Like we talked about last week with Lindsay Bayuk from PureChat, we product marketers come from all sorts of backgrounds. This week’s coffee is no different.
Colm Lennon started his career in IT with names like Ernst & Young and Capgemini before landing at Honeywell as a VP of IT and later, a CIO. When he arrived in the building automation and control business (think HVAC for big buildings), he found it incredibly ripe for disruption. Lennon became CIO of this business and began traveling around with its president visiting customers. Both saw the vision for the smart buildings of the future, where HVAC and other building functions could be optimized with predictive analytics and cloud technologies. Lennon was asked by the business president to join the marketing team, roll up his sleeves, and put the vision into action.
“We joke that product marketers are homeless,” Lennon says,” they’re constantly using everyone else’s tools.”
Lennon didn’t know what he was getting into. He started working on strategy for the service offerings of the future. Lennon would travel with sales reps to see what they were doing, talk to customers and spend time with the R&D teams.
“We had gotten too disconnected from customers. Our R&D labs were inventing amazing new technology and asking marketing and sales to find a customer with a problem to solve.””
Lennon had to break the news (more than once) that while the tech was great, there was no customer for it. He spent a lot of time trying to get ahead of R&D and tech development groups in an effort to make customer needs known before development began.
After spending time with customers to understand their problems and developing products suited to their needs, Lennon still encountered difficulty when launching. “When we did develop great products and bring them to market, we thought we could just flip the switch, do a couple webinars and train sales on value props and wait for orders to come in.” After a handful of awkward management meetings and everyone asking where the sales were, the finger pointing started. Sales must be underperforming. No, marketing must not be marketing right. Nope, must be the product guys.
Lennon said that it wasn’t until he went out in the field with salespeople that he discovered the root cause. The sales reps didn’t understand how to identify the right buyer for the new offerings or how to communicate the value. Lennon shared, “This was a new kind of sale. We weren’t selling features and functions of a control system, we were selling the hopes and dreams of savings to an executive buyer.” Lennon recorded videos of mock pitches and went on ride alongs with sales reps. But with over 800 sales reps, it just wasn’t a sustainable model. He had no way of solving the problem of preparing sales reps to be successful immediately when taking new products or offerings to market.
That was the genesis of Haka Products in April 2014. Lennon wanted to take his experience of bringing products to market and solve the problem of getting salespeople ready. After securing a small amount of funding, Lennon build Haka Connect on the Salesforce platform. “Haka Connect is all about sales enablement. It lets you hit the market, sell fast and get customer feedback even faster,” Lennon said, “all too often, we develop tech as innovators (and as developers or technologists) that we think is going to be successful and solve problems customers care about. But many times we’re not exactly right in our assumptions and hypotheses regarding customer problems.”
Haka provides a platform for product management and product marketing orgs to test and validate their assumptions, unknowns and hypotheses by turning customer-facing employees into market researchers. Instead of relying on industry news and trade reports to spot trends, product marketers are able to spot opportunities thanks to data entered by Sales, Support or other departments.
For product marketers, it’s a godsend. It can provide real-time data to inform market validation, product positioning and product launches. “We joke that product marketers are homeless,” Lennon says,” they’re constantly using everyone else’s tools. Product managers, digital marketers and Sales all have their own tools. Product marketers are left in the middle with nothing to fit their needs.” He hopes Haka will help product marketers improve the success rate of launches.