"People often ask me, 'Steve, how much should we be paying our product managers?’" says Steve Johnson, an instructor at Pragmatic Marketing, the premier product marketing firm for technology companies. "I used to just throw out a number that sounded about right. But I realized that my estimated salary figure was based on old data, back from the days when I hired product managers."
Because Pragmatic Marketing conducts training for product managers, the company is seen as the experts on all things related to that job function. This situation created a terrific opportunity for some thought leadership. "We realized that we didn't really know current benchmarks, so we decided to find out."
The use of thought leadership based Web content is terrific marketing and may take the form of a Webinar, ebook, white paper, or as Pragmatic Marketing is doing, a survey. Rather than harp about your products, thought leadership content is designed to solve buyer problems or answer questions and to show that you and your organization are smart and worth doing business with. This type of marketing and PR technique is not a brochure or sales pitch. Thought leadership is not advertising.
Johnson composed a survey to gather data from the thousands of people in the Pragmatic Marketing database. "We said, 'if you tell us your salary and other information about your job via the anonymous survey, we will tell you everyone's salary in the form of benchmarks,'" he says. The results were an instant hit with the Pragmatic Marketing buyer persona—product managers—and the survey has become an annual undertaking. “In our e-mail newsletter that goes out to more than 50,000 people, in October we say 'heads up, next month we're doing the annual salary survey.' Then in November we announce that the survey is live and ask people to please take it. We get hundreds of responses in just a few days, aggregate the data, and publish the results on the Web. In 2005, for example, we learned that the average U.S. product management compensation is $90,610 in salary and that 79 percent of product managers get an annual bonus that averages $10,961. But we also learned other information, such as that product managers receive fifty e-mails a day and spend roughly two days a week in internal meetings—fifteen meetings per week. But 50 percent are going to fifteen meetings or more each week, and 27 percent attend twenty or more meetings."
Johnson sees tremendous benefits in survey-based thought leadership. "First of all, the data is really useful," he says. "Now I command the authority to say something like '90 percent of Product Managers have completed college and 46 percent have completed a masters program.' But more importantly, the buyers we are trying to reach to sell training services to, product mangers, recognize us as the thought leader because we have up-to-date information on what’s really going on with technology product managers. And the data that sits on our Web site is fantastic for search engine marketing because anyone looking for information about product managers in technology businesses will find us."
This is a new world for marketers and corporate communicators. The Web offers an easy way for your ideas to spread to a potential audience of millions of people, instantly. Web content in the form of true thought leadership holds the potential to influence many thousands of your buyers in ways that traditional marketing and PR simply cannot.
To embrace the power of the Web and the blogosphere requires a different kind of thinking on the part of marketers. We need to learn to give up our command-and-control mentality. It isn't about "the message." It's about being insightful. The New Rules of Marketing and PR tell us to stop advertising and instead get our ideas out there by understanding buyers and telling them the stories they want to hear. Done well, Web content that delivers authentic thought leadership also brands an organization as one to do business with.
(Disclosure – I am an occasional instructor for Pragmatic Marketing's Effective Product Marketing course.)