Facts, Fakes and Fox

English is funny. Spelled different, pronounced the same, spelled the same, pronounced different. It’s like English doesn’t want to be “understood”. It’s like the language itself it trying to obfuscate the truth. Why is phonetic not spelled phonetically? Language is behind this whole issue.

Whether you are in the world of product development or politics, the facts are a tricky thing. I remember someone in a meeting once said loudly, “People don’t like it, that’s a fact!” As if speaking loudly and forcefully made them more correct.

Example: Stephen Miller raising his voice to try to mask that he is wrong.

I believe Stephen Miller (and the person referenced earlier) are actually incorrect in their assessment of the facts. But how does one prove facts when there are so many fakes? You can just say something and pretend it’s a fact when in fact, it’s a fake!

Donald Trump said recently that he won the electoral college by the largest margin since Reagan. When confronted with the actual numbers, he said, “I meant Republicans.” In fact, there are 5 elections since Reagan that had a larger majority of the electoral college. Finally, Trump said, “I was given that information.” As if being given false information absolves you from the responsibility of what you say. Trump is very prone to hearing a fake news story (often on Fox News) and then assuming it’s true. He says Fact when he means Fake. When he says “You are Fake News” to CNN, he really means, “You are Fact News”. Not to be confused with Fox News, which is mostly Fakes.

According to AdWeek, Fox News has the highest ratings of any cable news channel. I also believe that their truthfulness is lower than the other networks. Is there a correlation between fake news and popularity? When you are not bound by the truth, you can literally say anything you want. That’s liberating and people will believe you if you say it in a loud voice.

The problem, as I see it, is that the Press is not understanding the game and they are asking questions the wrong way. First, they need to establish common ground in the question and then treat the interviewee as a “hostile witness” asking purely fact questions. Here is a guide:

Reporter: “It is crucial to me to always be honest and state facts, not opinions. So I want to make sure that my sources are accurate. Are the FBI crime statistics accurate and truthful?”

OK, at this point, Trump needs to decide if he wants to make an enemy of the FBI. Either way he answers this question is fine. If he says no, then you ask who is the most reputable source of nationwide crime stats? Who has the facts? If he says Yes, then you get the following:

Reporter: The FBI stats that you agree are factual and accurate show violent crime decreasing steadily since 1990. Look at this chart I have. Do you agree that these stats from the FBI show violent crime is at an all time low?

Journalists need to treat the witness as hostile. Learn from lawyers on TV.

The one thing I don’t want is a world where the loudest voice wins. Fakes and Fox will always have the loudest voices. I want a world of quiet voices that seek truth and facts.

Food for thought.

Product Management Bullshitometer

Recently, I’ve been interviewing candidates for Product Manager and sometimes I hear phrases that set off my bullshitometer. This is a finely tuned piece of equipment that I keep with me at all times. It can detect bullshit intensity from any source. When I interview people, I keep a close eye on it.

CEO of the Product
An example came from someone who said they were the “CEO of the product”. I asked what they meant by that and they responded that you have to make things happen without having authority and that you have the ultimate responsibility for the product. I said, “But the CEO has plenty of authority and also has ultimate responsibility.” Then they back-tracked and fumbled around.  My bullshitometer was going crazy. Sure, they were nervous, but my point is that they used the phrase without really thinking about it.

Personally, I hate the phrase. It makes engineers and designers feel badly and discourages a sense of group ownership and responsibility. Product managers are not CEOs and there is no such thing as CEO of the product. Product managers are player/coaches, I can buy that. They are captains of a ship, I can buy that. They are the navigator.  Lots of good metaphors, but CEO is not a good one.

Product Market Fit
This phrase is thrown around in product circles pretty frequently. So I asked another candidate who brought it up, “How do you to measure it?” There are actually good articles on the subject of product market fit out there, however, PMF is not a binary thing. There isn’t a switch that flicks and now you have it. Clearly, there are signs you don’t and signs you are on the right track. Net Promoter Score (NPS) is always a good metric. My main point is that if you say the words Product Market Fit, you better be able to talk about it with some clarity. Otherwise, you are just making my bullshitometer fly off to the right.

There have been many instances where a product manager has come up to me with their idea of how to solve a particular problem. Almost every time, I walk to the white board and show them at least one way it could be better. I am not saying PMs should stay out of the design process. Far from it. However, if you are going to talk to me about wireframes, you better be knowledgeable. Don’t just try to bullshit your way through conversations.

I expect PMs to have great research skills. They should read this particular sentence and know that I put the word Sassafras in it. (Bonus points if you use it in an unrelated sentence during the interview.) I expect PMs to be insightful and read in between the lines. I expect PMs to be retrospective and be able to describe the good and the bad of their prior experiences without my bullshitometer going off. I expect PMs to be insightful and read between the lines. It’s easy to bullshit your way through a conversation. What is hard is doing the detailed work and summarizing it in a coherent way.

Maybe this is all a bit aggressive. I’ll accept that. I don’t think PMs have the patent on bullshitting people. Just talk to sales for 10 minutes and you will get plenty. We all bullshit people all the time. Just keep in mind that everyone has a bullshitometer and maybe we should dial it down a bit.

Maybe this whole post is bullshit. Oh well.


Masterful Conversations

I’ve mentioned this technique in other posts, but I was searching for it and thought it deserved its own spot. The technique is one that I learned during my 12 months at Intuit in 2006 called Masterful Conversations.

The basic premise of the technique is that we collectively spend all of our time talking about our own opinions and hardly even listen to someone else’s opinion. This creates poor conversations and poor relationships, especially in the work environment.

As a better model, they provided this simple graph to break your role in the conversation into three parts. You are supposed to spend your time in any conversation equally divided between the three parts.

1/3 Inquiry
It’s simple, just ask questions about what the other person said. If they say, “We should buy sauce for the dish!”, then you reply, “What kind of sauce did you have in mind?” There is always a question you can ask. People are never 100% detailed and accurate.

This is also called the Socratic Method.

The Socratic method is a form of cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presumptions.

The benefit of inquiry is that it forces the person on the other side of the table to think more specifically about what they are saying. Often, the devil is in the details and inquiry helps people see they may have a flaw in their logic. Also, it shows that you are listening. In fact, it forces you to listen. Listening is actually a crucial skill that rarely gets practiced.

1/3 Reflection
In my first year at Marketo, I would argue with the CEO about some product detail. At one point he said, “Why can’t you just acknowledge what I just said?!” I think rather quickly and was jumping from his point to a conclusion. However, other people do not think at the exact same speed as you (slower or quicker).  So I replied starting with the phrase, “So what I heard you say is _____”.  Immediately, the whole conversation changed. He was open to my opinion because I acknowledged his opinion.

Reflection is crucial because people do not always understand the same sentences in the same way. By reflecting, “I heard you say…” the other person often will say, “No, that’s not what I meant.” Imagine a whole conversation where each party understood the conversation in totally different terms. Reflection fixes that problem and forces the other person to think more carefully about their words and make it clear what they meant.

This will often have the effect of changing the other person’s mind. When you hear an idea it goes through a more stringent filter than when you say an idea. By hearing their own idea back, it is possible for someone to realize the idea has flaws. This is especially useful if the other person does not like you. By mirroring their ideas you are employing cognitive dissonance. They can’t dislike you when you are saying their own ideas back to them.

Keep in mind, reflection is not agreement. You are only acknowledging your understanding of what they said. You are not judging their idea at all. You reserve the right to have an alternative point of view.

1/3 Advocacy
This part is the easiest for people. It’s saying your ideas. Most people spend 100% of their conversation in this mode. This is a practiced method that everyone knows how to do. The key is the 1/3 part. Don’t overdo it. Don’t advocate all the time. It makes you unlikeable.

People are emotional, not logical. We make decisions all the time based on imperfect information and poor communication. Check out my previous post on the UX of Arguments, detailing the reasons people disagree.

If you follow the masterful conversations 1/3 rule, you will notice that your communication quality goes up and people generally like you more.

Recently, a professional woman was stating that as a woman she is perceived as pushy when she interrupts in a meeting, but men are considered assertive. This is, by and large, a fact of company behavior. My suggestion is to interrupt, but 2/3 of the time interrupt to mirror or ask a question. I think (hope) that kind of interruption will change the dynamic in the room and actually give power to the woman and when the 1/3 advocacy comes around, it will get listened to.

This advice is for everyone and I hope it helps. However, it does take practice. Keep at it.

Hiring UX Designer 2016

I am starting my search for a UX Designer to join our team at Engagio. I actually prefer people in the earlier stages of their career. (Directors need not apply)

Designer Characteristics:

  1. Creative. Can come up with new solutions to problems.
  2. OCD. Does it bother you that their is a mistake in this question?
  3. Productive. We have a lot to do. Lots of context switching and multi-tasking.
  4. Concise.
  5. Confident. This position will have interactions with lots of people, including executives.
  6. Positive. It’s not personal; it’s always about the work.
  7. Special. A parent or loved one must vouch for you.
  8. Smart. Knows designing is hard work.
  9. Eloquent. Can explain why.
  10. Clever. Can come up with a witty retort to this list.

Job Characteristics:

  1. Deliver engineering specs. Engineering needs to know what to build. This is your responsibility. Don’t count on PM to do all the detail work. UX Design owns these engineering specs.
  2. UX is not just UI. User Interface Design, Information Architecture, Interaction Design, Graphic Design and even Curriculum Design are all part of user experience and this job entails all of them at some points.
  3. Iterating with Engineers. This isn’t an Ivory Tower department. We sit right in the middle of engineers and help drive a project to the highest possible quality in collaboration with engineers and other various groups.

When applying, please include a link to your website.

Hint: I am actually going to judge your design ability by what your website looks like. Don’t skimp on your own site.

About Engagio
We are a small but growing startup in downtown San Mateo. Engagio makes SaaS B2B software for sales, marketing and account management. Products include:

Account-Based Platform matches Leads to the right Account; identifies which accounts are engaging (MQAs); and aggregates account insights (Scout) to serve as the foundation for ABM.

ABM Analytics shows the impact of Account Based Marketing efforts with account-centric awareness, engagement and impact metrics that matter.

PlayMaker orchestrates cross-channel interactions across sales, marketing and customer success to engage accounts with personalized and timely human touchpoints.

Engagio is an Equal Opportunity Employer

Apply Now!

Happy is not my preferred state of being

My mom asks me all the time, “Are you happy?”

I find the question to be annoying. (Sorry mom) The reason is that I don’t actually want to be “happy”. Happy to me implies blissful cow-like behavior. It implies sitting and staring at the sunset and thinking, “Gee, this is swell.” To me, it’s boring to want to be happy.

I want to be focused. I want to be filled with purpose and drive. I want to be a man on a mission.

Of course, there have been moments in my past when that purpose and drive led to a moment of joy/happiness. Wonderful days to be sure. However, those moments are the few and far between. Every day, I want to be aware and alert and moving towards my goals.

Yesterday was my 1 year anniversary of joining Engagio. People often ask, “Are you happier there than at Marketo?”  Again, I think it’s the wrong question. The right question is, “Are you more focused now than at Marketo?”  The answer is “YES, by 100x!”

I was focused at Marketo from 2007-2012. However, the last few years left me feeling unfocused, without drive and passion, rudderless. I didn’t believe in the company vision or how I personally could fit into it. This more than anything else led me away from a company I poured my heart and soul into.

At Engagio, I feel focused on a new mission. I am building a new product for new people doing new things. We chose a very ambitious scope and it will take years to fully realize it, but when we do it could change the SaaS landscape.

Happy/fulfillment is a destination. It is a momentary place. Purpose is a process, a journey. Purpose drives you. Happiness makes you stay still. Inspiration feeds purpose and purpose drives mankind forward

Ask yourself, “Do I want to be happy or do I want purpose?” Now ask yourself, “What is my mission?”  Are you happy with those answers?

Hiring a Product Manager – 2016

I just started a search for a product manager on my team at Engagio.

Smart, intuitive, empathetic, energetic, friendly, fun person who can put on a professional game face for customers and partners. Here are some additional qualities I look for.

Works well with others
A Product Manager works with engineering, sales, design, customer success, partners, prospects and customers. Did I miss anyone? Synthesising input from all of these sources into intelligent requirements is part art and part science. This is the key to success as a PM on my team.

Has long term vision and short term execution
We are building a really big thing that will take years to realize while giving strong value all along the way. We need someone who can think far ahead and translate that into an actionable game plan.

Bonus: Knowledge of SaaS Workflow
Understanding of systems like Salesforce, Eloqua, Marketo and other SaaS workflow/sales tools is a helpful.

Engagio is just under 2 years old but is already taking the market by storm. We are rapidly growing and have a huge vision for the future. Currently the team is small so you can get in on the ground floor.

Experience Requirements
Chemistry is everything. I would happily hire a smart, intuitive, empathetic, energetic, friendly, fun person who can put on a professional game face for customers and partners with no experience versus the opposite but has decades of job history.

It’s a special position for a special person. Bring your best.

The Gooey Emotional Center

Marketo Retrospective Part 9
As part of a series, I am doing retrospective lessons from my 9 years at Marketo. This might be the last one. It’s the part that very few people understand, but I think it is the reason Marketo did well.

Some people call it Product Market Fit, but to me that doesn’t do the concept justice. I call it the The Gooey Emotional Center of a product.

There is a particular thing Marketo power users say to me. They say, “Thank you for my career.” This is a big deal to me. We didn’t just build software that did a job. We created a category, created a career path for people with very few skills in the beginning.

In the first year of Marketo, we built a UI that replaced Google Adwords. It was a fancy UI improvement over the built-in Google UI. It flopped terribly. Marketo ended up deleting the feature because it wasn’t being used. However, it also had a landing page editor that worked like PowerPoint. This was a huge hit, people loved that.

I interviewed people to understand why they liked one and not the other. This is what they told me:

“Look at my resume. Google Adwords is one of the few skills I possess. How can I replace that with your little product? It’s the cornerstone of my skills bullet. However, with the landing page editor, I can add Marketo Landing Pages to the skills bullet. It’s not huge, but it’s something.”

I asked more about the landing pages and they described the following interaction to me:

A Marketer walks up to Web Developer Gunther. (Names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

  • Marketer: “Hey Gunther, can you change this sentence on the website?”
  • Gunther: “Ahh, there a problem with the domain of the CDN, so I can’t FTP the HTML and jQuery to the server until the DNS gets propagated. Should be a few days.” (Gunther goes back to playing game on Linux computer)
  • Marketer: (looks depressed) “I hate you, Gunther.”

At this point in the story, the Marketer doesn’t know HTML, JavaScript, Programming, Database Management, SQL queries or anything a developer knows how to do. Their job is basically project management, procurement combined with writing. Marketers didn’t know how to do anything computer technical.

I saw this interaction and thought that we could solve the problem by giving the marketer drag and drop tools to achieve their vision without the help of the web developer. We made simple versions of the following:

  • Form Editor
  • Landing Page Editor
  • Email Editor
  • Workflow Engine (Smart Campaign)
  • SQL Queries (Smart List)

This is the core of Marketo and what makes the magic. These are the 4 components that tapped into the Gooey Emotional Center of the marketer. These 4 components meant they didn’t have to talk to Gunther anymore. They felt empowered with real skills.

Gunther is dead! Long live the Marketer!

This simple idea: Give the marketer tools to make them feel useful and skilled is what created a 1.6 billion dollar company. Talking about Product Market Fit misses the larger point about human beings and why they buy things. People buy based off emotion 90% of the time. They FEEL and then buy. Logic often has little to do with it.

The next big emotional improvement came with Sales Insight. This made the marketer look good to sales. Deep down, marketers want sales people to like them. There is a small inadequacy thing that happens to marketers talking to sales folks. A resentment mixed with a desire to look smart and talented. Sales Insight started to tap into that.

Unfortunately, that was the last time that Marketo found the marketer’s product-emotional fit. All of the following failed to improve the emotional well being of the Marketer:

  • Social widgets
  • RTP
  • Programs
  • Calendar
  • Mobile
  • AdBridge

The Marketo roadmap was filled with stuff that didn’t really matter to the Marketer. Maybe this has something to do with being a public company, maybe it was poor decision making, maybe it was group think…the bottom line is that the marketers emotions became less important.

My recollection of Marketo is filled with “what-ifs” and “shoulda done this/that”. It’s a useless endeavor. You make choices along the way and hopefully learn something for next time. There were great features built like the Engagement Streams, but if they fail to connect emotionally, then they will fail to change the world.

At Engagio, I am trying to tap back into those same people and find the Gooey Emotional Center. If we can, then we may be able to create another billion dollar unicorn. Sounds like a tall order, but I wouldn’t rather be doing anything else.