The Head of Product at MYOB, Ben Ross introduced Brainmates to Gregory Grin, the Head of Web Business for local.ch (equivalent to Sensis). Ben said that Gregory is not only knowledgeable about Product Management, he is also an inspirational leader. He was right. Thanks Ben!
We were entirely grateful when Gregory agreed to take some time out to talk to Nick and I in Zurich. Here’s what we spoke about.
What Does local.ch Offer?
local.ch is essentially a digital version of the phone book. We are able to offer our users a hyper local service. This is due to the size of Switzerland and the structure of its economy which relies heavily on a strong SMB market.
local.ch has a strong, loyal audience and a good, ongoing revenue stream. But, we do realise that the Internet has changed consumer behaviour and there is a sense of urgency to change the business so that we offer more than data.
How Do You Differentiate Yourself From Google?
Google is used as a library whilst local.ch is a business listing.
local.ch services the SMB market well. Our main sales channel is offline, its face-to-face. We develop relationships with that one may mechanic in the mountains of Switzerland so that he choose to advertise with us.Google doesn’t do that. We know that we have to form a very strong relationship with our market. If you want to serve any market well, you have to be close to it.
Of course that are other contributing factors. The size of Switzerland and the fact that we speak 3 different languages gives us a competitive advantage. Google has to do a lot of work to compete in such a small market. It has to put in more work to make its products work across 3 different languages.
What Are Some Of The Challenges local.ch Faces?
Consumers these days ‘watch the web’. They want a more visual experience and as a data company we need to create experiences so that they continue to engage with us.
We recognise the need to present information visually and to continually develop unique experiences.
How Do You Innovate?
People is the key of the innovation process. I spend a lot of time selecting the right people for the team. I want people that can work in interdisciplinary teams and people who have the courage to speak to the market.
Of course there is the process and the tools as well but people are the most important ingredient for Innovation. More specifically, people that immerse themselves in the market with both the buyers and the users.
I took up teaching a subject on Innovation at the University so that I can seed the market with the right talent. So that the talent it there when we need it.
Data is another important factor. It gives us insights, paints a story and helps us make decisions. Data is essentially the fuel of the innovation engine.
How Are You Structured For Innovation?
At local.ch, the teams are focused on a specific media platform. I am personally focused on the web. I have an interdisciplinary team comprising of Product Managers, Engineers and Designers. We run small projects and always engaged other cross functional teams such as Sales and Marketing during the projects.
I also make it a habit to protect my team from the minutia of business issues and general noise. I set the goals and direction for the product and they come back with plans to execute on that vision. I want accountability and the best way to do that is to agree on the KPIs and let them tell me how they will achieve it.
What Techniques Do You Use To Innovate?
The market sets the pace of innovation. We watch for signs in the market, interpret the market’s needs and translate those into working product.
Therefore part of our innovation program means that my team heavily involve buyers and users in the design of the product.
I believe in co-creation. This is done through prototyping and integrating customer feedback into the process.
We prototype and test everything from a list of tariffs to a product description.
We have an ongoing, bi-monthly program that tests elements of our products with users.
The whole business also goes out into the field with Sales people to experience selling the product.
Any Final Words
Remember that a Product Manager is NOT Leonardo Da Vinci. It takes a team to make ideas successful in the market.