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At some point you have most likely heard some Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or overzealous sales executive bragging on how their skills were so strong they could sell ice to Eskimos.  While they are saying this as a badge of honor, nothing could be further from the truth.

Skipping along in cyber-space, I came across a great blog by Jeff Sanders, The Clueless Graduate titled “Sales 101: Never Sell Ice To An Eskimo.”  In his well-written post, he highlights 5 very valuable (and mostly obvious) observations on what it takes to be a successful sales executive. Point 5 is never sell ice to an Eskimo and effectively is summarized by the starting phrase ”If they don’t need it, don’t sell it to them.”  From a marketers’ perspective the same hold true however I’d like to take this discussion a step further into the land of product viability and timing.

As a CMO (or just a conscientious marketing professional) you should always validate that your product is market ready before trying to launch it.  I know you think you are supposed to trust your development team and the executives you report to, but I always find that ignorance of product short-comings will only serve to hurt your credibility as the person telegraphing the messaging and not the team who built it.  Soooo…. it is always better to validate readiness on your own.  In fact I would be so bold as to suggest that if you personally can’t demo your own product or service, at least at an introductory level, then you really aren’t qualified to market it anyway, regardless of product readiness.

How do you determine readiness, even if you’re not super technical?  Try these techniques:

  1. Read the documentation: yep, you read that correctly.  Documentation was written for a reason, so read it with “fresh eyes” and determine for yourself if a novice user will understand what it is your product actually does (or at least is intended to do).
  2. Just try it:  sometimes the best approach is to do what most everyone else does and that is just start the program and see if you can figure it out on your own.  If you can’t figure it out then how can you expect anyone else to despite your best marketing efforts?
  3. Dialog with the beta customers:  if your product requires highly specialized expertise, then at a minimum having an in-depth conversation with the person who used it in a test or production environment will be able to share with you where the warts are.  If there were no beta testers and you can’t test it yourself then it probably isn’t ready.

Bottom line is that you have a responsibility to know what your product or service can and can’t do.  Where are the perimeters of it’s value and too whom will you find the most receptivity?  If you know this then you won’t have to sell ice to Eskimos and everyone comes out a winner.