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Product Camp Gulf Coast in Tampa – 2017 Recap

The first ever Product Camp Gulf Coast in Tampa was a rousing success! Product Camp is an “unconference” for Product Managers, Owners and Marketers.

The Tampa Bay agile community showed up in force to this excellent event last Friday, November 3rd.

Big Fish App Development Studio in Tampa sponsored Product Camp Gulf Coast, and we’ve put together this summary for anyone who wasn’t able to make it, or just wants to relive this exceptional conference.

Starting the Day: Discover to Build the New Future

Product Camp kick-started with breakfast, and a keynote by Michelle Royal of RIDG.

Michelle’s design-focused talk started by exploring the contrast between how we were as children, and how we come to be as adults. Drawing is how we discovered ourselves and our worlds as children. As adults our lives are filled with clocks and calendars and to-do lists. We are measured by how well as “think”, “organize” and “decide”, we put things into boxes based on whether they are right or wrong.

Michelle walked us through fun doodling exercises to tap into our creative sides and demonstrate the contrast between using conversation versus drawing, to convey concepts and requirements. It was easy to see how this could apply to the product management world.

Product Innovation Stories by Steven Olinger

Is “innovation” really just a buzzword? Product Innovation Stories argued that it’s not just a buzzword, but innovation is an important part of a business’s success or failure.

Steve shared stories from companies like Coca-Cola to look at how innovation played a role in their quarterly earning wins, or losses, from an insider’s perspective.

Through the late 1990’s Coca-Cola enjoyed being featured in fancy magazines like Fortune, and basking in their success. They missed critical warning signs in the early 2000’s that ultimately caused them to lose big because they were blinded by their status.

During focus group testing, when asked about their favorite soft drink brands, 12 year old boys didn’t mention Coke.  Despite the early warning signs they doubled down on maintaining their traditional model.

This all came to a head when PepsiCo bought Gatorade in 2000, everything changed. Michael Jordan finally made Gatorade cool, and Coke was not ready for that. After taking a wallop from Pepsi and losing market share to growing categories like iced tea (Snapple), Coca-Cola had to “buy” their way back to relevancy with R&D. Leading to moves like creating the Coke Freestyle machines, and buying a 40% stake in the Honest Tea company.

Coca-Cola’s failure to innovate cost them a lot of market share until they made it up by buying their way back to relevancy.

The 8 Success Factors of a Product Launch Business, by Mark Katz

Mark Katz is a business consultant with the M David Katz Company in Tampa. His energetic talk was a good fit for business owners, managers or advisors. With a packed room, Mark explored the indicators of a successful business.

He shared the “trend of 1s and 3s”… $100,000, $300,000, $1 million, $3 million.

All businesses hit a plateau at predictable stages marked by their gross revenue, and each plateau has a related problem. Unless that problem is dealt with, the business won’t grow past that plateau. He talked about the importance of dealing with the next growth stage “before it hits you!”

Mark’s talk was filled with practical, amusing and eye-opening anecdotes…and at the end he made a pretty irresistible offer, but you had to be there to get it! 🙂

Crowdfunding by Steven Lance

This talk provided an excellent introduction to crowdfunding and gave plenty of ideas on how to communicate about your own projects. Even people who have backed a few Kickstarters can learn something new.

You might be familiar with some of the popular crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, IndieGogo, or GoFundMe. Those companies are donation based platforms – you donate for swag.

There’s a whole other model of crowdfunding too, the Investment model. Instead of getting first run of the products or gear for supporting, you get stock in an actual company. One popular platform is Crowdfunder.

Steven also provided plenty of good-to-know data points and actionable advice.

For example, when you’re crowdfunding you’ll want to keep the fees in mind. Usually the platform (Kickstarter, IndieGoGo) will take a 5% commission for themselves. There’s also usually a 3-5% transaction fee for credit cards. Keeping that in mind, you’ll want to incorporate a 15% cushion to your goal dollar value to account for those kinds of fees.

Communicating with your supporters is the best way to make your crowdfunding campaign successful. Most funds in a campaign are raised on the first and last 3 days of the campaign, because the creator’s campaign lags in the middle. They don’t post as much in between when life gets in the way. Updating your backers on the platform (through updates like on Kickstarter’s model) every 5 days increases the average amount that your campaign raises.

Wired for Empathy by Chris Spagnuolo

In the book Thinking Fast and Slow, the author Daniel Kahneman lays out a new model for understanding human behavior. One of the concepts he talks about is that our past experiences can distort how we’re able to empathize with other people.

You can see an example of this any time we get together to work in a group. We start to disregard the experiences of other people outside the bunker. You feel like you see eye to eye with people when you start having a lot of shared experiences with them, like a tightknit group of friends.

Work is that bunker.

When you’re with your coworkers for hours, talking about the company all the time it can make your daily life look pretty different from the life of your customers.

We separate ourselves from the experiences of our customers every day. By recognizing that, and taking steps to build organizational empathy into our businesses we can continue to grow by making sure that our solutions are designed with our customers needs in mind.

This video by the Nordstrom Innovation Lab is the perfect example of how we can build more organizational empathy into our own companies for more customer-driven results:

Balance Features With Funds by Don Wilson

When you’re leading a project that has multiple stakeholders, deciding on which points should actually be prioritized can be complicated. How can you decide on what to move forward with when you don’t always have the budget (or the time) to accomplish every single thing on the list?

We often set missions and goals for ourselves, but we don’t usually think to set them for our projects or products. One of the most effective ways to make sure your project doesn’t go over scope is to define your values up front.

You can sit down with all of the decision makers and decide on your North Star together. This way whenever sticky decisions come up later about whether to implement Feature X or Feature Y in your project, the decision is already made for you.

The tool to do this is called the value scale.

To create your own value scale, you would ask your project’s stakeholders what objectives or KPIs are important to move the company forward. You might hear responses like “increase revenue”, “increase margin”, “improve customer retention”, although the specific responses will depend on the nature of the organization you’re working with. These become your columns.

You’ll organize the columns from left to right in decreasing order of importance.

You’ll then divide 100 by the number of objectives you have. In our example 100/5=20; and that becomes the value of each objective.

Then you’ll list the features or projects you’re considering down the left-hand column.

For each feature, you’ll notate the objective column with an X if the feature satisfies the objective.

You’ll then tally up the total value of each feature/project you’re thinking of spending time on and write the total in the “value” column. In our example each X is worth 20 points. With these totals you’ll have an easy way to prioritize how your project or company should move forward that takes every stakeholder’s opinion into account!

Sample Value Scale:

donl wilson balance features with funds

“Ready for Market, Now What?” by Dr. Diane Hickey-Davis

Diane’s presentation was an interesting look at marketing from a design thinking perspective. Participants drew customer journey-style mind maps in this interactive workshop guided by specific who, what, when, why, and where questions. This exercise is designed to help product inventors understanding how to reach the people who could benefit from their product after the product is ready to be created.

Some of the things you’ll want to keep in mind when figuring out how to reach your potential audience is who is going to be using your product versus who is the one paying for it. Some industries might have a simple selling situation where the person paying for the product is also the user. Other times, the user of the final result of our deliverable isn’t actually the person paying for it.

Dr. Hickey also had 5 helpful trade show hacks to share after the marketing portion:

  1. Do the “Hey, let’s talk at the show” outreach before the show to drum up buzz.
  2. Rank your cards. Put a 1-9 on the corner of a card after someone gives it to you to notate how urgent it is to follow up with them after the trade show.
  3. Trade shows should be free. Be sure that you’re keeping track of the right metrics to make sure you’re getting a positive ROI out of your events.
  4. Welcome everyone to the event, smile, and have great booth etiquette.
  5. Set time on your calendar to follow up with everyone from the trade show 1-3 days after the event before you even go there. Trade shows are most effective when you take the time to prioritize that 1-to-1 communication.

Hands-On Design Thinking Workshop

By now you’ve probably noticed a “design thinking” theme to the day, and so did we.

In the afternoon, while some of the above talks were taking place in other rooms, Julee Belllomo and Chris Spagnuolo led this fantastic workshop in the auditorium.

In the product management world there is a tendency to ask stakeholders/clients what they want, and facilitate the dialog with spoken words and conversation. Julee and Chris demonstrated the power of empathy, questions, visual sketching and prototypes to get to the ideal solution faster and more reliably.

It was a workshop we’d recommend attending if you ever have the chance. Chris runs a more extensive version a few times a year, “Product Bootcamp“.

Product Camp Gulf Coast in Tampa, FL

Talks We Missed

There were more talks happening simultaneously at Product Camp in Tampa than the Big Fish team was able to attend. The two we missed were “Sourcing and Manufacturing in China”, by Dan Daniels and “The Journey of a Serial Entrepreneur” by Robert Smithson.

Final Thoughts

A huge thanks to everyone who came out and supported this inaugural event, to all the volunteers who were there before sunrise to help set up, to the sponsors who made this event possible, and the organizing team who started with a vision and made it happen.

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Team Big Fish

Team Big Fish

At Big Fish we help healthcare companies innovate through secure, custom mobile app design and development. Please visit our 'start the conversation' page if you’d like more information about hiring our team.