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ProductCamp Austin Summer 2009

ProductCamp Austin Summer 2009

ProductCamp, the free unconference for marketing and product management, is teaming with the McCombs School of Business to return to Austin for its Summer edition!  ProductCamp is a must-go event for marketing and product management professionals.  ProductCamp is a free, collaborative,  gathering for interesting, smart people to network and learn from one another.  ProductCamps have been held in Silicon Valley, Austin, Boston, New York City, Toronto, Atlanta, with more in the planning stages.  This is Austin’s third ProductCamp, and will be one of the largest in the country.  If you are in Austin, or can get here, ProductCamp will be well worth your time.

ProductCamp Overview

If you’ve never been to a ProductCamp before, you’ll need to wrap your brain around a few new concepts.  First, ProductCamp is an unconference, meaning that everyone participates in some way.  For some people, that means offering a traditional lecture style 1-hour session on a relevant topic.  For others, it might mean being on a discussion panel, facilitating a roundtable, participating in a workshop, helping with planning, volunteering for venue setup, doing marketing activities, or managing the budget.  At ProductCamp, there are no attendees, only participants. Second, there is no direct monetary cost for ProductCamp to the participants.  The only cost is your investment in time and effort.  Third, the trappings of a traditional conference are gone.  There is no keynote speech, no thinly veiled sales pitches, and very little B.S.  As a peer-to-peer event, ProductCampers bring their very best stuff – and we keep each other on our toes.  ProductCamp is sponsored by corporations who enjoy supporting the marketing and product management communities, and often offer sessions of their own.

How ProductCamp Works

The first thing you do is register.  You’ll fill out a form asking you how you want to participate and what topic areas are the most interesting to you.  Next, check out the ProductCamp Austin website, and list of sessions offered by people like you.  Based on what you marked, you’ll be contacted by one of the ProductCamp Austin planning team leads to get your help.  For people interested in Marketing, you’ll post about ProductCamp Austin to your blog, or retweet @PCAustin‘s tweets.  You’ll receive several emails over the next few weeks from the PCA Planning Team, and on the day of, you’ll stumble out of bed early on a Saturday to come to the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas for your first ProductCamp experience.

When you walk up for registration, you’ll receive a badge, some goodies, and three small stickers.  A volunteer will take you to a wall where all of the sessions being offered by your peers are listed; there may be dozens of them.  You’ll be asked to “vote” by placing your three stickers under the three sessions that interest you the most.  This helps the PCA Planning Team understand the interests of the group and assemble the schedule.  When you’re done, you can grab a coffee and head into the auditorium for the Intro session.

In the intro, I will explain to you what ProductCamp is all about, and we’ll play some icebreakers to set the tone for the day.  Soon, the schedule will be done and posted on the website and on the walls, and you’ll go to sessions throughout the day, stopping just to grab one of the box lunches we provide.

At 3PM, everyone gets back together for a quick closing session.  Then we head to the bar to burn through any extra budget we might have!

During the day, expect to network with a ton of people.  You’ll meet product managers, product marketers, social media experts, marketing greybeards, executives, startup junkies, big company people, developers, agile experts, finance and ops people, and everyone in between.  You may leave with a stack of business cards, and should bring a stack of your own to give away!

ProductCamp Austin Details

When: Saturday, August 15, 2009

Where: The University Teaching Center (UTC) at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin (map)

Who: Anyone willing to participate!

How: Register Now! (space is limited)

Cost: FREE!

To learn more: ProductCamp Austin, Follow ProductCamp Austin on Twitter, ProductCamp Austin on Facebook

We’re looking forward to seeing you there!

Changing Jobs in Product Management: Self Evaluation and Farming (Part I of III)

FarmingFirst, I’d like to thank those of you who keep up with Product Beautiful. Many of you I’ve had a chance to meet through networking, ProductCamp, at tradeshows, or we just ran into one another. Something I try to do with Product Beautiful is give Product Managers some helpful strategic thoughts and tactical tips for situations that you face in your job. This series of posts is about the process of changing jobs in Product Management and Product Marketing.

I am currently in the job change process, leaving NetStreams and moving to much larger company in a different industry. Going through the process has made me reflect and think about what people mean when they say “He left the right way.” To be successful in business and in life you need to build more bridges than you burn, so it is important to know the unspoken rules about entering and leaving jobs, because while people may say “it’s just business;” it is personal, relationships matter, and telling your boss that you’re leaving can be a sensitive conversation.

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Using New Media for Product Marketing

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a Marketing roundtable hosted by Austin Ventures. Marketing leaders from several AV portfolio companies came together to talk about prescient topics. The topic was “What’s Working in New Media” (paraphrased). It was almost like a mini-ProductCamp, because everyone brought a single slide to talk about their online strategies and what was or was not working well.

Sam Decker, CMO of Bazaarvoice gave an interesting talk about how they are using their blog Bazaarblog to as both a new form of communications, and relationship marketing. It was refreshing to see a company actually have a blog strategy more defined than “let’s give the CEO a TypePad account.” Bazaarvoice targets specific bloggers in their space and treats them like royalty, and does smart things like proactively linking to them and farming their sites for content to create multi-blog conversations. They get it.

Online, everyone looks equal. I can go out and buy a URL and put up a WordPress blog, and in less than an hour have a turnkey site that looks just as good if not better than yours. At first glance, how is a potential customer ever going to know a credible from a non-credible source? You can’t control the blogs (so don’t try). As a Product Marketer, you can increase positive coverage through good relationships and demonstrating that you’re responsive to complaints over time. See The New Rules of Marketing and PR for a good book about this general topic.

One of the initiatives I’ve spearheaded at NetStreams is building a community site for our dealers, who are notoriously fickle. Sometimes they complain publicly on our forums and get other dealers riled up, which then spreads to our sales team, the VP of Sales, and the CEO. When we started the forums, I had all of the above people come to me the first time we had a negative thread demanding that we “take down that negative feedback.” That’s one of the worst actions you can take!

Marcomm looks at negative feedback from customers as they would a poor review in a magazine. It’s meant to be depositioned, explained away, and spun. Look at it from the customer’s perspective: they are telling you that you aren’t solving their problem, and worse, you’re not listening to them. Marcomm and PR speak…but don’t listen (unless they’re paying an analyst and then they have to pretend to listen). I love negative feedback, because those are the best opportunities to both get great product feedback and to demonstrate your responsiveness as a company.

When a negative thread or blog post shows up, acknowledge it. Reply to the post stating that:

  • They’re right; this is a problem, and we recognize that
  • We’re sorry that they had this problem and that we caused it (even if you didn’t cause it)
  • That we’re going to do everything we can to make it right

Doing just those 3 things will turn around 99% of problem customers. In my case, just the basic acknowledgment of their problem was like finding as oasis in the desert to these customers, because we had done a poor job of responding to issues in the past.

Is your company doing anything new and interesting with blogs or other new media to influence your product plans or change your marketing strategies? Reply in comments.

ProductCamp Austin Announces Location and Austin Ventures as a Sponsor!

ProductCamp AustinI’m happy to announce that we’ve secured a venue for ProductCamp Austin! ProductCamp will be held at St. Edward’s University Professional Education Center (PEC) on June 14, 2008 from 8AM – 6PM. Follow the link to add yourself as a participant, and to sign up as a speaker or volunteer. Everyone is welcome, and cost is FREE.

I’m also delighted to announce that Austin Ventures will be sponsoring ProductCamp! We’re looking forward to working with the premiere venture group in Austin to get the word out.

If you’re unfamiliar with what ProductCamp is, first read the primer on BarCamp, which the model on which ProductCamp is based. Then go to the official ProductCamp Austin wiki and add yourself to the participant page, and take on a topic as a speaker!

Announcing ProductCamp Austin!

ProductCamp AustinI’m happy to announce that we are going to be running Austin’s first ProductCamp. Much like BarCamp, ProductCamp is a collaborative, user run event, except where BarCamp is often focused around topics interesting to Developers, ProductCamp will be focused Product Management and Marketing topics.

ProductCamp Austin will happen on Saturday June 14th. Right now we are lining up sponsors and venues, and are focused on planning and execution. We need your help. No ProductCamp or BarCamp can be planned by one person. Thankfully I already have several people who have raised their hands as willing to step in and help shoulder the load, like John Milburn, Roger Cauvin and Rob Grady. If you’re interested in being on the planning team, please sign up for the Google Group. Developing…

Updated: ProductCamp is proud to be sponsored by: Austin Ventures, Pragmatic Marketing, NetStreams, St. Edwards University Professional Education Center, and the Association of International Product Marketing and Management.