Resolve to Overcome these 6 Product Manager Mistakes
Fix or Avoid these Six Common Product Manager Mistakes and Maximize your Role
Happy New Year! The new year offers each product manager time for reflection, assessment, and of course resolutions for self-improvement and greater achievement. The quest to be better product managers is a work in progress as we try to keep pace with an ever evolving and dynamic marketplace.
The practice of product management is unique in its demand for individuals to be capable planners, strategists, marketers, owners, leaders, and managers. It is a paradox with the expectation that individuals in the role be responsible and accountable with limited authority. It is a role that is truly satisfying and rewarding.
For those of you aspiring to achieve higher performance, improved efficiency and increased effectiveness as a product manager in 2018, I offer you this list of 6 of the most common product manager mistakes to fix or avoid.
As you review this list, do so with the understanding that very few product managers make all of the mistakes listed, but if you are a product manager looking to enhance your effectiveness, correcting even one of these mistakes will get you closer to achieving your goal.
Mistake #1: Working without a Written Plan
The lack of a written plan can lead to wild changes in strategy because no one can point to specific reasons for why things are being done. The instability created by this product manager mistake is toxic to effective product development and product line management.
Written plans crystallize the market needs and associated product requirements and provide the documentation, reasoning and commitments that drive what is to be done. It also provides the centerpiece for changes and modifications, which, when documented, add clarity and keep all the resources focused and on track.
Mistake #2: Lack Strategic Marketing emphasis
Many product managers talk about doing market analysis, but most don’t ever get close enough to their customers or prospects to fully understand their true needs or wants, appreciate how products can be differentiated, or recognize which adjacent markets should be explored.
The level of commitment a Product Manager has to strategic market analysis —and how effective he/she is at it—makes a significant difference in product planning and 4P strategies. Product managers who market strategically have offerings that are better positioned in their markets, will target their market segments better, and define product requirements that are aligned better with customer needs.
Mistake #3: No Lifecycle Planning
It is never a good sign when a product manager says, “I’ve got so many products in my product line I can’t manage them.” This product manager mistake is indicative of someone who is not lifecycle planning.
Managing a product portfolio is like managing an investment fund. Product Managers need to be capable lifecycle managers knowing when to get rid of under-performers, how to leverage good performers and when to introduce new products that enrich the portfolio over time. This means that lifecycle management must be at the center of product management strategy rather than a one time event.
Mistake #4: Failure to Lead
The product manager role is one of leadership. Not all product managers embrace this. Leadership is a quality that is hard to define, but it’s perhaps most obvious in its absence. With this product manager mistake the organization is usually late to market and playing catch-up.
Leadership, means taking risks and making trade-offs. It means opening yourself up to criticism when a product fails or when your judgment is wrong. Leadership is having the facts about your business and being able to stand up and say, “As the leader of the product line, I feel this is the direction we need to go” then plant your feet, have the courage of your convictions, and be the champion of your product line.
Mistake #5: Myopic Product Focus
Product managers who exhibit myopic product focus are those who fail to define the “whole product,” and see only the features and functionality of the physical product. Focusing solely on features without looking at the whole product minimizes the overall value of your product offering.
When the broader picture is understood, product managers can start to consider product solutions that include the tangible and intangible qualities that customers are looking for. This is where product managers can bring added value to the customers and create sustainable competitive advantage.
Mistake #6: Following a Single ‘P’ Strategy
The one thing product managers have more control over is the Marketing Mix, the ability to create product strategies that utilize the 4Ps: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. Unfortunately, many product managers don’t recognize or don’t understand the importance of employing all four Ps as part of their product-line strategies.
For B2B product managers that oversee product lines with long life cycles, place, promotion and pricing are significant levers to pull for long term growth and profitability. Spend some time analyzing the other Ps, maybe the product is in the wrong channel or the value proposition isn’t accurately established for the market. Perhaps the product is not effectively differentiated to support the pricing. Possibly the product offerings are not targeted to the right market segments.
No product manager is immune from making these mistakes, the important thing is that you recognize the mistakes you’re making and take the appropriate action to fix or avoid them. If you find that you are making multiple mistakes on this list, don’t be discouraged, you’re not alone. Take them one at a time. Identify the mistake on the list you believe is the most significant to you and focus on it. The result is worth the effort.
Greg DiCillo, president of Maximal Product Management (and author of Dominate Your Space: Unleashing the Power of Your Product Managers) shares his research insights with companies that want practical steps to establish a culture of high-performance product portfolio management.