Years ago, I was having a conversation with my brother who had been in the Navy. I asked him what he learned from his experience in the Navy. Quick with his wit, he responded “I learned that NAVY stands for: Never Again Volunteer Yourself.” It was a short conversation, but it left an impression on me. Specifically, that impression was “choose carefully in what you get involved.” This consideration did not stop me from becoming the product owner for Blaze, but the learning curve was not easy.
Facing New Questions as Product Owner
I have spent my whole career in the software business, so I wasn’t afraid to take charge of Blaze. What I didn’t understand was product development is FAR different than software development. This became apparent when I started getting questions about our marketing strategy and website metrics: What features are we going to promote on the marketing site? What is our pricing strategy? How are we going to measure our marketing efforts?
To complicate matters even more, I knew NOTHING about content strategy. Google and I spent some time together trying to find out what this term meant. What I found is there are many of definitions out there. Some people say it’s planning, creation, delivery and governance of content. Others also include the defining of the process to produce that content. Some people map content to the buyer’s journey. This led me to my next question: What’s a buyer’s journey?
How Blaze Helped Me Understand Content Strategy
I sat with a content strategist colleague to try and get a better understanding of what we were creating. The great news is that I had a tool at my disposal to help me understand: Blaze. This made it simpler to define the Buyer’s Journey by going to the Strategy tab on the audit screen. Of course, there’s the next problem, similar to defining “content strategy;” what are the stages of the Buyer’s Journey? Some say “Awareness, Consideration, Decision”, others say “Define, Refine, Purchase” and some have 5 steps instead of 3.
What I like about Blaze is that is doesn’t have pre-defined tags for these fields, you create the tags on-the-fly. You want 5, make 5. You want 3, make 3. You want to call it “Discovering, Thinking, Cha-Ching!”, go right ahead, it’s up to you.
Lessons from Product Demos
As we developed the product, we also conducted product demos. I sat in every demo that I could so that I could hear the questions asked and the answers given. These demos made the biggest impact in my education, because I could hear from content professionals about the challenges they face on a daily basis. Out of the demos and the Beta program came features like predictive tagging—if a tag already exists, the software will show it to you as a selectable option. This keeps the tags consistent for the team and speeds things up too.
Content strategist share a common enemy: the spreadsheet. It’s not that they hate spreadsheets, it’s just that spreadsheets are the wrong tool for the nuanced and collaborative job strategists are doing. Spreadsheets work well for many purposes, but they also create many problems like versioning, sharing, syncing with analytics and managing thousands of rows of data. All of this while trying to do the job they are supposed to be doing, auditing.
One of the things I grew to love about Blaze is how it puts everyone in the same system working on the same version. Blaze syncs easily with Google Analytics and provides several methods for sorting and filtering. It takes the hassle out of doing inventories and audits while making the process go much faster.
Learning through Doing as a Product Manager
Accepting the position of Product Owner was not what I thought it was going to be. While I made a quick decision without much deliberation, I don’t regret it for a second. This has been one of the single best learning experiences I have had.
One thing that I realized in this process is that content strategists are a global community. Either through demos or support, I have been able to talk to people in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and Italy. Seeing a group of people around the world have the same problem lets me know that we have created a great tool. Blaze will over time continue to grow and change with the community it serves. We look forward to serving you and your team’s needs.
Dan Beard, Blaze Product Owner