Product Management Ideas - Part 4 [Ever-Growing Free PM Book]

Disclaimer. These ideas are not mine. A lot of great people share their thoughts about different aspects of product management. I’m gathering the ones I find the most useful.

  1. Customer-Centric Product Development
  2. A Better-Than-Nothing Framework For Validating Product Ideas
  3. Strategic options for mature products
  4. A Quick Primer on Psychology for Product Managers
  5. 6 Guiding Principles for Effective Product Discovery
  6. What to do if you have a cool product idea
  7. Launching A New Product? Don’t Forget The Rest Of The Company
  8. Fill the magical UX persona template
  9. Accepting Uncertainty is the Key to Agility
  10. Finding Your Product’s Critical Events

31. Customer-Centric Product Development

What Trader Joe’s Can Teach You About Customer-Centric Product Development

For software vendors, collecting information via in-app messaging from users while they are using the application is a very powerful way to ensure real-time, accurate feedback. And by combining an in-app messaging strategy with usage intelligence, product management and marketing can segment the audience and ask targeted questions about very specific pieces of functionality, gaining insight that might never become apparent through traditional customer feedback channels.

Talking with a user through in-app feedback can be as simple as prompting them to give a thumbs up or thumbs down rating on a specific piece of functionality. What’s more, any response collected with usage intelligence data appended allows product management to drill deeper into the computing environments and habits of those users, breaking down attributes according to ratings, and drawing more information from that.

Was a happy user running a newer browser version than an unhappy one? Did his machine have more memory? Did he use the functionality longer than someone who gave it a thumbs down? These are all valuable insights that can lead to developing functionality that users love.

For a more nuanced look, users that gave the functionality a thumbs down can later be prompted to add more detail to their initial response through campaigns targeted only to them. This will lend deeper insight into where the problems lie, whether they are widespread, and inform strategies on how to best tackle them, quickly.

A big part of building customer-centric products is meeting the business needs of customers before they make a split for the next best substitute (or in the case of the older woman at Trader Joe’s, not making a purchase at all). With a robust in-app messaging and usage intelligence strategy, immediacy and agility can become anchors in the product development process.

32. A Better-Than-Nothing Framework For Validating Product Ideas

A Better-Than-Nothing Framework For Validating Product Ideas

Narrow your audience. Solve for a need. Build for a want. Use ‘Need’ to identify your audience, where they shop, and why they are looking to buy. Use ‘Want’ to identify why your audience will pick your product over an alternative, whether that be a competitor or the status quo.

Validating product ideas

List your idea at the top — this part is easy. You already have an idea. Write it down.

Audience — write out the various audiences you think your product could be used by. If you have a long list, consider asking yourself who your initial target niche is. It’s hard to build for a broad audience. Start with a group who you think would get the most value out of your product.

Need — write down why your audience needs your product. This is the basic ‘job-to-be-done’ that your user has. If you sell cards, maybe your audience has a need to buy a card for a birthday party they are attending. If you sell running shoes, maybe your audience wants to workout, and needs athletic shoes. Need is simple- keep it that way.

Want — write down why your audience specifically wants your product. Maybe that birthday card buyer, when presented with a variety of options, wants a funny card, or they want a card with great art. Or maybe they just want the cheapest card. Maybe your athletic customer wants shoes that are good for a certain arch type, or more durable that other offerings, or maybe the fabric is imported from a fancy European nation. You get the point- your customer has a basic need, but a variety of reasons why they might want your variant. Understand what makes you different.

Write your summary statement — if you have good answers for Audience, Need and Want, this part should be easy. Write in the bottom box the following: [YOUR PRODUCT] helps [TARGET AUDIENCE] with [NEED] in a [WANT] way. Mad libs never felt so productive, and now you have a succinct sentence explaining who your product is for, as well as why they need and want your offering.

33. Strategic options for mature products

Strategic Options for Mature Products

A product is mature if it has stopped growing: The benefits it creates no longer rise. Instead, they have started to stagnate. In terms of the product life cycle model, the product has left the growth stage and entered maturity, as the following picture shows.

Product life cycle with maturity focus

Ideally, you should continuously track the product performance and regularly review the product strategy—at least once per quarter as a rule of thumb. You should therefore become quickly aware of the fact that the product performance is stagnating and your product is entering the maturity stage—which I regard as an important strategic inflection point. This enables you to be proactive and thoughtfully respond to the change. Note that eventually every product enters maturity; no product can continue to grow forever. The only question is when this will happen.

Option 1: Extend the Product Life Cycle

Once your product has entered maturity, your first option is to move the product back into the growth stage thereby extending its life cycle. A number of techniques can help you make an ageing product attractive again including enhancing its capabilities and adding new features.

Sometimes, though, the opposite strategy is more appropriate. Instead of adding more features, you may want to remove some and declutter your product. Another way to stimulate growth is to take your product to a new market or market segment. Finally, you might consider bundling your product with other offerings to increase its attractiveness.

While rejuvenating the product and moving it back into growth may sound attractive, it is not necessarily the right thing to do for your product. If you should choose this option depends on a number of factors:

Option 2: Keep the Product in Maturity

The second option is to accept your product’s trajectory, let it continue to mature, and keep it at this stage for as long as possible, as the picture below illustrates.

Accepting maturity means adopting a more conservative mindset and playing a defensive game: You typically want to protect your product’s position without investing too much time and money. This often results in incremental enhancements and bug fixes rather than bigger changes like adding brand-new features.

This approach allows you to turn the product into a cash cow—a product that creates plenty of business benefits while requiring a moderate to low investment. But to be able milk it for an extended period and prevent early decline, you must not become complacent and neglect your product.

Keep an eye on market developments including changes in user behaviour, moves by competitors, and new trends that may affect your product. Continue to track the product performance and regularly check if the current strategy is working. And invest the money required to keep the product beneficial for its users.

The second option is right for you if you don’t need to or if you can’t rejuvenate the product: New products are in the pipeline that can eventually replace your product, which are also referred to as question marks and stars, or you are able to secure new products through an acquisition.

Alternatively, the effort to extend the lifecycle is just too big. This may be due to the product category losing its attractiveness, the product having been in maturity for too long, and / or poor code quality.

At the same time, you are happy to turn the product into a cash cow maximising the value it creates for the business while carefully managing the investment required.

34. A Quick Primer on Psychology for Product Managers

A Quick Primer on Psychology for Product Managers

One challenge that Product Managers face when designing new products or features is that behavior and perceived opinion are completely different things. What people say they are going to do versus what they actually do are not the same. Understanding human motivations can help product managers grapple this.

Psychology distinguishes between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. This means that someone can be driven to do something either by external factors, like the prospect of receiving a reward such as money, or by internal factors, like the enjoyment derived from doing an activity.

Extrinsic motivations are great to initial traction for products, but product managers should also dwell on creating intrinsic motivations to ensure stickiness in the long term.

Leveraging Motivation to Drive Behavior Change

Fogg behavior model

The model assumes that a behavior is most likely to happen when a person feels sufficiently motivated, is able to perform the behavior (for example, they want to go for a swim and they have access to a swimming pool) and is reminded to perform it by a trigger.

Traits of an effective psychological trigger include:

Simply ensuring that the three components are present might not be enough to create a persuasive interface that encourages behavior change. A user can be motivated in several ways, and what motivates one group (for example, earning money for working out) could have a detrimental effect on another group.

Similarly, ability level likely varies between users, and some might prefer certain triggers to others. To design a successful product, you will need to tailor the three components of the model to your users and thoroughly understand your target audience. A few tips to achieve this are:

Keep It Simple

Cognitive Load

We want to reduce the amount of attention that people need to use the product. To encourage conversion, we have to lower the mental effort that is requires of your customers. Amazon does It will with one button buy now click. Minimal user cognitive load also implies users don’t have to strain their mind to understand the product and navigation. They just start using the product effortlessly.

Declarative Knowledge vs. Procedural Knowledge

The flow of the product should be designed supporting the users, showing what steps that they have to complete with the use of clear guidance and options. We should provide only related information and reduce application noise. Humans tend to do something well when clear instructions and suggestions are given to them to complete a task.

Field Theory

Human behaviour is influenced by two pressures:

As Product Managers, we often ignore inhibiting pressures when we actually want people to do something more. We automatically resort to promoting pressures when we think of wanting people to do some more. Its when we think of wanting people to do something less, we think of introducing inhibiting pressures. Removing inhibiting pressure removes friction, and ensures users reach the “wow” moment on your product as quickly and as effortlessly as possible.

Emotion vs. Reason

Human beings are emotional creatures and much of our actions are a response to our emotions rather than to a reasoned process. Research shows a clear link between emotional connections with a product and sales and longevity. Cooperation between design and marketing can create emotional stories that make products easier to be adopted and then appropriated. Appropriation itself is a rich source of emotional stories and should be investigated carefully during iterations of both design and marketing approaches.

Social Theory

Social identity is the perceived identity of an individual within a group. An individual may adjust his identity to “fit in”. Besides, trying to fit in, humans also want to stand out. Though both seem contradictory, but if both or one of these things are not accomplished by your product, the possibility that users will be happy is very less.

Fallacy of Sunk Cost

A real player is very reluctant to discontinue an activity once they’ve already put effort in. If you look from a gaming context, a player is much more likely to return to look after items that they’re dealing with if they’ve either earned the items themselves or they’ve paid for it.

Product Managers can use this strategy during free trial by getting users to invest something so that they will convert. Find a way to incentivize them to take the first step. This will then activate the principle of consistency, where users will be encouraged to remain consistent with their own previous intentions: I’ve started so I’ll continue. At which point they’ve invested time, effort or money which encourages further investment leading to habitual use.

35. 6 Guiding Principles for Effective Product Discovery

6 Guiding Principles for Effective Product Discovery

Start with Empathy for Your Audience

If we want to identify successful solutions, we need to start by building empathy for the people who will use or be impacted by our solutions:

Explore the Problem Space Indefinitely

No matter how much discovery we do, we’ll still get things wrong. We can’t fully understand the life or experience of another human being. We’ll never be able to do some research and then call it done. There’s always more to learn. There’s always another nuance or another exception to uncover. This is why adopting continuous discovery practices is so important.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on delivery once we’ve identified a target solution. But we need to always keep the door open to other opportunities. We need to continuously ask, “Are we still working on the most important opportunity? Do we fully understand the problem we are solving? Have we learned anything this week that surprised us?”

Stay curious. Explore divergent perspectives. Keep defining and shaping the problem space:

Map Your Way to Clarity

To better use mapping on your team, try these tips:

Use Theory as Inspiration (Draw from first principles)

Too often, innovation leads to a different solution, not a better one. Different isn’t necessarily better.

First principles are fundamental concepts or truths that we can base our solutions on. For example, an engineer might base their solutions on first principles from physics. In the product world, we often base our solutions on first principles from psychology. If you’ve ever used cognitive biases to inspire solutions, this is an example of drawing on first principles or using theory as inspiration.

Theory and first principles help us frame the problems that we see, ensuring that we don’t innovate merely for innovation sake, but instead solve real problems. They also can inspire solutions providing value throughout the discovery process.

For those of you who don’t have experience drawing from first principles or using theory as inspiration, try these tips:

Co-Create Solutions that Meet the Unique Needs of Your Audience

Too often we jump to the first solution that comes to mind. Our brains are remarkably good at closing the loop—when we hear about a problem, we jump to solve it. But if we want to find good solutions, we need to take the time to make sure that our solutions are tailored to our customers’ specific needs.

As we gain more experience in our domains, we tend to cling to things that worked for us in the past. We forget to ask, “How is this situation different?” To avoid this pitfall, try these tips:

Surface and Test Underlying Assumptions

Whether you were inspired to experiment by The Lean Startup or if design thinking has convinced you to prototype your way to solutions, both encourage you to test your assumptions, not your ideas.

Seeing your own assumptions can be hard. Here are some tips to get you started:

36. What to do if you have a cool product idea

“I Have An Idea” – How I Evaluate Product Ideas

The 5 questions to ask to determine if a new product idea is worth building:

Before spending resources on a new product, make sure there are people who have the problem you’re solving, and that they’ll pay for a solution. The 5 questions you must know the answers to.

37. Launching A New Product? Don’t Forget The Rest Of The Company

Launching A New Product? Don’t Forget The Rest Of The Company.

The secret to a successful product launch is in the consistency of the process. Most experienced managers have a checklist they use:

38. Fill the magical UX persona template

User Personas: Traps And How To Overcome Them

Prior knowledge describes what the persona knows about the product or product category. Professionals or experts will need less education during the onboarding process. Hobbyists and those who have never used such applications will need extra information to keep in mind all through the design process.

Context means the environment, time and place people will use the product in. A noisy train or quiet library? Will the user have much time to comprehend all the features or will the product rely on its speed? It all influences the kind of design and features needed in the product.

The problem takes the form of an easily described tangible issue. Thinking about social media, it involves wanting to communicate with friends more often or knowing more about them.

The motivation, the reason why the user wants to solve the above problem, comes from a deeper, more personal level. The core motivations, the reasons, usually require a higher level of knowledge about the user and real insights into the user’s mind.

User persona template

39. Accepting Uncertainty is the Key to Agility

Accepting Uncertainty is the Key to Agility

There are things that we don’t know about the work we’re trying to do, and that the best way to drive out that uncertainty is not by layering analysis and conjecture over it, but rather accepting it and moving forward, driving it out as we go along.

There is, was, and always will be things that we don’t know about and cannot predict about any project that we’re starting work on. Truly being agile requires that we understand this, accept it, and don’t allow it to get in the way of us starting a project — because we know things will change as we learn.

Practically, being able to accept uncertainty about our project, product, or feature allows us to start work and begin learning without delaying for lengthy analysis that is likely to be irrelevant within a few sprints regardless.

Time spent gathering more information is better spent as time actually building something, even if that something doesn’t wind up being the be-all, end-all solution that we want in the long run. Once we have learned something, we can incorporate that learning into our next iteration, and the next, and the next — constantly iterating to deliver additional product increments, while driving out the uncertainty that is present over time.

We won’t figure out everything, but we will be able to shift some of those unknowns from the “unknown unknowns” bucket into the “known unknowns” bucket, and eventually discard them entirely as “known knowns”.

A lot of the miscommunication and misunderstanding that surrounds stakeholder expectations comes from the false sense of certainty and specificity that waterfall, big-upfront-requirements approaches bring with them.

When we dispose of the pretense of understanding the entire scope and scale of a project at the outset, people are less likely to be surprised or disappointed when things change as we move forward — in fact, if we’re doing it right, they should be expecting it.

40. Finding Your Product’s Critical Events

Finding Your Product’s Critical Event(s)

Steps to finding your critical event?

  1. Keeping your product’s core value prop in mind, define a list of critical actions users can take within your product.
  2. Form a list of hypothesis based on the events identified.
  3. Analyze your 3/7/14 day key KPIs for retention, sessions, activation and revenue for new/existing user cohorts based on the hypothesis you developed.
  4. Repeat step 3 for each hypothesis until you have narrowed down your choice of critical events.
  5. Now that you have narrowed down your choices, run as many “cheap” experiments as possible to try to validate your findings. The intention here is to separate correlation vs causation because this can’t be determined from past data.
  6. Once you find your critical event(s), then align all your marketing and product activity to drive users to perform that action.

What to look out for?

  1. As you are analyzing your data, keep track of any other variables that may impact your analysis.
  2. Knowing your product usage interval is very important to this exercise. A product usage interval is the frequency with which you expect users to use the product.

Go to Part 3 and Part 5


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