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10 Thoughts for a New Product Manager

A photo by Léa Dubedout. unsplash.com/photos/N6STB5KbRUU

A Product Manager is responsible for the overall success of the product, driving the product strategy and managing the product release launches.

A product manager at one company is different from a product manager at another company.  Are they a Product Manager or a Product Marketing Manager?  Is the Product Manager also the Product Owner?  Is the company doing agile development? Are they part of the Marketing Team or they part of the Engineering Team.  Or neither?  It can be overwhelming.

I’ve been a product manager at a few companies and wanted to share some thoughts of wisdom to new Product Managers.  Here I go:

  1.  Communication is key to being successful.  Play it safe by over communicating. Over document.  Take notes at meetings and include many folks on the emails about the meeting.  You can’t keep it all in your head.  You don’t want an upset someone to come up to you after a launch and tell you that they should have been notified. Make sure that it is clear on who does what in the company about the product you are managing.
  2. The product is being built for the client’s happiness.  Keep that in mind always.  It is not for your delight, the programmer’s ego or the investors pocketbook.  When you make a change to the product, think about how it will affect clients.  Think like the end user.  Ask them for their opinion.  Go out and talk to them.  Find out what makes them happy.  Act as the voice of the customer in your company.
  3. Develop a great relationship with others in the company (quality assurance, tech publications, developers, sales, support, pre-sales support, etc.) that do affect or can affect the product.  Be friends with everyone.  Help them when they need real help (but see thought #5).  You never know when you will need a favor from them.  Understand your audience.  Don’t be too techy with members of the Sales Team.  And the engineers want to be involved.  Including the look and marketing of the product.
  4. Control the terminology.  Don’t let others change the product terminology.  Sometimes others will simplify the wording while others make it to hard to understand.  The Product Manager must be the terminology police and stop others from using incorrect terminology.  If necessary, have a glossary that is accessible explaining the terminology so that everyone is on the same page.
  5. Learn how to say no.  Not everything you will be asked to do makes sense or should be done.  Say no nicely and explain why.  Make sure your boss is in agreement on the no answer.  Not everything said to you needs to be actionable.  Everything has a cost.  Make sure you find out the why for the request before acting on it.
  6. If you have educated everyone that you need to know everything happening with the product, you will be sucked into every meeting including those with customers and presentations to prospects.  Be ready for it.  Don’t complain about it.  And of course this leads to the issue of item #7.
  7. You will need to work long hours.  Since you will need to be in a lot of meetings, you will be receiving a ton of emails that you need to review and reply back.  Communication takes time so you will need to work a lot of hours.  Be efficient and make quick decisions.  Remember to take care of yourself.  Exercise and eat right.  Pace yourself.  Try to be as happy as you can in this 7×24 responsible position.  Work on your work life balance and make sure you go to your family events.  But you will need to sneak time at night and on weekends to stay on top of your job.
  8. Be a good writer.  You will need to communicate with your writing skills whether it be a key messaging document, status emails, web content or a news release.  So the better you write and the faster you write the better.  Block out your most productive time of day to focus on writing.  Try not to get distracted by interruptions such as emails during this productive writing time.  Also remember that to be a good writer you need to be a good reader as well.
  9. Learn from others.  Being a new product manager hopefully means that you have others in the company that has been doing it longer.  Take them out to coffee and pick their brains.  If one is available, attend meetings held by the local Product Manager group.  There is a great deal of information available online.   Pragmatic Marketing has a great deal of resources at: http://pragmaticmarketing.com/.  Always be learning and reading.
  10. You are the glue for the product and the person that makes sure that everything that is necessary for product success is in place.  Don’t be too focused in any one area.  Don’t always hang with the engineers.

Hope that this helps any new Product Managers out there.  You have an important job.  It is not an easy job.  You have a lot of responsibility but little power over others.  You will get good at spinning many plates and communicating with others.  I would love to hear your thoughts for a new Product Manager.

 

 

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