What Product Managers Can Learn From A Handgun


I can’t tell you how many times I am working with clients that are trying to enter new markets by copying products which are already being sold. If you want to be a “me-too” product manager, you can certainly do this. However, if you really understand the way that product development definition ought to 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…

SOMETHING Innovation Story

Handguns aren’t new. Actually they’ve been around for years. Everyone knows just about what they appear to be, 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 that even the very best product manager out there would stand a chance of being able to introduce a new product into this crowded market.

Apparently nobody told Gaston Glock this. As described in a fresh book, Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun, Gaston just been in the right place at the right time back in 1980 and overhead two Austrian colonels talking about the Austrian military’s need for new pistols. Gaston then did what any good product manager would do, he went and talked with the customer.

The customer in this instance was the Austrian defense minister. The minister agreed 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 so that you can learn how to create a better product.

The gun he finished up creating was nothing like the guns which were currently in the marketplace. The Glock 17 (so called because it was the 17th gun that Gaston made) was made out of industrial plastic which both managed to get lighter and more resistant to corrosion. The handgun was also built out of several subgroups that made it easy to remove and 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 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 really 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 was 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 always a success. At that time, the Smith & Wesson company ruled the market.

Walter did what any good product manager should do, he focused on getting the Glock to be considered by individuals who were likely 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.

After the Glock was adopted by famous brands the trick Service and the FBI the overall game was over. Glock had won. What Glock had shown is that a carefully managed promotional campaign can help a good new product to enter a market and to capture a significant market share.

What ALL THIS Means For You

You may not function as product manager for a firearm, but the story of the way the Glock handgun was made and what made it successful probably has a story for you. Because you are attempting to enter a crowed, well established market doesn’t imply that you need to copy the products which are already for sale there.

Innovation is really a word that’s tossed around a lot these days, but it holds a special meaning for product managers. If we take the time to focus on what our customers’ real needs are before we begin to define our product, then we’ve the real possibility of doing what Glock did and transforming our market. Almost appears like this is a thing that you’d find in a product manager job description, does it not?

Just because you create a superior product doesn’t imply that the world will beat a path to your product management door. Instead, you are going to be the one who is responsible for making sure that the term gets out about how exactly wonderful your product is. Follow Pistolet Glock 19 that has been directed at us by Glock as well as your product should have a go at being successful.

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