Guest Post by: Marissa Fong (Mentee, Session 5, The Product Mentor) [Paired with Mentor, Bill Gourlay]
Product management requires product strategy. What are your customers’ needs? How do you best solve for these needs? How do you get your team and organization to effectively solve for these needs together. These are all key questions addressed as part of product strategy.
Having no formal product management training, I found myself inheriting three products areas in the span of six months as my company continued to reorganize. I then learned that I would need to re-launch two of the products as well as hit aggressive revenue targets in one year. How was I to best achieve these organizational mandates? Initially, I thought I needed to simply focus on development processes as the product and technical teams were highly tenured and still in waterfall. To my surprise, the key need across my multiple products was to identify and drive the product strategy.
Below were what I brought to the products and how I was able to drive for quick results.
- Focus on core customers and their needs – It sounds so simple and trite but I learned that customers and their needs can be quickly forgotten or deferred as operational activities, organizational changes, cross-functional agendas and other distractions arise on a day-to-day basis. By clearly articulating the customer and their needs as well as how the product solves these needs (and preferably better than anything else in the market), the product team can keep itself and its partner teams focused. For us, the first step was to engage the end users to learn about their day to day activities and pain points. We then continued to meet with our customers and users for feedback on an ongoing basis and as part of our design sprints. Because my products are in categories that aren’t particularly differentiated, this engagement alone also sets my products and brand apart from the competition.
- Expand Value Drivers – With a focus on technical solutions, particularly in digital products, it is easy to forget that there are often other value drivers for a customer. Pricing, partnerships, compatibility with other systems, and servicing are just a few value drivers that should be considered, particularly if they are easier to implement for a customer relative to what is available in the market. One of the value enhancements that we quickly identified were synergies with other products and channels for cross marketing opportunities. An example, if a client decided that it wanted third party data in one of our reporting products; we also implemented a way for the client to get that data visualized in my product, all in one set up process and for minimal fees.
- Prioritize ruthlessly – Product management activities are extensive – from understanding customers to communications with various teams to partnering on execution. Given the demands and constraints, which at minimum includes time, there needs to be ruthless prioritization for what matters most and what will bring value to the client. This helps to ensure value in the product. We started by focusing on getting the products – with the personas and basic use cases – right. For any release and go-to-market activities, we leveraged the activities of other product teams, by synchronizing our release dates. This also allowed us to minimize our pilot activities and, in turn, will create more buzz with the ultimate launch.
- Leverage best practices from and partner with other teams – Product strategy can apply not only to what and when to fulfill a customer’s needs but how to best get it done. The fact is that Product cannot deliver alone and the best way to address the customer’s needs is to ensure that all teams are in sync and that the teams do it together. By continuously evaluating and improving processes together, teams can ensure collaboration and partnership in creating and delivering superior products. As an organization, mine was use to outsourcing development to various dev shops. With one of my products, we decided to use a consulting company that would not only extend our product, design, and technical teams but coach us in the current agile development processes. This allowed us to achieve two goals with one initiative – better improve our development processes and deliver a new product.
A lot of focus has been placed on new technical processes and approaches. To ensure that best-in-class products are delivered for customers’ needs, product strategy must be core to all activities.
Marissa Fong is a product manager based in New York City. She is a collaborative, results-oriented, and experienced product manager, with a strong track record of launching and scaling products. She is currently leading a team of 5 product managers in managing a portfolio of products, which includes a B2B web app, web channel, and platform.
More About The Product Mentor
The Product Mentor is a program designed to pair Product Management Mentors and Mentees around the World, across all industries, from start-up to enterprise, guided by the fundamental goals…
Better Decisions. Better Products. Better Product People.
Each Session of the program runs for 6 months with paired individuals…
- Conducting regular 1-on-1 mentor-mentee chats
- Sharing experiences with the larger Product community
- Participating in live-streamed product management lessons and Q&A
- Mentors and Mentees sharing their product management knowledge with the broader community
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The Product Guy