Let me start off by saying that these points are something that make
sense to me. I feel I have embodied them during my early days of product development at Acquire. Having made some modifications here and there over time, I still preach them to my team. Some of these points might not be news to you, but that’s okay, their purpose is to simply remind you of the best practices that every product manager should follow to make their success graph steeper.
I hope you find this of actionable value.
1. Know that first things first
Know that a not-so-good product can’t be saved — even by the greatest of marketing or sales endeavors.
As a product manager, you need an eagle-eye focus on the product quality and the user experience, both of which you should constantly strive to enhance.
Try to understand the product intuitively that will allow you to go beyond the mere technical nitty-gritty into more nuanced growth-promoting aspects like — the customers’ expectations from the product, their behavioral patterns around it, as well as its real-time relevance and uniqueness.
2. What you can’t measure you can’t manage
“Don’t shoot in the dark — you’ll never hit the bull’s-eye.”
Make sure you have a carefully thought-out plan for you and your team to meet both your short-term and long-term goals.
Keeping a close eye on product KPIs will prove invaluable when it comes to making metric-driven decisions. Hone your ability to combine reason with empirical facts derived through data analysis to make unbiased and result-oriented decisions.
3. Don’t be a know-it-all
Sometimes, as a product manager, especially, when one is involved in building the product right from its conception in the brain, it so happens that you tend to be very close-minded and personal when it comes to decision making. You can’t trust others and feel that no one has as much information to make decisions like them. This is obviously not the right train of thought!
Seek the help of experts in specific domains, and be ready to take on board their opinions. Pay attention to this advice, not only while venturing into new domains, but also when dealing with domains you already know well.
4. Seek a balance
Look to create a good balance between emotions and rationality. Never leave either one out. Be data-driven when it comes to getting the product up and running, and keep your metrics in mind, as we mentioned in point no. 2.
Having said that, this is just one side of the coin.
You also need a good understanding of the psychological needs and motivations of your customers. Being an effective product manager means never losing sight of the fact that consumers expect humanness as much as they expect technical savviness through their customer journey.
5. Be customer-centric
And why wouldn’t you be? We develop products for our customers after all, so taking their feedback and opinions and working on them is imperative.
You don’t have to focus on building the fanciest version of a product, loaded with functionalities, that would crush its competitors but simply build a product your customer wants and needs.
Pay attention, not just to what customers are saying, but also to what they are not saying. Combining this insight with industry trends will help you gauge the right product development strategies.
6. Always look for nods!
In order to have any idea, belief, or thought and to live with it, one should always put to test with every possible contradiction that could falsify it. The goal here is to be not correct at the moment but to be correct for real.
Do not let confirmation bias cloud your judgement.
Always give some leeway to contradictions from your teammates, business partners, advisors, etc. Make a point of asking your team, “is this making sense?”, “Correct me if I’m wrong here”, etc. Be willing to let your employees put their two cents in. Nods from your team are your green light.
7. Know everything that makes up the product
Keep the product’s brand identity consistently aligned with all your other endeavors.
Remember that marketing materials like blogs, product descriptions, PR, APIs, website, customer relationships, after-sales support, and so on are all part of the product.
Their quality affects the user experience and perception of the brand.
It’s good practice to involve yourself, not only in the quality of the product, but with the entire customer experience.
8. Have a hunger for self-growth
The curiosity and eagerness you demonstrate will shape how successful you become as a product manager. Dedication, productivity, problem-solving ability, and creativity all depend on these factors.
Learning new things only as new projects come up is playing too safe and, more importantly, playing ineffectively.
Successful PMs want to grow– so they end up putting their own personal time into the product as well, purely out of curiosity and their love for learning and experimenting. The result is extraordinary products with disruptive effects on the market.
9. Be malleable
Practice open-mindedness. Successful PMs have an exploratory nature and are open to new experiences. They have a lot of spare room for new ideas to wiggle. It’s easier for them to think laterally to solve a conventional problem.
When you have such agility, it helps you not only to adapt quickly to the new demands of customers, but also to process and understand and sift through them.
When people are around these types of PMs, they feel comfortable sharing innovative and at times absurd ideas — creating a culture that promotes breakthrough growth.
10. Invest in your team
It is important to instil a sense of ownership and passion within your team.
You can do this by providing them with the necessary technological and intellectual resources.
From developers, through marketers, to salespeople, make sure everyone has the cutting edge technological support they need to live up to customers’ expectations.
Along with all this, keep your team in the loop with every decision-making process. This gives everyone a sense of power and responsibility.
11. Know when to bid adieu
As a product manager, it is vital that the majority of key people in the organization, if not all, have the same vision of and for the product. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case Sometimes, the company’s values may not be in line with what you believe is best for the product.
It is not a smart move to find a way to motivate yourself despite being at odds with the company’s values. If you have the true product manager spirit, you will know when it is the right time to make an amicable exit from the organization. Having said that, it has to be a thoughtful decision, not a reckless one.
12. Adopt a bird’s-eye view
Most of the time product managers go to great lengths to meet their team’s quarterly targets. However, it’s often at the cost of missing the broader goals. If only they had placed more focus on them.
Always try to widen your perspective. Sacrifice your team’s short term targets for the greater good for the company.
For instance, do not rush into working on new strategies and exhaust time and resources before evaluating if the strategy needs implementing in the first place.
13. Know when to say NO
Products are often built with limited time and resources, but not with limited ideas. This is especially true when it comes to the legal and security concerns of stakeholders and investors. You must keep in mind that these groups aren’t approvers but advisors. You must also know when to put down the foot and say NO.
To be able to do this, you need command over the business, design, and technological aspects of the product. You should certainly keep the advice in the back of your mind, but move ahead with the focus entirely on meeting the needs of the users.
14. Pick your battles
It is better to choose your problems rather than letting them choose you. Being an outstanding problem solver is great, but it is equally, if not more important, to be an outstanding problem preventer.
More than anything, being able to discern which problems to prevent, which to solve, and which to ignore is of critical importance. Successful product managers are skilled at this, and practice sifting through problems daily.
15. Be cross-functional
To become a successful product manager, you need to get your hands dirty — in everything!
You should be able to guide the content direction, user interface, and development, all while managing consumer insights, business development, product marketing, and more. Having an understanding of all aspects of your product will help you build a coherent picture, making it easier for you to reach your goals.