As a product manager, you’re much like the CEO of the product. You define the ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘where’ factors such as what the product does, why it’s unique or where it sits in the marketplace. From conception to production, this is a mammoth challenge, and a lot a lot rides on your judgment (no pressure).
So what are the main pitfalls you should look to avoid so that your product stands the test of time?
1. Don’t be selective in hearing customers
Writing off any valuable feedback from customers that don’t ‘fit’ the bill of your ‘target market’ is an absolute no-no. Listen to your edge cases – this is how you get actionable feedback on your product and to understand how it is likely to be received in the market. You might be surprised by what you learn.
2. Kill your darlings
It’s hard to admit when a product feature is not working or making the grade. No matter how many hours, days, months or even years you’ve glued yourself to your seat to make this seemingly ‘perfect’ feature, if it doesn’t make the cut with your customer, then it’s just brave to put it aside. Ask yourself if your initial predictions about this feature was right, go back to the drawing board, and tailor another feature to your customer’s needs. What you don’t want is your customers’ product user experience ruined by a feature they don’t actually need or want!
3. Don’t stick to what you know
PMs come from diverse backgrounds (such as engineering, marketing, sales etc) and increasingly more of them are making the common mistake of sticking to only what they know they do well, such as a product manager with a sales background spending more time crunching sales figures than actually meeting the customers. Step out of your comfort zone and delve into all aspects of the product lifecycle. This allows you to work with cross-functional teams and learn new skills.
4. If the product isn’t ready… release it!
This might seem crazy, but PMs often feel that a product needs further ‘polishing’ with more additional tweaks and extra ‘features’ before it can be released to the purchasing world of customers. This is the one of the worst mistakes a PM can make. Test, test, and test your product again, and let your customers tell you what they think. Worse in a lot of cases is actually better. Products can be ‘polished’ as they go along. Apple has this down to an art (think of the numerous iPhone and iOS iterations…).