Mike Marriage has been working in the technology sector for +20 years, and is currently the VP of Product Management at ClickDimensions, a unique marketing automation, analytics and services platform. He leads a global product team, focused on the ongoing evolution of ClickDimension’s product portfolio, and the launch of new products.
In today’s Product Conversation, we asked him about his experience, not only at work, but also as a global speaker on product management, data and analytics best practices, technology trends.
How did you become a Product Manager?
I began my career as a software engineer. Somewhere along the way, I hopped into product management when I began to not only develop the products, but to also determine their direction. I tell people I was a Product Manager before product management was cool.
There wasn’t much information or help available back then, certainly not even close to the amount that we have now, so much of what I did was through trial and error. Some people might say that I went to the school of hard knocks. It’s wonderful to see how Product Management has evolved over the years, and how so many organizations are realizing how critical it is to their success.
What digital product are you responsible for and what makes it special?
Currently I am responsible for the entire product portfolio at ClickDimensions. This includes our marketing automation platform, data and analytics products, and several complimentary services. What makes these products stand out is that they are targeted at solving real problems for our customers. As COVID accelerated the evolution to a digital-first world, we had the products to help marketers along their digital-first journey. It was awesome to see how our customers were able to pivot so quickly and effectively, thanks to our product.
What’s wonderful about our data and analytics products is that not only do we provide the ability to execute digital marketing campaigns, we also provide the insight into the performance of those campaigns; so marketers can easily see the ROI. Creating and delivering products that solve real customer problems is what drives me and it’s why I love what I do.
What are some good resources that have helped you along the way?
I’ve had some great mentors over the years who have definitely helped shape me as a Product Manager and as a leader, and I try to pay it forward by mentoring up and coming Product Managers (feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn if I can be of any assistance to you).
There are several websites that I frequent such as ProductPlan.com, Pendo.com, and aha.io. These companies sell product tools, but they also have great learning centers with frequently updated content.
Some great blogs are Producttalk, Mindtheproduct, and Productschool; there really is a tremendous amount of information out there! I’m also into several product and leadership related groups on LinkedIn. Countless peers have shared their thoughts with me in the groups.
One of the best product management related books that I have read so far is “Product Management’s Sacred Seven”. Not only is the information fantastic, it’s so well written through the use of real world examples. I’d highly recommend this book to any Product Manager.
“The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz is another one that comes to mind. Especially for Product Managers that lead people or are working in a start up or hyper-growth organization.
Finally, a book that’s a little more off the beaten path for Product Managers, but I’ve found beneficial is “The Happiness Hypothesis” by Jonathan Haidt. Haidt presents ten ideas that have persisted for millennia, but are now backed up by scientific research, and how they’ve caused civilization to flourish and our species to evolve. Ideas such as virtue, love, adversity, happiness, divinity, and reciprocity are some of the ideas covered.
So, why is this relevant you might ask? Because as a Product Manager we need to know what customers/users do, and what’s even more beneficial is understanding why they do it. This book explains the reasoning behind human emotion.
What has been your biggest failure, and what did you learn from it?
Quite some time ago, in another organization I worked for, we rolled out a new analytics product that we believed was going to be an instant hit with our customers. We did all of the upfront analysis that you would expect before we designed and built the product. The intent was to democratize analytics technology and create a turnkey solution. Essentially taking the guesswork out of what should be measured and how.
When we rolled out the product, we quickly realized that while we had performed our due diligence on the initial needs of the customer, we didn’t go deep enough to understand how quickly those needs would evolve. Luckily this was uncovered during our private preview (beta) so we were able to accelerate some of the items that we had already planned on the product roadmap to address these new customer needs.
Lesson learned, dive deeply into the needs of the customer. Not just what they need today, but explore what they might need tomorrow. This really jumpstarted my fixation on customer centricity and I haven’t looked back since.
What keeps you up at night?
Besides my own snoring? Nothing from a negative perspective. But I do have one of those brains that wakes up at 3am with an epiphany on how to solve a problem, something that needs to be done, or something that I’d like to do. (which is how my blog started). This happens several times per week, but as I said, there’s no single negative thing. I feel like my Product team, and myself, are in a really good place right now. So, I go to bed at night feeling pretty fulfilled.
What’s the number 1 takeaway that you would like to share with other product people?
It all revolves around the customer. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to make time to speak with customers. To understand their challenges. To empathize with them. This input should drive almost everything that you do as a Product Manager. It’s how you create wildly successful products that will delight your customers. I could discuss this topic for hours, but I’ll put my soapbox away.
If you’re interested in following this series, you can read more interviews here.