Notes on Product Management

Internal Organisation

  • Product management is about idea assessment, not idea generation
  • Get the marketing collateral drafted before greenlight
  • You should reject ~80% of ideas at the concept phase
  • Simplify the message. Turn it up to 11. Repeat until people tell you to shut up.
  • Aim for comms efficiency. 1 to many comms are better than email. I prefer mediawiki. Put the FAQ, sales information, positioning statement and objection handling information in a public place.
  • Spend about 2 hours a week away from your desk quietly thinking about the product.
  • Build a narrative inside the company. It will exist anyway, so you should ensure it is the right one.
  • Evangelise the value proposition. Anecdotes are powerful, comments from customers are great, video testimonials even better than text.
  • When ideas are raised in the organisation (especially from above), take them away and run through assessment. Report the results back to the instigator.
  • Apple do product management too. They do go out of the building, but the people they talk to are under very strong NDA.
  • Goal of innovator customers is not revenue, but to build references that bring credibility to the early majority adopters. Reference first, then revenue
  • Market sizing: TAM for market. The market leader will get about 30% of it. You are likely only targeting innovators at the moment (5% of that). Then go and ask 30 of those customers and see what %-age would buy the proposed feature set in next 3 months.
  • In the case where you have a long term vision, still build the business case for the short term stepping stones.
  • For each of specific user persona, step through the entire first use experience. In Apple’s case this starts in the store, and includes unwrapping it etc.
  • Figure out what the MVP and perfect would look like. MVP is defined as what the market will take. iPhone 1 was MVP (note lack of 3G, for example). 4S was perfection.
  • When prioritising things consider: Technical feasibility; Market attractiveness; Urgency (from ‘unmet demand now’ to ‘12 months after launch’); Financial (ROI); Strategic fit.
  • In order to avoid constant demands on time, someone kept a list of things they wanted from other people. When a request came in, it would start a negotiation. This forces people to attribute a value to their time.

Customers

  • Customers asking for delivery dates, integration (with their existing systems) and price are buying signals. Other responses can be assumed to be ‘not buying’.
  • Write the business case that customers will use to get agreement to buy the product.
  • Perception pricing is popular in B2C market: ask people to compare against other relevant things in the market
  • Pricing in B2B tends to be around ROI/benefit/business case. If you are having a good customer meeting, you might ask the customer what the business case they would make to buy this thing. If they can’t draw up a business case, why would they buy? The business case will reveal BATNA and offer indications for price.
  • Ask about schedule requirements as ‘are there any dates we need to be aware of’?
  • Write snippets of information down. Build them into a document.
  • Cash cow businesses coalesce around certain market niches. E.g. records are used by DJs and audiophiles.
  • Keep a list of customers spoken to. ‘I don’t want your opinions’. A table of responses is preferable to a narrative.
  • A beta release is valuable because of feedback. You need to plan how to get that feedback.
  • Keep a group of customers on hand (under NDA if needed) to run ideas past. It is better if they are not fanbois. They will turn into fanbois over time, so keep refreshing them every 12 months. The panel should include both existing and non-customers. One way of motivating them is to put their names on your website and say that they are experts in some way. People like being experts, and it is even better if they know that their peers will see the recognition.
  • Show your SWOT analysis to customers to validate it
  • Write customer quotes for the website when planning it. When asking them for a quote say something like “I know you are busy, but here is roughly what benefits I think you got from the product. To save you time I drafted this, feel free to change it”. This will help keep them on-message
  • When writing press releases, “Organisation <like you> has solved <problem you have>” is the best headline.

Documents

  • Keep the business case document up to date during the product. Every week look over it and incorporate any new things you’ve learnt. Don’t have a massive update binge ahead of review points. PMs should be able to present business case at any time with no notice.
  • Business proposal (from concept phase)
  • Datasheet (draft from concept phase). It should be possible to write it in 1 hour with 3 people.
  • Be specific about the market problem, and include the market segment. A market segment is the largest group of people who will react in a similar way to marketing messages
  • Value proposition. VPs are specific to market segments
  • Marketing collateral: Include with story, and draft it before dev. work starts.
  • Sales collateral
  • Put all proposals on the same template
  • Figure out what top 3-5 competitors are (from the PoV of the customer, so ‘by hand’ is a valid competitor.) Perform SWOT analysis on them (and your product). Evaluate companies against: ability to conceive; produce; market and finance the product.
  • Stories should include: ID; description; estimated effort; customer contacts.
  • When giving presentations, record it to capture any ad-libs. Put the recording on the intranet so people can refer to it.