The Product Marketing Manager as a Plate Spinner Extraordinaire

Fellow marketing blogger Daphne Rose recently posted a smart, quick read on the seven characteristics of a great marketer. Of the seven characteristics Daphne Rose noted, I really liked the analogy she drew between product marketers and plate spinners from the legendary Ed Sullivan Show. I am old enough (barely old enough – honest!) to vaguely recall watching plate spinner Erich Brenn in 1969, available in this YouTube video:

Daphne Rose commented, “Like the plate spinners on the old Ed Sullivan show, GMs are gifted time managers. It’s second nature for them to keep everything in motion – successfully.” I agree for the most part, except that time management is not inate, it is/can be learned.  Reflecting further on the idea of the product marketer as a plate spinner I came up with some more observations beyond time management I hope you enjoy and ring true to you…

Product marketing managers understand project priorities and contingencies.  Taking time management to the next level, effective product marketers and managers will bring a project to a stopping point where it requires further input or feedback from others, leveraging that time to make progress on the next most important project.

Product marketing managers engage in “serial focusing” while trying to avoid “multitasking.”  This is an important distinction.  Unlike “multitasking” in which only a fraction of your attention is ever really devoted to any particular task, “serial focusing,” like the plate spinner, requires you to devote your attention to the particular project at hand.  Of course, you are aware your available time is limited, so you discipline yourself to focus on it and take action.  Another analogy conveying the idea of “serial focusing” even better than plate spinning is a chess grandmaster playing a simultaneous match.

Product marketers and managers don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.  Did you notice how Mr. Brenn slightly botched his initial little trick in which he tried to flip a row of forks into a row of glasses?  The show (or “shew,” this being an Ed Sullivan Show video) must go on! It would have been most unwise to repeat the trick again immediately – he grabbed his dropped forks and successfully repeated the trick later after re-spinning those bowls.  All this was a small quibble, considering his big finish!

A great product marketer makes good decisions what plates are worth spinning.  It is critical to proactively identify, prioritize and act upon those marketing projects that will yield the results you, your colleagues in sales and executive management are looking for.  Erich Brenn would not try to spin an oblong turkey platter for obvious reasons.  Are there any marketing projects have you running around that fall in the ‘turkey platter’ category?  Rather than devote disproportionate time to it in its current form, it is much better to proactively refashion such a project into a more workably round plate.  Failing that, it is time to step away from that turkey platter!

2 thoughts on “The Product Marketing Manager as a Plate Spinner Extraordinaire

  1. Mike, how lovely to be quoted. Your blog is just wonderful – I can tell I’ll be spending a lot of time here. Great post – can’t wait to see more. Keep up the great work.


    1. Thank you Daphne! And again, great analogy between effective marketers and ‘plate spinners.’

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