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5 Key Learnings From Our Product Management Essentials Workshop To Take Back To Your Desk

As you now know, Sequent Learning Networks’ Product Management Essentials workshop is a great opportunity to learn about the product management discipline, but it is a lot of information covered over a two-day span. While everything we discussed is important, below are five key learnings to remember and implement once you get back to work in your organization.

  1. The Product Manager Mindset

There is a common debate in the product management world about the adage “the product manager is the CEO of the product”. Some believe strongly this is a true representation while others believe it is flawed because the product manager doesn’t have the same level of authority as a CEO. Of course, a product manager won’t have authority on all matters like a CEO might but having a CEO-like business owner mindset is critically important for successful product management.

 

A good product manager, like a CEO, has a high-level of business acumen, leads and influences others, and is adept at communicating both a vision and an executable plan. They think of their product as a business and take ultimate responsibility for the success of that business.

  1. Finding The Core Need

  As human beings, our brains are programmed to quickly find solutions to problems. This innate trait has helped us survive and evolve for millions of years. In product management however, it often leads us to jump straight from information about a problem to a possible solution, without ever taking the time to truly uncover the user’s core need. This missed step means we sometimes end up with solutions that don’t solve the true problem.

Think about this: Do you need a seatbelt? Your immediate reaction may be, “yes, of course I need a seatbelt to keep me safe.” In actuality, a seatbelt is the solution, not the need. The core need is to be safe. The seat belt happens to be a primary solution or tool used to satisfy that need of safety (along with other solutions like air bags and roll-over construction).

It is critical that we, as product managers, get to the core need of our clients and users so that we can find more creative, more effective solutions to meet those needs.

  1. The Importance of a Cross-Functional Product Team

Product management is an inherently cross-functional discipline. It takes product, engineering, marketing, sales, operations, finance, etc. to build and maintain effective products. Sequent’s decades of benchmarking research have shown that a dedicated, enduring cross-functional product team is critical to sustained success. Most organizations are adept at cross-functional teams for the duration of a project but disband those teams at the end of the project. Most companies are not continuing that cross-functional stakeholder partnership once a product is in market.   In an ideal setting, a product manager has a dedicated partner from each of the major functions across the organization to help make decisions about the product throughout its lifespan. Multiple perspectives will help make better decisions, and it also gives the product more exposure within the organization.

  1. The Marketing Mix as a Strategic Tool

Most people know the Marketing Mix as “the 4 P’s” – Product, Price, Place, Promotion, first defined in 1960 by E. Jerome McCarthy. As a product manager, the Marketing Mix is a strategic tool that used to manage your product once it’s in market.   Think of each of the Ps as a lever you can pull to impact your product in some way. You can lower the price to increase sales and decrease inventory. You can find distribution partners (place) to get your product in the hands of more people than you could on your own.   Depending on where your product is in its lifecycle, you will utilize the four P “levers” differently. As your product is in growth mode, you may want to have a pricing strategy that helps penetrate the market at a fast pace. When your product is mature, you may scale back promotion spending so to maximize profitability.   The Marketing Mix is one of the most critical strategic tools at a product manager’s disposal and should be used consistently to ensure ongoing product success.

  1. Product Launch Readiness: Product, Organization, Customer

It is obvious that a product is not ready for launch until that product has been developed and has passed the necessary tests proving it functions as expected. We call that product readiness, and it is where product managers spend most of their time during the launch phase. However, there are two other critical areas of focus before launching a product: organizational readiness and customer readiness.   Organizational readiness ensures that your organization is ready to sell and support the product once it hits the market.

 

Do the sales people understand the customer needs that the product solves? Do they know the value proposition for the various target markets? Are the sales incentives and compensation programs in place to ensure the sales team is motivated to sell your new product? Are the lead generation and marketing programs in place with schedules and metrics to measure progress?
Does the finance department have the necessary billing and accounting codes set up in the system so clients get invoiced for the product? Have the customer service and technical support teams been trained so they are equipped when the first customer calls in needing help?
Customer readiness ensures that your customers are ready and able to buy and implement your product. If your product is software, are your customers able to support a new release? Does their IT department have the bandwidth to do their part in testing and implementation? Do their employees need any training on the new release, and if so, can they give the time needed for that training? If your product is a physical product, do your customers have the shelf space / warehouse space needed? Is it the right time of year (seasonality, budget planning) for your customers to purchase your products?

 

All of these – the product, organization and customer – must be ready before a product is launched.
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