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Book Review: Tuned In: Uncover the Extraordinary Opportunities That Lead to Business Breakthroughs by Craig Stull, et al.

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Product managers are the jacks-of-all-trades living behind the great and the ordinary products all around us.  They are in charge of the product's position in the market, its features, and ultimately its profitability.  One of the biggest challenges is crafting a product that truly strikes a chord with an audience, making it immediately feel comfortable. Craig Stull, Phil Myers, and David Meerman Scott, the authors of Tuned In: Uncover the Extraordinary Opportunities That Lead to Business Breakthroughs, describe a six-step process for creating products that do just that, using several case studies as well as personal experience to illustrate its points.

The six step process is as follows:

1. Find unresolved problems
2. Understand buyer personas
3. Quantify the impact

4. Create breakthrough experiences
5. Articulate powerful ideas
6. Establish authentic connections

The authors are thought leaders with Pragmatic Marketing, a highly-regarded consultancy in the world of product management.  They teach a proprietary framework of 37 elements of product management which at a high level describes the process of identifying a market, finding problems in that marketing, developing solutions and bringing them to market.  In the framework, while not diminishing the importance of the others, Tuned In focuses on the identification of market problems, requirements, use scenarios and positioning elements to illustrate the point that only by interacting with existing customers and prospects (tuning in) can one identify the problems people are willing to pay to solve.  Products that do not solve a problem people are willing to pay to have solved, in Pragmatic's view, should not be developed.

Tuned In is written in a highly readable style that is short on jargon but long on stories that hit home.  A prime example of a "resonator" from the book is Zipcar, which the authors point out solves a need for a market that had not previously been met by any existing car rental company: the urban dweller who needs a car for a short time.  In a recent article in Money magazine, stalwarts Ford and Hertz are cited as wanting "in" on Zipcar's market — one which they had failed to observe and fill at any point in their long history.  (It can be argued that companies like Ford and Hertz may have considered a car-sharing market but decided in self-interest NOT to fill it; the article claims that for every shared car, 20 are taken off the road, which is not good for the traditional car business.)

This is a very common-sense book that is not hard to understand, but at the same time does not delve into extreme detail on topics such as market-research; academic analysis is not the point of Tuned InTuned In is "tuned in" to the fact that product managers need a simple, easy-to-understand process to "tune in" to their markets.  And, on that, the authors deliver.

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