5 steps to establish and maintain relationships with stakeholders who can be key differentiators in your product’s success.
TLDR; scroll down if you prefer watching over reading 🎥😉
Most product managers know how to deal with their daily ‘inbound’ tasks. They are masters in leading their team and staying on top of everything. But when it comes to 3rd parties, partners, and clients, do you tend to feel like you need a middleman to ease things along and make everything work? Well, guess what- you don’t. :)
What is stakeholder management?
Stakeholder management is a critical component in the successful delivery of any product. A stakeholder is any individual, group, or organization that can affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by, your product. In many cases, it could be challenging due to cultural differences, first-time collaborations, challenging integrations, or just difficulties getting multiple people on board in a short timeline.
So what happens when this critical component is missing?
First and foremost- your ability to personally develop as a product manager and create better products is negatively affected. It limits your product reach, impact, and sometimes even the timeline. You can work as hard as you can to make it on time but then get a ‘No’ from the legal team right before the big launch, or maybe even be deprioritized by the 3rd party partners just because their focus has changed. And when it comes to ‘time to market’, your product could easily become irrelevant when stakeholders like your marketing team or clients aren’t effectively engaged in time. Would you let your product’s success slip between your fingers so easily?
Here’s my methodology, to make sure I don’t miss anything.
It only takes 5 steps:
- Map: Who are my stakeholders for this feature/product?
- Analyze: Why should they care and what will success mean to them?
- Plan: When and how should I keep my stakeholders in the loop?
- Act: What and how should I share and reflect on with my stakeholders during every stage of the product?
- Review: Lastly, collect their feedback and be open to changes.
BTW, if you do it right and in time, these movements won’t completely rock your boat.
How to do it right?
🤗 Know your audience
This is a common product manager’s skill when it comes to our end users. We define personas, try to build trust, create personalized solutions, and put ourselves in their shoes. So why is it more difficult when it comes to stakeholders?
a. Don’t meet with all of them at once.
From the legal to marketing teams or even your clients and investors; they don’t all share the same level of knowledge about your product, they have different responsibilities, and their feedback usually has a different flavor.
b. Choose the right channel for them.
Some would expect you to walk them through in person, while others would be just fine with an email or a notification in a digital shared space (like Notion or Basecamp).
🛴 Start from the basics
These might sound a bit ‘obvious’… but if they’re so obvious, how come most of us hardly do them?
a. Send an agenda before every meeting with your stakeholders, so they’ll also be able to come prepared.
b. Send a meeting summary including their inputs to increase their trust and motivation.
c. Share your ongoing progress and challenges, and escalate when needed.
🎉 Celebrate success!
a. Circle back regarding their feedback.
b. Share ongoing results.
c. Bring cupcakes :) Personally, for me, a product launch could never be complete without cupcakes.
You can’t make everyone happy… or can you?
Here are a few tips that could help.
- Don’t be ‘all business’. Create a dialog that is a bit more than just the weather. Especially now, when most of us are working remotely, getting a bit close & personal is always a plus.
- Engage early and often, and don’t assume they know all about your product.
- Get familiar with other initiatives they’re involved in, and be sensitive to their priorities and capacity. How Covid-19 is affecting their team, new initiatives they’re involved in, competitors’ influence, holidays and seasonal effects, HR changes, and more, could significantly affect your stakeholders and their teams. Be caring and try to work it out together when possible.
How can you benefit from your stakeholders?
💡 Learn more about the industry. Your stakeholders are experts in their field and ‘picking their brain’ could only level up your game.
📈 Identify growth opportunities. Your stakeholders can direct you to business opportunities like new markets, partnerships, and innovation, but not only. Personal growth within your organization and industry is immensely affected and driven by your stakeholders. Don’t miss out on these opportunities.
👩❤️👩 Establish a real connection, trust, and peace of mind! Don’t waste energy putting out fires and running in circles all day. Invest in the relationship with your stakeholders and you could gain so much more from a true alignment with them.
To wrap things up… Relationships and trust are key to the success of your product. If your stakeholders don’t support your product, your product will be considered a failure even if you aced every other aspect of your product management process.
Now, scroll up 👆 and map your stakeholders to understand what keeps them up at night.
Hope you found this helpful :)
Director of Product, Soluto.
🎥 Hebrew speakers can enjoy my ProductTank meetup presentation with more tips here :)