Product Management Success at Quest Software
In the software world, differentiating a product across a complex, ever-changing competitive landscape is a monumental challenge. Now imagine trying to achieve that feat for more than 100 products.
That is exactly the task facing Aggie Haslup, Worldwide Vice President of Marketing for Quest Software®. Quest provides innovative products to help IT professionals manage their applications, databases, and infrastructure. She and her global marketing team are carving out mindshare and driving market share for a software portfolio that tops 100 products—some developed organically, many amassed through the acquisition of more than 35 companies. The company’s consistent growth—ten consecutive years of revenue growth—is a testament to their success.
“Clearly our product marketing challenge is rooted in complexity,” says Haslup. “It starts with the sheer volume of products and sales people, and it extends to our business model, which emphasizes steady growth through innovative product development and acquisition.”
The numbers are staggering. More than 18,000 customers worldwide have selected Quest Software to help them get more performance and productivity from their applications, databases, and infrastructure. Today, the company operates more than a dozen development labs with more than 1,000 developers. Hundreds of sales people around the globe are selling scores of products under the Quest banner. This sales organization is built on a tiered model—with direct and indirect salespeople, enterprise account managers, and telesales representatives, as well as a growing channel partner network. The company continues to acquire new companies and launch new products at a rapid-fire pace—each of which must be positioned and marketed, both internally and to Quest’s target audiences.
According to Haslup, there is only one way for Marketing to succeed in the face of that volume of complexity: “You have to start with the right people, and then build in scalable, repeatable processes. For our company, with its size and the number of acquisitions, we cannot have one-offs. We need centralized, standardized product marketing templates and best practices.”
The importance of being market-facing
That is where Pragmatic Institute® comes in. Haslup attended her first Practical Product Management® class (now called Foundations and Focus) years ago. “The instructor just nailed it,” she remembers. “This was the first class that offered a forthright, realistic approach to the challenges of product marketing in a technology company and, more importantly, the consequences of not listening to your customer.”
She adds, “I have never laughed so hard as in that class, nor was I ever so panicked. The instructor, Steve Johnson, brought all the pieces together and very carefully outlined the risks of being driven internally instead of externally. The class really drove home the point that you should not invest in any product unless you have spent time outside the walls, talking to customers and prospects about the need for such technology. And the sooner you can listen to your customer in the marketplace, the better off you will be.”
Haslup also came to the realization that implementing sustainable processes across a technology company takes time. “It does not happen overnight. It is hard work to change. Good intentions are not enough. You must have discipline. Fortunately, the Pragmatic course reflects that reality. It is absolutely obvious that the people who designed and teach the curriculum have lived this life. They have made the mistakes; they have had the successes. The fact is, marketing in the software industry is a complex job. You have to address development, support, product management, corporate and product marketing, and sales. Pragmatic Institute brings it all together and acknowledges that it is complicated and needs to be simplified with practical methodologies. And they present a realistic framework for doing just that.”
Positioning: the heart of marketing
Quest has embraced the Pragmatic Institute Framework and puts people from across the company and around the world through its paces. One of the key takeaways has been the power of positioning.
“When you have as many products as Quest does, communicating compelling messages is imperative,” she emphasizes. “Our customer in marketing is really the sales force. When we roll out a new product, the message had better be simple, clear, and stated from a business perspective. That challenge is magnified with a global audience. Put simply, we have to figure out how to secure every salesperson’s mindshare. It’s not about impressing them; it is about crafting a straightforward message that they are confident delivering.”
One of the methodologies Haslup instituted at Quest is a strong positioning document as the starting point for every product launch—whether built or acquired, new or an update. “We use the positioning document as the heart of our process. Our product managers and product marketing managers work together to ensure it has the right value proposition and that it is customer facing. Until that is done, the rest of the marketing engine cannot start. The positioning document becomes the foundation for everything else that follows: the press release, ads, lead generation, the website, training programs, case studies, and the list goes on.”
She emphasizes that writing a value-based, rather than a technology-based, positioning document is tough to do. But it is also critical. “Since our customer is Sales, we have to educate them first and get buy in. Just because a product manager can eloquently and confidently articulate a value proposition does not mean it will fly. Unless we put it in words that resonate with our sales teams, it is not scalable.
“Beyond that, when a salesperson gets messaging on a new product or an update of an existing product, he or she must be able to quickly absorb the content and not wrangle with the context,” she continues. “We make sure the orientation of all our sales tools is the same—every FAQ is presented the same way, and the collateral or presentation or competitive information is all in a familiar template. We emphasize consistent delivery of the information using best practices and templates. And we have a ready-for-market checklist for every product we are launching.”
A prime example of the effectiveness of that process is Quest’s recently launched product, called Availability Manager for Exchange™. “We developed the positioning document for that product six months before launch,” says Haslup. “We built an entire integrated marketing campaign, primed the pipe, got sales ready, got the marketplace ready, and briefed the analysts. It was a closed-loop system following the Pragmatic Institute methodology.”
She concludes, “We now have people working together as a team on a common goal and feeling successful. We have created virtual teams to align with our product and acquisition launches. Those teams comprise people from different parts of our organization, but we collaborate as a single unit. Marketing is the hub. We ensure the integration between Product Management and Sales. In fact, you could say we are the glue that holds it all together and makes it stronger.”
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