If you are just getting started in the super fun and exciting world of Product Management, then welcome! With so many facets to the field and with so many different types of products and industries it can be overwhelming when trying to decide what you should be learning about first. Most blog posts out there […]
If you are just getting started in the super fun and exciting world of Product Management, then welcome! With so many facets to the field and with so many different types of products and industries it can be overwhelming when trying to decide what you should be learning about first.
Most blog posts out there right now talk about how Product Managers really need to be a strategic arm of the company, by looking at the industry as a whole, at the market, the customer problems and refining your customer value proposition. All that is great, and you should totally aspire to do that. Be strategic!
Now. What does that mean? For starters, you are going to want to get really good at the tactical. Tactical doesn’t mean that you let others dictate your product’s direction. Tactical means that you are learning the ropes of how to listen to your customers, optimizing your product, and starting to hone in on those great, strategic ideas.
So, here’s my list of skills you should have, especially when you are first starting out.
1. Market Research Techniques
You may be in a position where you need to plan and conduct market research using various techniques, such as Focus Groups, Segmentation Studies, or Interviews. However large or small you do this, just “Get out of the building” and talk to your customers.
2. Market Analysis
You will then need to be able to interpret your market research in order to target the specific customer segments you were researching. If you are doing something new and innovative, you will want to identify characteristics of your early adopters (this doesn’t just mean geeks with iPhones). Otherwise, you may be trying to understand what the customer problems are with your market segments or how to improve your sales pipeline conversions, that is to say – turning your freebie customers into paying customers.
3. Product Roadmap
You may be asked to create a Product Roadmap. If your product is fairly stable and you have a high degree of certainty, you will probably find this fairly easy to do. If you are faced with lots of uncertainty – What the heck are we building? Who cares? How are we going to get people to PAY for this??? Then maybe you should skip the Product Roadmap, and go read, The Lean Start-Up instead. If your managers are asking for a Roadmap, probably a clever way to trick them into being Lean is to deliver a plan for how you are going to test and implement a series of experiments in order to get real feedback on what your users want.
4. Product Features
Based on all that great data you’ve collected, you’ll want to try some of these. Start small, but not so small that you aren’t really delivering value to your customer. Sometimes that will mean you can release one feature at a time, and sometimes that’ll mean you need to release a boatload.
5. Product Effectiveness
Whatever you’ve delivered, make sure you measure and evaluate the consumer response to product features to inform and influence decisions about your product’s evolution. There are several techniques out there that can help so, you should learn more about A/B Testing, Web Analytics, the American Customer Satisfaction Index, and whatever form of help desk or “Contact Us” page you may have.
All of this is to say that if you keep practicing these things, you will get better at creating a product vision, providing business strategy leadership to your company, and analyzing your industry and the emerging technologies that may affect it. Don’t forget about those things. If you practice the skills I’ve listed, you’ll put yourself on the right path to all the fun stuff.
Now get out there and start making awesome stuff! Got questions?