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Planview’s Roach on company’s own product rollout strategy

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Enterprise IT project portfolio management (PPM) software developer Planview recently introduced a new product line: software that helps optimize a product rollout. Because this is a relatively new product category, Planview not only needed to create a customer base but educate potential buyers. Linda Roach, Planview’s VP-marketing, recently spoke to ITM about the effort.

ITM: What’s been your biggest marketing challenge?

Roach: With PPM software, we could advertise to anyone in the IT world; we didn’t need to look for specific publications, for example. Product development is more fragmented, so we needed to look at publications and online outlets that address more of a vertical focus. The same thing with social media—in terms of building presence—we actually needed to create our own LinkedIn group, for example, and start some of our own conversations around the topic. We also have a blogger on staff who has been blogging specifically around things related to the new product.

In terms of content, we couldn’t find a lot of studies out there, so we commissioned our own around product development management. Webcasts have been very successful for us for both product lines. When we feature a customer talking about their situation it isn’t so much about our tool, but their problems.

We also found that Q&As work really well, with a host and a guest speaker. This is definitely a very important part of our online mix.

ITM: New product aside, is there anything else that changed for you in 2009?

Roach: We have [an] in-person user conference every year. At the beginning of 2009, we surveyed our customers and found out that, because of the economy, a large portion of our customers were not going to be able to attend. We had to decide if we would have a smaller in-person event or a virtual event. We went with a virtual event and saw really good results. We had 2½ times more attendees [than the previous year] and 25% more companies attended overall.

This was an event that we charged a $250 registration fee for. The reason [for the attendance growth], we think, is that we didn’t take a 2½ day event and compress it into one day. We had 18 booths in the virtual exhibit hall. We had breakout sessions and experts available at different times speaking different languages.

We got very positive feedback, but we also got feedback from people saying they missed us. So this year we will be holding the in-person event but building out our virtual efforts, too.

Another thing we did was reach the executive audience by doing a program called Planview Executive in Residence, where we work with former executives from different organizations. Among other things, our Executives in Residence develop executive briefs—short, to-the-point and meaningful documents that speak to a CIO or VP-product development at his or her level and deliver actionable advice from someone who’s really been there.

Everything we do, though, is aligned with sales. At the end of 2007, we invested in aligning sales and marketing—we call it “One pipe, one process”—where we have metrics for all the steps we take. We’re able to look at the effects of what we’re doing in marketing and make changes we need based on what sales is reporting.

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