"Design is often the most immediate way of defining what products become in people's minds."

Product Manager Resources: Marketing, Usability and More

Written by SANDER NIZNI. Posted in - Everything, Creativity, Outreach, Portfolio, Product Management, Research, UX Boom

Original post: November 25, 2014 | GoogleScholar | Academia.edu

Why Product Management

Scope of Product Management disciplineAt a recent Meetup for UX Designers in San Francisco, I learned that many aspiring young User Experience Design professionals would love to launch their career in Product Management but don’t know where to start. This is natural trend of thought among progressive thinkers in many IT disciplines: those who have mastered a singe technical domain often want to broaden their career horizons by applying their talents and experience in a strategic context, which is how many good product managers are born. In this discussion, I offer my personal insight into the science of Product Management, as well as an extensive list of resources for those who aspire to become product managers.

Background

My experience in Product Management began with UX designAs a UX designer and usability analyst, I have been actively engaged with product managers throughout my career. I also have personally managed many products – software, hardware and even retail product lines (e.g, my job at Amazon). Consequently, I have become what some might call a “blended specialist.” My personal experience is that the best of the product management folk are people who are good at finding synergies between product design (engineering, usability, front-end development, data analysis, etc) and product marketing. In the course of my career, I have lived through a good number of situations and have come across a good number of resources that in part shaped me into who I am today – a solid product specialist, as well as a better product designer than I was before I managed my first product.

Product Management in Three Bullet Points

Product Managers aren’t born and aren’t simply trained to become such. Some of the best product managers I have met evolved from engineering or marketing specialists and as a result tend to have blended backgrounds that offer a balance of at least two of the following (in no specific order): (1) marketing skills, (2) data analysis skills, (3) engineering/coding skills, and (4) product design (UX/CX/XD) skills. But let’s crystallize Product Management in three manageable bullet points (again, INPO):

1. Product Management Starts with Marketing

The 4Ps of Marketing Whether you like it or not, product management is “married” to product marketing. So, if you want to be a product manager, you need to understand the principles of marketing. Start with learning about the “4 Ps of Marketing” – Product, Pricing, Promotion and Placement.

To start, accept one fact: nine out of ten good-looking and perfectly functional products fail – usually within a couple of months after deployment… because they are not marketed properly. Moreover, two out of three marketable, successful products happen to be not-so-good-looking and don’t do “everything” – because successful products are good at reaching and connecting with (targeting) their audience and addressing that audience’s needs. A product can target more than one audience (e.g., college students vs. veterans vs. divorced females with two or more children), but it doesn’t have to target more than one audience in order to be successful! To identify your target audience (also known as “target market”), you perform a market segmentation analysis and a competitor analysis, and you define a positioning strategy, among other things.

As a result, in managing a product, you don’t only develop and iterate it – as that way you would be either a project manager or a product developer or designer. Instead, you look for (and hopefully find) ways to market the product effectively to your target audience. Long story short, if you want to be a successful product manager, you absolutely have to understand marketing: know your audience, know your competition, and know how to connect your product’s value offering to your audience’s needs without over-developing or prematurely optimizing the product, as – love it or hate it – “premature optimization is the root of all evil” (Donald Knuth).

2. Evangelize the Product

Know your product and how it fits in your marketing equationThis one is obvious: you must know what your product or service does, and you must know its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis), as well as its competitive advantage (hopefully a sustainable one!). And finally, you must understand how your product fits in your overall marketing strategy. But how do you “really” evangelize it? You take responsibility: you become the voice of the customer/user and you take pride in ensuring that your product does what it is supposed to; and you make solid, systemic effort to grow your user base and to understand (and correct) the pain points of your existing user base.

You need to know the product inside out, like the back of your hand. And you need to be prepared to defend it with arguments and examples that can effectively dissolve any doubt in your target audience’s mind that your product is the best.

In other words, you must “own” your product and you must (really) believe in it – evangelize it inside your head, on paper, at trade shows, in your promotional materials, in face-to-face interaction with prospects and clients, as well as when working with engineers, designers, business developers, and stakeholders in your company to deploy and iterate the product.

3. Be a specialist in at least two fields

Get technical!That’s right. No one likes product managers that have minimal or no technical skills. If you have zero technical skills but want to be in charge and have a classic Type A personality, become a salesperson. But if you want the responsibility of managing the product’s strategy, you need to be technical.

I personally have 10+ years of experience in UX design (visual, IxD, IA, and others), a college degree in marketing, extensive experience in project management (including agile/scrum), and academic training in process design and BPM (business process management). It also helps that I know quality assurance and testing routines, data analysis, and economic analysis. For me, managing a product is a natural way of applying my diverse skills to contribute to my team’s performance.

If you have at least two technical skills (for instance, data analysis and interaction design, or finance and visual design) and understand marketing, you can be an effective cross-functional player – capable of leading products to success by productively collaborating with other team members in your organization – i.e., you will “speak” their language, understand their needs, and communicate your needs to them in order to successfully design, deploy, improve and promote your product together.

Learning About Product Management

Product Management ResourcesFew accredited colleges offer degree programs in product management. Further, self-study materials are rather limited due to the young age of the product management discipline – particularly in the digital domain. Where does this leave you if you are eager to become a hot product manager but have never managed a product? This is the easy part. If you are in fact passionate about product management, I can offer you these educational resources to help you become an ace of product leadership.

The list is organized in sections sorted in ascending order by complexity. Enjoy. Share. And please report any broken links.

Product Management 101: What is Product Management?

Product Management 102: The Philosophy of Product Managers

Product Management 103: Product Management as a Career Path

Product Management 104: Product Development

Product Management 105: Advanced Practices

Product Management 106: Working for Requirements

Product Management 107: Planning, Strategy and Roadmapping

Product Management 108: Collaborating with Developers, Engineers and Designers

Product Management 109: Living for Feedback

Product Management 110: Shipping Win-Win Deliverables

Product Management 111: Building Solid Product Management Teams

Product Management 112: Becoming a Guru

Product Management 113: Becoming a Monster

Do you want to talk about this? Do you know of a more elegant solution? Message me on Twitter or using the contact form on this site.
 

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