S&R Blog

How can a product manager develop a brilliant marketing idea? Push!
April 29, 2009, 1:35 pm
Filed under: brands | Tags: , , , , , ,

I once started working for a Commercial Vice President at a large pharma company who told me he kept a yellow sticky note on his bathroom mirror where he could see it every morning. The note had one word on it: “PUSH!” After I had spent several months in my new position, I understood the reason for this daily reminder. In any organization, good ideas will never be developed and executed without someone relentlessly pushing them every day.

As a pharma product manager, you have certainly experienced this first hand. No matter how brilliant your idea, somebody in your company (or multiple somebodies) will tell you that your idea is:
•    Too risky
•    Unproven
•    Too expensive
•    Not a high priority
•    Too early
•    Too late
•    In need of more consideration
•    In need of revision

Today’s pharma business model depends on ideas and projects being subject to the consensus opinion of stakeholders. Unfortunately, your team of stakeholders includes talented, well-meaning colleagues and supervisors whose job it is to throw cold water on your idea, or at least modify it beyond recognition. Even if your idea survives the consensus test, you soon realize that it is your priority, and often yours alone.

This sets up the next problem—ideas, like stalled cars, have inertia. Unless they are pushed continuously, they stop moving. Once they stop, it takes much more energy to get them moving again than if you hadn’t stop pushing in the first place. But enough amateur physics—the point is that the progress of an idea, even a great one, will grind to a halt unless it has a champion. That champion is you, the product manager.

It’s tempting to play it safe, to only push projects that are likely to have consensus and not ruffle any feathers. But the safe path is only an illusion—in the end, you will primarily be held accountable for the success of your brand, not how well you avoided conflict with stakeholders.

So keep thinking big! Work with your agency to develop great ideas. Be bold and challenge your stakeholders to do the same. And keep that sticky note where you can see it every morning.

-Ed Leon


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