9 Lessons for New Product Managers

Marketing à HubSpot
14 Dec 2015

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9 Lessons for New Product Managers

  1. Lessons for New Product Managers 9
  2. Food for thought Product management is great at teaching you essential life skills like critical thinking and decision making. There is no blueprint to follow and no silver bullet. You have to learn fast, identify problems, ask questions, and work well with your team. So how do you welcome someone new to this world of product management? What are the tangible activities you can introduce in order to ensure a newbie is focused on flexing the right muscles and is set up for success? As we have been onboarding new product managers to the HubSpot team, we have stumbled upon some useful lessons, made some mistakes on the way, and found a couple of handy practices. Flip through them below!
  3. 1. Understanding Product Management Focus on the problem and seek a quick development cycle.
  4. You want to establish a short release cycle based on small iterations and the idea of a minimal viable product (MVP) to allow you to solve problems in the smallest amount of time, get new information quickly, and change direction as needed. In this work you’ll be flexing different product management muscles at different times – research, problem articulation, an understanding of the impact, design work, customer communication, and analytical thinking. Tactically, you can strengthen these skills with a couple of things from your backlog: identifying the problem and its scale, validating the problem, brainstorming multiple solutions with your team, testing the solutions with real users, shipping to customers quickly, listening to feedback, iterating, and measuring progress.
  5. Identify Problem Validate Problem Explore Multiple Solutions Test Proposed Solution Ship & Measure
  6. Identify Problem Validate Problem Come up with Multiple Solutions Test Proposed Solution Ship & Measure The problem identification process is the first step in the development cycle: it addresses something that is causing customer pain and needs to be fully understood. A product manager needs to spend time researching the problem and its scale, defining it clearly, validating it, and creating a vision for what success might look like. This usually means pulling usage data, support data, and talking to customers.
  7. Identify Problem Validate Problem Explore Multiple Solutions Test Proposed Solution Ship & Measure Once the problem and opportunity have been defined and validated, a product manager can work with her team to explore a few ways of solving it. The idea here is not to jump to the very first solution that comes to mind, but to allow for the evaluation of different ideas. To narrow down the number of ideas to one proposed solution, you might use whiteboarding, prototypes, and user testing.
  8. Identify Problem Validate Problem Ship & Measure Explore Multiple Solutions Test Proposed Solution When you feel good about the proposed solution to the problem, you’ll start doing some beta testing, internal communication, and product marketing. At this stage, also ensure that you have all the usage tracking you’ll need to see if the changes you’ve made address the problem you sought to solve in the first place. It’s vital to close the loop and provide this information to yourself and your team.
  9. 2. Making Decisions Think through your decisions out loud.
  10. It’s hard to make a decision that you know will impact customers in a short period of time and with limited information, but you’ll have to get comfortable with it. Evaluate a few options and think through the pros and cons. Walk through specific examples with your team. Don’t forget, you’re solving for the whole customer base, not just the loudest customers. Sometimes you’re going to have to make tough decisions, decisions that you know will hurt some customers, lose some deals, and get support reps yelled at. But they’re still the right things to do. Any decision is better than no decision. You're almost always going to be wrong so take your best educated guess, make sure you're making small bets, and be confident that you can test your outcome.
  11. 3. Spending Your Time Wisely Do the work that will support your team the most.
  12. You’ll often doubt whether you’re spending your time in worthwhile ways. You’ll wonder if the things you’re doing are the things you need to be doing. Remember, your time is well spent if you’re supporting your team in ways that only you can. You don’t need to fix every problem. Focus on being the voice of the customer. When in doubt, talk to more of your customers or read more customer feedback. You can never do too much of that. For example, understanding a customer problem really well or understanding your app’s usage patterns inside out or finding out the root cause for many of your support cases are all good ways to spend your time and support your team.
  13. 4. Prioritizing Work Think about the majority of customers.
  14. Ask yourself what will solve for 80% of your customer base. Most times, that answer will direct you to the decision you need to make. Sometimes you’ll choose work that will only impact 20% of the customer base because that segment may be highly valuable and support the business or support the usage of the other 80%. That isn’t a bad situation to be in, but just be aware of that context and be able to paint that picture for others.
  15. Here are some questions you can ask yourself as you think through whether something is important enough to work on? ✘ Will most customers benefit from this today? ✘ Does it move activation or retention rate? ✘ Does it make our customers better marketers or sales reps? ✘ Compared to other things we could be working on, does it solve a bigger problem? ✘ Does it make us more competitive? ✘ How much work will it take? Is it realistic to have an MVP within a couple of weeks? Often times something is good to focus on, but the timing isn’t right just yet.
  16. 5. Talking to Customers Accept phone calls and learn to ask open-ended questions.
  17. Make it a point to talk to customers at least twice a week. These chats don’t need to take more than 30 minutes each, so you should learn how to make them as productive as they can be. Start by thanking your customer for their time and input. Ensure that you know who they are (get some general background information on them) and then focus on the problem they’re experiencing. Ask open-ended questions to really uncover the issue and repeat it back to them. Ask for specific examples as you walk through the problem. Ask if the customer is interested in beta testing or user testing in the future.
  18. Don’t just talk to your customers; watch them use the product. Find out what other products they use in their process, and how they use them. Do they use Excel? Do they use a notepad? Do they have team meetings and how often? Do they hate their boss? Do they want a raise? Do they have a family? What time do they go home at night? What time do they come to the office in the morning? Find out what they really do to get their job done. What really drives them? Find out what they won’t think to tell you. Keep asking questions to get to the real problem. You typically have to peel back a few layers of the onion to get there.
  19. 6. Documenting Your Learnings Catalogue what you learn.
  20. Don’t give in to the impostor syndrome. Yes, you’re new, but that doesn’t mean anyone is better at solving these problems than you are. The truth is, there will always be people who can learn from your discoveries, gain insight from thinking about things from your perspective, or benefit from the care you took in documenting your research. If you learn something new that’s valuable and that hasn’t been documented, document it! There will be other people coming after you who’ll have the same question, so pass your knowledge on and let them benefit from all your hard work.
  21. 7. Measuring Value Find out how helpful your product actually is.
  22. There are a couple of questions you need to ask yourself in order to find out if your product is actually helping anyone: ✘ Are new people using it? (Activation) ✘ Are users continuing to use it? (Retention) ✘ Is anyone recommending it? (NPS / Virality) Establish the usage events that represent activation (the first time a user experiences value) and retention (repeated usage) of your product. Build reports to monitor those numbers over time and consider combining the data into a dashboard. Similarly, if you have Support data, use that too so you can follow the number of tickets for your product over time. Make sure these reports are widely available to the rest of your team.
  23. 8. Being a Team Builder Enable your teammates and collaborate with them.
  24. To earn the respect of your team, become a domain expert and represent the voice of your customer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and collaborate with your engineers on the answers. Vocalize your thought processes by walking through examples and expressing concerns by focusing on the “why.” Manage the product, not the team. The people on your team are good at what they do, and will often come up with better solutions if you give them the autonomy to. Find the best communication channel for your team: virtual or in- person standups, short 1:1s, informal lunches, or ad-hoc discussions around your desks. Find a comfortable, repeatable pattern and stick with it. Do whatever makes the most sense for your team and what best enables them to be productive and happy.
  25. 9. Reinforcing the Vision Keep things simple by revisiting the long-term mission and vision.
  26. Clearly articulate the values, mission and long-term vision for your team and product. For example, your product may seek to: ✘ Help teams automate work confidently. ✘ Become the defacto CRM for SMBs. ✘ Empower teams to manage work in one place. The mission statement should be simple and concise; it doesn’t need to encompass every possible feature. Based on this statement, you will want to say "no" to some product ideas you are currently considering. Be sure that your long-term vision matches the mission and goals of your company as a whole. Then connect the dots between this long-term vision and the ways you might get there in the short-term. Reinforcing the vision regularly and in informal settings will help your team feel more confident in their work.
  27. Focus on the goal, not the features. The features will change. “Future you” will come up with better ideas and better features as new information comes to light. Beware of feature roadmaps. You should be able to pivot and iterate to build a truly great product. Don't promise features because you don't know if they'll actually solve the problem at hand. We don't use product roadmaps at HubSpot because they don't solve for the customer; they solve for the company. You are building for the customer and, more importantly, learning what to build along the way.
  28. FINALLY...
  29. “ #LearnFast
  30. thanks! Any questions? You can find us at @hubspotdev CREDITS Special thanks to all the people who made and released these awesome resources for free: presentation template by SlidesCarnival and photographs by Unsplash