Certifications for Product Managers… and more

I recently found the great resource page made by Blackblot called the “Blackblot Product Management Industry Resources“. The page list organization delivering specialized trainings or certifications for PMs as well as product planning software and books.

So yes, Blackbot is doing the promotion of their method and toolkit (Product Manager’s Toolkit™ -PMTK- methodology) but not only, there are also listing the competition (such as Pragmatic Marketing). [As a side note, I’d like to say something about Blackblot certificate you can see on the left – I do understand the whole thing about concept and everything… but.. really a black dripping point? It’s nice to show you do have a sense of humor… but I’m not buying this, sorry.]

Something to note while looking at this page. Did you notice? Certifications are only based in the USA or UK. And I’m right away jumping to conclusion: not a surprise. Marketing is already difficult to understand and apply in its full scope in Europe and specially in latin countries… PM certification is altogether another step as most companies are still having a hard time to figure out they might be needing a “somewhat project manager” to help delivering training, documents and the like in time with product shipment. And this is really a source of frustration. A year ago I had the opportunity to meet with several French startups at various stage of their early development (9 month to 3 years).

These early periods are always exciting to me… of course there is so much to do… but each single step forward has a huge impact for the company. This is exhilarating … almost like a drug… identify the gap, dig and diagnose, propose solutions and implement… and bang! result is measurable right away. A PM / PMM dream 😉

So, I was telling you about my meetings with these French startups. They were looking for a something technical marketing to help them solve a specific problem. In most case, they were lead by a manager having a sales background having direct contact with the head of development. No head of marketing, only marketing operational. After meeting with them, I was highly disappointed, not only by my findings – to name a few:

  • the sales manager was afraid of loosing his control on the product – as if managing the versions and evolutions would prevent him from getting key new features required to sign important deals (afraid of not being in this sponsor role illustrated here on the side)
  • in fact they were “only” needing for someone to produce documents to help them sell – they could manage the rest directly with the development
  • there were always running after a very wide target market – unable to explain the key product difference (non-technical) their product was having on their customer business
  • most were trapped in the grey area of wanting to build a channel while keeping the good margins for them by selling direct.

but also by the fact they were trapped in this state, perceiving the issue they were trying to fix as a stand alone problem, unrelated to their lack of strategic or marketing vision. So I did my best to rise questions, help clarify goals, issues… but too many questions lead to distrust and fear of loss of control. And to tell the truth, I was not interested in the do-the-doc-only part of the job. Frustrating to know you can help, to be a natural team player and to face people that cannot understand you are not the least interested in being the next big guy in their company.

Luckily not all startups are like that… the surviver figure out there know how to use all hands available and not to be afraid of marketing 😉

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