisions – that is what you are paid to do.

Please note that my background is working on products that have mass market appeal and did not have to deal with things like customer funded development – where a customer throws money at you to get a feature that only they will use.

Here are the five guidelines I have used effectively ….

1) How MANY customers will ever USE it?

We held a strong line on this – if the feature was meant just for the selected few (no matter how much money these customers had), we said No to the customer. You may say – no way, it will not work in my case. My reply – have you tried – Have you told your customer No and told him why? – if not try it.

I will give you an example – we had a very well known consumer company in Japan as a customer – they had bought a few licenses but had the promise of buying a whole lot more licenses – they had a lot of money. We visited them in Japan, they visited us here, met with our executives etc. – they tried to push their agenda hard on us and they had all sort of ideas as to how the software needs to work. We questioned them hard to get to the bottom of their underlying problems – why, why, why do you need to do something. They had some great ideas and some that applied only to them – we readily agreed to do the former and rejected the latter with solid business reasons why we won’t do it – not enough customers have the need.

They respected us at the end – their feedback was that we were the first vendor to have grilled them on their requests and were bold enough to turn them down, as opposed to other vendors who were ready to do whatever they wanted. They realized that we were a company that knew what we were doing and our willingness to grill them, told them that we wanted to make sure we were solving their problems the right way.

2) How OFTEN will customers USE it?

Is this something a customer will use once a year, once a month or something they would use everyday. Why does this matter? Remember the phrase “death by thousand cuts” – if something that needs to be used everyday is not supported or is very inefficient to do, it kills user productivity. This may not be something that will make a press release when you launch a new release or in your product demo, but this is something that will get you a standing ovation from your existing customers. Believe me, I have experienced this multiple times where the smallest change scored the highest in customer satisfaction. Stuff such as choosing the right default values, remembering the last used options fall into this category.

Taking how MANY customers would use it and multiplying it by how OFTEN they will use it, you get what I define as Velocity of a new feature.

VELOCITY = How MANY customers will use X How OFTEN they will use

Features with highest velocity should be serious contenders to make into your new release.

3) Will this open up new markets?

It could be something that could be asked by your smallest customer – but it could be this brilliant idea that could change the rules of the game and open up a completely new market for you. You as a product manager need to make this call.

I have been asked in the past if we implemented feature requests only from large customers with lots of licenses – my response always has been – size does not matter, quality of the idea does. This is what product managers get paid to do – take such ideas and make a business out of it.

4) Is this considered table stakes by the market?

There could be features you would need to compete in the market – if you don’t have these basic things, you are not even considered a player. These ones should be obvious if you know your market. For example, pivot tables or charting are considered table stakes for a serious spreadsheet application.

But tread this one with caution – this is where sales can take you for a ride. They will say “we cannot compete because we don’t have this X, Y and Z” and the list could be endless. For those being raised by sales, ask them to put you in touch with customers who would not buy without this feature – then from the customers get to the real problem that is solved by the feature – for all you know, you may have an innovative way to do it, or can come up with one that might change the rules of the game.

5) Is the feature a building block to the real thing?

This could be something determined by R&D (architectural changes) or some other user facing feature that is needed to support the final feature.

If you consistently use these guidelines, you end up making a business case why you want to turn down a feature request – this even works with executives because it is now based on facts and not opinions. After all this, if some higher up overrides your decision, it is not in your hands, but you know you did your analysis.

Small nuggets … Big payback

Recent news article about the airlines report how they are looking at flying slower to save fuel costs.

Consider these numbers from the above article …..

$42 million – Southwest Airlines will save in fuel this year by extending each flight ONE to THREE minutes.

$13.6 million – Jet Blue saves by adding about TWO minutes to a flight

$600,000 – Northwest Airlines saves a year by adding FOUR minutes to flights to and from Hawaii

and so the list goes on …

ONE TO FOUR MINUTES and this much payback?

As a product manager, here is what I took away – small nuggets of change could result in big payback. It does not necessarily have to do with the product, it could be in operations as well – whether it is making tech support calls efficient, whether it is how you optimize your software packaging to save shipment costs etc.

Important thing is to think out of the box and leave no stone unturned – not just the big stones, but many small ones as well – you never know what small nuggets you will find.

Corporations ask for Mac, Apple says not interested …

The latest Business Week cover story reads Mac in the gray flannel suit and talks about how more and more corporations are now allowing their employees to use Macs in the office. Apple on the other hand has shown no interest in catering to this market.

The above article is definitely worth reading. Here are some of the key points that I thought were worth a highlight.

– While Apple is getting all this attention, Microsoft CEO agrees that Vista is still a work in progress – so what do they do – force it down the customer’s throat by saying you cannot get XP past June 30. Microsoft’s Windows marketing VP says “The thing that can best help perceptions is more and more people using Vista” – this is what I call arrogance – we know it sucks and we want to make sure that we inflict the pain on everyone we can – great – just the thing your customers need.

– Apple’s average selling price has gone up to $1526 while the cost of average PC’s has gone down from $1046 to $963 in the last three years

– Apple’s market share of the personal computer market is now on pace to hit 7%.

You can call it arrogance on Apple’s part not to cater to the corporate world, but I want to commend Jobs in understanding where he wants to take his company (consumer, consumer, consumer) and sticking to it.

This is something very hard to do for many companies. Smelling and chasing a new stream of revenue defocuses companies and finally leads to their failures or demise. Apple knows all about this – having made that mistake in the past.

But what a great situation Apple finds itself in – the student community – one of Apple’s strongest users of iPods and iPhones – now are their sales force when it comes to corporations. Would’nt you want the world to beat a path to your door?

You want to talk to customers – ask me, I was a customer once …

Have you heard this one before – I have – internal pundits claiming they know what the market wants because at one point in time (read “eons” ago, before your market segment even existed), they used to be in the customer’s shoes.

“Hey, I used to do product design”

or

“I used to be a salesman”

or

“When I used to run YYYY department”

they say ….

I have found a quick counterattack for this –

“Great, when did you do that?”

“In 1997, I used to work at XYZ Co.”

“Hummm, 11 years ago – so you mean to tell me that the world has remained stagnant and nothing has changed in those 11 years – did I hear that right? (OK, not exactly in the words above, but you get the point).

That usually stops this “we have answers here in the building” or “the way I did is how the world works”.

Yes, there are certain product decisions that you have to make drawing on your past experience, but saying that we know what to build because I was a customer once, is nothing but a recipe for failure – especially in the high tech arena, where the way you did it last month is probably not valid anymore.

It amazes me how many companies claim to be customer driven, but then they limit their product managers from traveling because the travel budget is tight, but on the other side the product development budget is a big leaky bucket funding products no one will ever want to buy.

Where do your customers get information?

When interviewing customers to determine their needs, take the time to also ask them where they get information that keep them up-to-date in their profession.

1) Are there organizations that they regard in high regard that a recommendation from such organizations is considered valued?
2) What magazines do they read frequently?
3) Do they have a blog?
4) Do they read blogs? Which ones?
5) Do they read or contribute online discussion forums?
6) Are there places which your customer absolutely disrespects or would not want to have any association with?
7) Do they read analyst reports – like Gartner, Yankee Group, IDC etc.

    You want to find out where they hang out professionally online and offline. This is because if and when you build a product/service that solves their needs, you want to make sure that the new product/service is promoted well where your potential customers hang out. So, there is more to learn in customer interviews than just the unmet needs – take it as an opportunity to profile your customer very well.

    First experience on a US long distance train

    I have been living in the US for the last 18 years and I have never traveled on a train over a long distance. This week, I had to travel to New York and decided to take the Acela Express. What a remarkable experience – I don’t think I will ever fly to New York from Boston.

    So what constituted to a great product experience:

    1) No security lines

    2) Cheap parking – $10 a day compared to $22 a day at Logan plus tolls

    3) Parking right outside the station – 2 minute walk compared to Logan’s long walks to terminals plus traffic hassles

    4) Awesome, wide comfortable reclining seats

    5) On time arrival and departure

    6) Cheap taxi ride to the hotel (as opposed to expensive ride from La Guardia) – though we were ripped off by a capitalistic van driver.

    7) Quiet car where you are refrained from talking and using the cell phone – I tried the next car and was in midst of so many sales guys chattering over the phone – I quickly made my way to the quiet car and had such a great ride.

    Total travel time on the train – 3 hours, 25 minutes compares to probably the same on the flight given how early I need to get to the airport, battle security lines, delays etc.

    Plus, above all of this, I contributed to reducing the carbon footprint – hey, I drive a hybrid too.

    Truly, a great product experience.

    Product Integration – Usability killer?

    I used to own (until it was stolen:-( ) a Magellan Roadmate 700 series portable GPS system. The system was so simple to use – it did one thing – GPS and it did it very well. The controls were very easy to use and programming it for a trip was a breeze.

    Magellan Roadmate GPS

    On my new Toyota Camry, I now have the built-in navigation system.

    The system controls not only the GPS, but also my bluetooth telephone via speed dial, phonebook etc, the four disc CD changer and a bunch of other things. Operating it is probably as complicated as a 747 cockpit – you have so many options and one wrong click you end up starting over. The other day my wife was going to Boston for dinner. If she had followed the GPS, she would have taken the longest route possible and got there an hour and a half later for what normally takes 45 minutes.

    So what has probably happened here – Toyota had to create this one product that integrates the GPS, CD changer, the blue tooth telephone, the trip information and the other 15 things I have not discovered yet. It probably started as one component, which then had to be reworked to integrate the second component and so on. When everything was said and done, we have what I get to use now. It sure does meet all product functionality requirements that it was set to achieve, but it falls well short of usability requriements – thanks to product integrations. Do your products suffer from this same problem?

    Working with recruiters – set the ground RULE !!

    Once I finished my previous two posts on job hunting tips, I was asked by a friend who is now looking for a job on how to work effectively with recruiters during a job hunt. I have recently spoke to some HR Directors/Managers where this issue has come up as well and hence It occurred to me that this is something worthy of a post.

    Here is what I have learnt about recruiters (and if I have a wrong perspective, I encourage recruiters out there to send in their comments so that I can get it right :-))

    1) Recruiters are hired by companies usually only after their own recruiting efforts have failed – why – because recruiters need to be paid a hefty fee – usually a good percentage of the first year’s salary of the candidate they refer and gets hired.

    2) Recruiters are in the business to make money – they work for the client more than they work for a job candidate – they are getting paid to get the best candidate to their client who hired them and not to make a case for you into a role that may not be an absolutely perfect fit (hence my comment in the previous blog post of “you need to be a round peg in a round hole”)

    So what could go wrong where you as an innocent job hunter gets caught between a rock and a hard place – here is a typical sequence that could get you into trouble

    1) You apply for a job at company X by sending in your resume (through a friend, apply directly etc.)

    2) You get in touch with a recruiter who asks you to send him your resume. Unknown to you, he has been hired by company X to look for candidates for the same position as you have already applied for. The recruiter sends in your resume to company X.

    3) You get hired

    4) Controversy breaks out – who got you to company X first – your friend/yourself or the recruiter.

    I have been told by HR managers that this is their worst nightmare when it comes to working with recruiters. I have also heard about companies getting sued by recruiters for just the above scenario. Last thing you want to get involved in as a new employee is this mess with your new employer.

    So how do you protect yourself – set one ground rule right upfront before you engage with any recruiter- THEY CANNOT PRESENT YOUR RESUME TO ANY COMPANY WITHOUT TALKING TO YOU FIRST AND WITHOUT GETTING YOUR PERMISSION. Get them to agree to this before you send them your resume.

    Good professional recruiters will know very well why you are asking for this and they will be more than happy to comply – the last thing they also want is the nightmare described above – unfortunately like every other profession, there are a few unscrupulous recruiters out there looking to make a fast buck.

    If a recruiter does not want to agree on the above ground rule, don’t engage with them – it is not worth it. After all, your resume is your prized marketing material about the greatest product you have – YOU !! So you have the right to demand where it goes

    Happy job hunting !!

    Job hunting cheat sheet

    In my previous post, I referred to a 1-2 page cheat sheet that I used to create for each company (say Company X) to which I had applied. Here are the key things that I used to have in the cheat sheet.

    1) Market space – what industry is Company X in? What is the market growth?

    2) Product line – what is Company X’s product line? What problems are they solving? Do you believe that these problems exist (remember the dot come era where companies created businesses to sell vitamins on the web?)

    3) Competitors – who are the company’s competitors? Is the segment fragmented with many competitors or has the consolidation already happened and the competition is well established? Where does Company X stand?

    4) Management team – Who is the management team and what is their track record? Have they done this before or what are their past successes?

    5) Company info – how long has the company been in business. What is the current sales? Public or private – who are the investors and how much funding have they put in and how many rounds?

    6) Position description – I copy and paste the job description and then highlight the sentences which call out the skills that are my strengths – this highlighting helps me to hit upon each of these strengths during the phone interview – the job calls for this, let me tell you about what I have done in this area ….

    etc.

    Here is a Cheat sheet sample that I had created for one of the companies that I was looking at – Mall Networks. I did get the phone interview, but did not hear back from them since (even though I did follow up :-))