I can’t tell you how many times I am working with clients that are attempting to enter new markets by copying products which are already being sold. In order to be considered a “me-too” product manager, you can do this. However, in the event that you really understand just how that product development definition should be done and want to be a breakthrough product manager who rules your market, then maybe you should take a lesson from the handgun manufacturer Glock…
A Product Innovation Story
Handguns aren’t new. In fact they’ve been around for a long time. Everyone knows just about what they look like, what they do, and who makes them. The marketplace is dominated by such big name firms as Smith & Wesson, Heckler & Koch, Sig Sauer, Beretta, and Steyr. You wouldn’t believe that even the very best product manager out there would stand a chance of being in a position to introduce a fresh product into this crowded market.
Apparently nobody told Gaston Glock this. As described in a new book, Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun, Gaston just been in the proper place at the right time back in 1980 and overhead two Austrian colonels discussing the Austrian military’s need for new pistols. Gaston then did what worthwhile product manager would do, he went and talked with the client.
The customer in this case was the Austrian defense minister. The minister decided to allow Gaston to bid on the handgun contract. Gaston then had to come up with a product to market. He knew nothing about handguns so he went and bought his competitor’s products and proceeded to take them apart to be able to learn how to build a better product.
The gun he ended up creating was nothing beats the guns which were currently out there. The Glock 17 (so called because it was the 17th gun that Gaston made) was made out of industrial plastic which both made it lighter and much more resistant to corrosion. The handgun was also built out of several subgroups that managed to get easy to replace. Gaston won the handgun contract with the Austrian military.
HOW EXACTLY TO Market A Gun In A Crowded Market
As we product managers are all too aware of, just having an improved product will not assure your product of success and isn’t sufficient to put on your product manager resume. If you actually want to capture a significant part of your market, you then are going to have to accomplish some serious marketing.
Regarding the Glock guns, it had been Karl Walter who took the Glock to the United States. He faced an uphill battle getting this new and fairly ugly looking gun to be a success. At that time, the Smith & Wesson company ruled the marketplace.
Pistolet Glock 19 did what worthwhile product manager must do, he focused on obtaining the Glock to be looked at by people who were going to be investing in a gun. He did this by obtaining the Glock to be featured in the October 1984 edition of the Soldier of Fortune magazine. He followed this up by getting Glocks used in product placements in both Hollywood films and television shows.
Once the Glock was adopted by famous brands the Secret Service and the FBI the overall game was over. Glock had won. What Glock had shown is that a carefully managed promotional campaign might help a good new product to enter market and to capture a significant market share.
What ALL THIS Means For You
You may not be the product manager for a firearm, but the story of the way the Glock handgun was made and what made it successful probably includes a story for you. Just because you are trying to enter a crowed, well established market doesn’t imply that you need to copy the products which are already being sold there.
Innovation is a word that is tossed around a whole lot these days, but it holds a particular meaning for product managers. If we take time to focus on what our customers’ real needs are before we begin to define our product, then we’ve the real chance for doing what Glock did and transforming our market. Almost appears like this is something that you’d find in something manager job description, does it not?
Just because you create a superior product doesn’t imply that the world will probably beat a way to your product management door. Instead, you are going to be the one who is responsible for making sure that the word gets out about how wonderful your product is. Follow the example that is directed at us by Glock as well as your product should have a shot at being successful.