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“Sundown” Products Need Love Tooby@brianpiercy
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“Sundown” Products Need Love Too

by Brian PiercyFebruary 9th, 2017
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I get it. <strong>Introducing a new widget can be FUN</strong>. Creative juices are unleashed; salespeople have new reasons to hit the streets (and they have you to thank for it), maybe some promotional budget dollars are available, and you get to pick customers’ brains. Huzzah!
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I get it. Introducing a new widget can be FUN. Creative juices are unleashed; salespeople have new reasons to hit the streets (and they have you to thank for it), maybe some promotional budget dollars are available, and you get to pick customers’ brains. Huzzah!

You know where this is going — eventually every product is going to face the grim reality that it’s no longer the fresh-faced kid. The Thrill Is Gone.

Instead of turning into The Morose Product Manager (been there, done that), use this as an opportunity to expand your skillset. Consider the following:

  1. Instead of you begging for customers and considering whether to adopt some sketchy growth hack — the shoe is now on the other foot. Customers are accustomed to using your product. B2B customers are especially loath to change, especially if swapping out your part requires taking down a manufacturing line for re-tooling. Diplomacy is a valuable AND TRANSFERABLE skill.
  2. There’s a decent chance that if your product has survived to this point, the number of direct replacement solutions has diminished to nil. Your pricing and costs have usually stabilized thanks to the magic of cumulative learning. (Which means those quarterly financial forecasts no longer require a Ouija board and personal charm.)

So, here’s your chance to turn a Sundown Product into an appreciated elder statesman of your company. To do this, you’ll need the following skills:

  1. Instead of sending “new & improved” promotional literature to whomever will read it — you’re now in charge of gentle “here’s our phaseout plans” to a targeted customer list. Be cognizant that they will probably introduce pain into a customer’s life. You learn to appreciate having succinct early warning dates (last order, last ship, etc.), links to potential replacements, and contact points if an escalation is necessary.
  2. You’ll become best friends with your Operations team. They are being graded on inventory levels, lead times, minimum order quantities, and whether to scrap unloved material. Your ability to find homes for remaining inventory will make you very popular at quarter-end.
  3. If you’re replacing a product with another, even better. You still get to use your “new/improved” features & benefits magic, and manage the transition for your customers. (As an aside: I know most PMs consider project management to be another domain. Trust me, you want to have this skill in your toolbox.)

Ideally you have products in the pipeline that will replace your long-lived babies — or your firm is pivoting to new markets. (You DO have a revenue replacement, right?) Appreciate those old friends for what they’ve brought you. (No photos of pets or grandparents were used in the making of this article. You’re welcome.)