A quick LinkedIn search for “product managers” would tell you the jaw-dropping number of product managers in the market. You can see an increasing number of people switching their career from tech development, marketing, and operations to product management side.
So, what does a “Product Manager” do apart from the regular activities like defining product features and getting releases done? Rather, what does it take for a product manager to build a successful product-led company?
1. Product managers are like CEOs of the company
In a product-led company, product is the face of the company. If your company is an ‘app-only’ business, then the face of the company is in the 4.5 to 5.5 inch form factor.
The person who takes care of the product should have a 360-degree view of the cash flow (that the product generates, or eats) of the company, marketing activities taken for the product, sales/service support for the product, product performance, user churn / retention, ROI, growth, competitive product / company performance, etc.
2. Data is your breakfast, lunch, and dinner
For a product manager, data is the one and only decision-making factor. Even if the CEO or Director of the company asks you to build or tweak something in the product, but if the data says otherwise, then you should go by your data.
A product manager lifecycle can be put in a simple way – Think, build, look at data – and repeat this cycle forever.
Put MS Excel pivot tables to good use, you will unearth the golden information hidden inside the plain rocky data.
3. Lead the growth hack effort
First of all, growth hacking does not equal marketing. Growth hacking effort cannot be the sole responsibility of marketing team.
A growth hack team should consist of few members from all the departments (including technology, support). Ideally, the product manager should lead this effort as the person will have to cut across all departments by the role nature.
For example, in RoomsTonite we see good conversion rates from users once they open the app. We were confident that the number of people booking hotels on-demand will increase if we just increase the user base. We wanted to increase the user base at a very low cost. The growth team grouped together and came up with an idea of selling hotels at Rs 1 on a particular day. I will keep the details of this execution to another article. The massive hockey-stick-traffic that this Re 1 hotel campaign generated on the sale day – till now we are working hard to achieve this number organically.
The critical information of identifying what should be done has to be the responsibility of product team.
4. Elephant features versus ant value
Product managers are not responsible for adding more features in every release. ‘Feature bloat’ is the perfect recipe for failure. It is of no use if a product has elephant size features and still couldn’t deliver the value of an ant size.
Build every feature with ROI in mind.
5. Win emotions over transactions
It is good to focus on transactions and conversions for your product. It is also equally important to understand who your customers are, what they do, why are they using your product, what will make them happy, and how you can win their heart.
I learnt that for a leading online jewellery company in India, the target audience is not women, it is men.
Recall this Chinese proverb – “You give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime.” Now, compare this with transactions and emotions. It will read like this – "You try your best to convert a customer to transact, he or she will transact once with you. You win his or her emotions once and you will win his/her loyalty for a lifetime."
Understanding customer psychology is critical for a product manager. The ability to think from a customer perspective and getting it always right is nothing short of a genius stroke.
6. Don’t love what you loved building
It is easy to fall in love with what we build. It is natural. But, if the feature is not generating the expected outcome even after tweaking all possibilities, then the feature should be mercilessly scrapped quickly.
There cannot be any better example than Google for scrapping products that aren’t working – Wave, Schemer, iGoogle, Picnik, GTalk, and the list continues.
Love the problem, not the feature that’s been built.
7. Learn from non-competing sources too
No single app or website has got everything correct. But, many app or websites have got at least one thing that’s working. Fish for those great use cases that are making those respective companies run.
For us (RoomsTonite), on-demand taxis are not a competing market (as yet). Their “surge pricing” doesn’t need any explanation. At RoomsTonite, we have a closed wallet called “RT Money” where our customers can store their cashback / offer money earned. We were thinking how to add more value to a customer’s RT Money balance. We took the concept of “surge pricing” and applied it to RT Money balance.
That is – a customer’s RT Money will surge for a limited time. As compared to a taxi industry, where surge price means that you will have to pay more, in RoomsTonite RT Money surge will give you more money than what you had. The surge amount, surge duration, and surge day will be a surprise. Suddenly, a RoomsTonite customer will get a push notification saying their RT Money balance of Rs 1,000 is now increased to Rs 1,300 for next 4 hours. After 4 hours, the balance comes down to Rs 1,000.
This particular feature was a super hit at RoomsTonite. Customers understood this easily, thanks to surge pricing. Whenever we turn on Surge at backend, our bookings double. The “surprise surge” adds spice to the whole game. “Surge” was happily accepted.
8. An eye that distinguishes #FFFFFF from #FFFFFE
Attention to detail is one of the critical qualities for a product manager.
Be it spelling, an extra pixel somewhere, wrong colour, broken design symmetry, ambiguous interpretation, misalignment, wrong tagging, wrong decimal digits, page loading and scrolling speed, uniform button sizes, etc. – product manager should catch them all, and ensure all of these are fixed.
9. Predict the future
Product managers should be able to visualise how their product is going to be at least for next six months. This not only includes the features it is going to have, but also the daily or monthly active users it is going to have, revenue it is going to generate, distribution partners and strategic partners it is going to attract, quantum of problem it is going to solve, etc.
For example – If you are the product manager of a B2C product, you should be even able to predict (with 10–20 per cent buffer) the site/app traffic at any given hour of the day. If you are obsessed with user behaviour data, you can, always.
10. Make non-product teams also succeed
For the product to succeed, every non-product team that’s directly involved should also succeed.
Uber’s success is not only because of its great product engineering, but also due to its customer service. Here, customer service includes the issue-resolving customer support team, driver partners team, and its marketing/alliances team.
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