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Product Management

Product Management

Product Managers: Use Design Thinking to Beat the ‘Feature Factory’ by @NikkiElizDemere

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

What is a Feature Factory? It’s a phrase coined by product management consultant John Cutler in response to a software developer friend’s complaint that he was “just sitting in the factory, cranking out features and sending them down the line.”

His barometer for whether you’re working in a “Feature Factory” hinges on whether the impact of your work is measured (or even discussed), and iterated on accordingly. Basically, if all you’re doing is spinning out features, and taking far too little time to consider whether they’re solving core problems for your audience and measure their success or failure, you might be a ‘factory’ worker.

Hopefully you aren’t – and hopefully your competitors are, because the “Factory” system is easy to beat when you take a Design Thinking approach. Remember: Even though they produce a lot of features, Feature Factories aren’t serving their customers well.

This oversight can give you the competitive edge.

“Your product is designed to solve a problem. If you’re adding a feature that doesn’t contribute to the solution, you may be wasting your time and worsening your product in the process.” – Kissmetrics, Why More Features Doesn’t Mean More Success

How to Beat the Feature Factory With Design Thinking

Though methods of putting Design Thinking into practice differ – it’s a creative process, after all – a few central tenets remain true. It’s all about empathy, diversity, and cross-functional collaboration. Fundamentally, it’s a human-centered approach to design, as opposed to a technological/scientific/feature-forward approach.

That means, the ideation process begins by thinking of the humans you’re working to serve.

And that requires a great deal of empathy.

Read more onDigital Surgeons


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Customer Success, Product Management

How to Get Product Managers Excited to Work with Customer Success by @NikkiElizDemere

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

A Customer Success team is only as good as its information. After all, if they waited until the customers told them what’s wrong — they’d be Customer Service. In order to take a proactive role in helping customers achieve their desired outcomes, Customer Success has to know:

  • Their customers — what they want, what they need, and how to bridge the gap between what your product does and this desired outcome.
  • The onboarding process — where new customers tend to get stuck, where they drop out, and what can help them get over those hurdles instead of churning.
  • Usage — how well is the product working for the customers? Where they stop using it. What they’re hoping to find — and don’t.
  • Growth opportunities — when the customer will benefit from using more of the product, or an additional feature. Basically, when it would serve their interests to upgrade.

Customer Success is Who covers the What, Where, How and When — but my question is:

Why aren’t other departments clamoring at their door for these insights too?

These are insights that can benefit the entire company, reducing churn, raising revenue, and giving the business every piece of information it needs to become an integral part of its customers’ lives.

But, most of us come from a tradition of strict departments. You do your thing; I’ll do mine. Which, along with a combination of territorialism and downright inefficiency, leads to data silos.

These are MY numbers and nobody else can have’m!

And I’m sure some companies have good reasons for keeping everything compartmentalized — but when you have a Customer Success department which, naturally and necessarily, has its finger in every pie, it’s absurd not to use them as the resource they are.

But I’m preaching to the choir.

Most of you reading this are Customer Success. So you don’t need me to tell you how important your insights are or how much good they could do.

You need a way to get your insights heard.

Because you can’t give your customers what they need by yourself.

You need Product Dev.

This is about how to form that partnership in such a way that Product Managers become more interested in what’s going on with the customer and want to get involved — instead of staying one step removed.

Read More on Success Hacker


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Customer Success, Product Management, SaaS

Product Managers: Why You Should Include Customer Success Milestones In Your User Flows ft. @Wootric & @16v

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

As a Product Manager, you develop user flows to chart how customers move from signup to successfully using your SaaS product. Your colleagues in Customer Success are doing the same thing — mapping a flow of customer milestones to success.

But “success” can mean different things to PMs and CSMs. And, while both teams employ user flows (or customer journeys), what they put on them are very different, reflecting their very different goals.

You are responsible for making the product functionally work, with enough awesome UX so it’s relatively intuitive for the customer to use. For your team, “success” often means that the product works. It does what it says it will do, and does it well.

Customer Success is responsible for helping customers use the product to achieve their desired outcome. Most of the time, that desired outcome isn’t in the product – it’s outside of it. For example, if I purchase a budgeting app, my desired outcome is to save enough money to sun myself on a Caribbean beach, with a good-looking server to bring me fruity drinks with umbrellas in them. The Customer Success manager’s job is to get me there.

You might say it’s a conflict between focusing on the world inside the product and the wide, wide world outside of it.

And that conflict can bring about a deep divide between Product and Customer Success.

Yet, we’re all working towards the same goal: Creating a product people love, need and want more of.

What if you were to bring both user flows together, so the functionality inside the product meets the desired outcomes outside of the product?

Read More on Wootric


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Product Management

A Product Manager Communication Survival Guide (or how to tame information overload) ft. @johncutlefish

a-product-manager

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

It’s all you, baby.

Or, more accurately, it’s all on you.

The burden of communicating among teams, in between departments, and being the go-to get-it-done-guy/gal for CEOs and managers – it all tends to fall heavily on the Product Manager’s shoulders.

Product Managers are the linchpins of their organizations. The fillers of “the white space” – the processes and tasks that need to happen, but for which no one is specifically responsible.

Among their many, and varying responsibilities, Product Managers often orchestrate the exchange of ideas, conduct collaborative brainstorming sessions, and ensure that vital data reaches its destination, broken down into what we call Little Data, the understandable, actionable molecules. And they do it over and over and over again, rephrasing the same information fifty different ways, for fifty different people, all using it in different ways.

As PM, you’re the one building a shared understanding of what’s going on.

data-drive-kpi-tracking-product-manager

Roman Pichler’s diagram scratches the surface of the many responsibilities often assigned to PMs, but as John Cutler, prolific product management writer and consultant says:

“In a lot of organizations, you’re swimming in this diagram. You’re all over the place. Especially in a smaller organization, this diagram might be your brain.

The scary thing is that, depending on the company, you could add facilitating team problem solving, team decision-making, meeting with lead engineers and everyone else – you’re on the phone constantly, even with customers. Product is the connective glue. They literally fill the cracks of everything.

Read More on Notion


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Product Management

Better Product Strategy Meetings in 5 Steps ft. @ProductPlan

product

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Ah, a free exchange of ideas. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Until you’ve got five stakeholders sitting in an enclosed space spitting out “Must Haves” like watermelon seeds in a county fair contest. Ideas are great, but a strategy everyone can agree on is better. How can you get from one extreme to the other?

Well, it’s a lot like this, but with fewer horses.

Successful product strategy meetings don’t happen by accident — they require planning and expert execution. So here’s a 5-step formula to help make your meetings run more smoothly and effectively, and round up those maverick cats.

Read More on ProductPlan


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Product Management

Product Managers: Don’t just Build Products – Build Bridges ft. @MindTheProduct

product-managers-build-bridges

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

As product manager, your vision drives the heart of your company. You might be responsible for the product development roadmap, strategy and features, or even marketing, and competitive market analysis. Because you wear so many hats, you’re the best person in your B2B company to form bridges between departments usually kept separate, including: product development, sales, marketing, customer success and customer service.

Why would you want to take on more when you are already responsible for so much?

It might seem like a fool’s errand – it isn’t. When you bring these departments together by finding where your goals intersect, you’ll be able to make each department’s job a little easier and a lot more effective in driving retention and revenue. And, you’ll become one of the most valuable, and valued, people in your company. Here’s how.

Read More on Mind The Product


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Content Marketing, Customer Development, Customer Success, Product Management, SaaS

Free E-Book by @NikkiElizDeMere: How to Align SaaS Content Marketing and Product Management

success

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

You’ve seen the studies – companies that retain customers grow bigger and faster than companies focused solely on customer acquisition. You can fill your funnel to the brim, but if your onboarding process acts like a leaky sieve, you’ll never have enough revenue to build and grow sustainably.

The good news? You have everything you need, right now, to create a sustainable system for acquiring and retaining your ideal customers.

It’s not a magic formula. It’s just two people: Your content marketer and your product manager. Working together.

We hear you. We understand every objection rattling off in your head about the crazy – COMPLETELY CRACKERS! – notion that content marketers could actually help your product development department:

  • Do better work, more efficiently
  • Be less distracted by support tickets
  • Align behind a single, shining vision of your ideal customer
  • Produce products, features, and updates that result in retention and growth
  • And have more fun

These are wild claims to be sure, so allow us to present you with a 3-part paper that will show you how your content creators and product developers can join forces to build the kind of business you’ve envisioned all along: A business with the right products, successful customers, and zero limits.

Read More on Inturact


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Customer Success, Product Management, UX

SaaS customers aren’t lazy – they’re busy.

saas-customers-arent-lazy

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

An astute customer success agent recently asked me why I wanted them to make good on their 30-day money back guarantee. The answer I gave included the words: “I’ve come to peace with the fact that I’m lazy.” As in, I can’t be bothered to run through ten tutorials to get your product up and working. I was making a joke out of it, but the fact is, I told a boldfaced lie. I’m not lazy. I’m busy. And devoting 10 to 20 hours to learn how to do this thing that another software can deliver on a silver platter doesn’t make sense in the context of my life.

Your prospects and customers aren’t lazy.

They’re busy.

When you let that paradigm shift shine down through the ranks of everyone in your company, you will see lasting, positive results in terms of retention and lifetime value.

So let’s dig into this idea a little deeper, because paradigm shifts don’t happen in a paragraph.

“Often when we say customers are lazy, we’re really saying ‘our product is hard to use but that’s the customer’s fault,’ or something similar.”

—   Lincoln Murphy

If the feedback you get from your customer success agents, sales reps, and customer service department includes the word “lazy” – treat it as a red flag. Find out exactly where customers “get lazy,” because that’s likely where your user experience (UX) is failing. How kind of those busy customers to let you know!

Sounds fairly straightforward, right? But this runs counter to most of the advice for SaaS startups on the web. Typically, that advice sounds more like this:

“Most customers sign up, and then get too lazy to use your product or service. Offer them a 30-day money back guarantee if they give you another shot. Show them how to use your product the proper way.”

 —   Rishi Shah, Digioh

Whoa there! You just let your product development team off the hook when, very possibly, they should be looking at your onboarding process and UX more closely for ways to make the product more intuitive. Or, perhaps, you could offer a live chat feature that pops up for new customers, right at the point where you’ve noticed they tend to get confused (because you track these things, right?).

Where and when do new customers typically fall off? For most SaaS companies, churn happens after just one or two uses, which means the customer isn’t finding what they need, or they’re not finding what they need fast enough.

I don’t know about you, but my life is too short, and I am doing too much, to take hours out of my week to learn to use a new product.

Some might say this is because I’m a Millennial. As a member of the largest generation, the generation that is swiftly taking over the workforce and is increasingly responsible for the tides of the global economy (for better or worse), I have a “digital native’s” expectations for technology products. When I get frustrated with a product, I have the same reaction as this Millennial quoted in a recent Nielson Norman Group article:

“When one Millennial user was intimidated by the tech specs on a computer website, he said, ‘I want to go to the store or chat online. I want someone to explain this to me better.’”

The article continues with another salient point:

“We frequently see Millennial users getting stumped in usability testing when they encounter difficult user interfaces. Their interactions tend to be fast-paced. Because they spend less time on any given page, Millennials are more likely to make errors, and they read even less than the average user (which is already very little).”

Okay, okay, so we don’t read the instruction manual most of the time (do you? Does anyone?). Google and Apple’s slick interfaces spoiled us early-on, and studies have shown that Millennials expect that same level of simplicity from all interfaces – even the interfaces of programs that offer complex, high-powered features.

“When interfaces fail to live up to those unrealistic standards of simplicity, Millennials rarely blame themselves – unlike older users. Millennials are quick to criticize the interface, its organization, or its designers.”

When your product has so much to offer, it can be a tough pill to swallow when a customer won’t spend the time to learn how to use it. And maybe your target customer is a software engineer who will read the manual and revel in your tutorials. But, for most SaaS businesses, your users are busy – which makes your challenge this: What steps can you take to make using your product faster and easier so they can achieve the end results they want? Start with quick wins.


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Customer Development, Product Management

5 Worksheets You Need to Build Out Your Customer Development Strategy ft. @sgblank

customer-development

If you’ve read about the Product Death Cycle – a dire consequence of letting user feedback run you ragged – you may feel that asking prospective customers to guide your product development and marketing efforts is like waltzing on a pirate ship’s plank: One wrong step and you’re sunk. Yet, even though there are a myriad of missteps possible, customer development can save you from even more by giving you the precise information you need to find product/market fit.

In The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step by Step Guide for Building a Great Company by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf, their introduction to customer discovery begins with a list of things NOT to do – which also neatly describes five common pitfalls to which founders attempting customer development often fall victim:

“It’s instructive to enumerate all things you are not going to do:

  • Understand the needs and wants of all customers
  • Make a list of all the features customers want before they buy your product
  • Hand Product Development a features list of the sum of all customer requests
  • Hand Product Development a detailed marketing-requirements document
  • Run focus groups and test customers’ reactions to your product to see if they will buy”

The “Product Death Cycle” begins with just such a recipe. This is when well-intentioned entrepreneurs gather as much qualitative data as they can from all potential customers and act on all the feedback.

All is where the danger happens. And it’s all too easy to fall into it – which is why these 5 worksheets from The Startup Owner’s Manual* come in so very handy.

*Note: We have no affiliation with this book – we just think it’s incredibly informative and hope you do too!

Read More on Inturact


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Customer Development, Customer Success, Product Management

Why the Customer Success Manager is the Product Manager’s New BFF by @NikkiElizDeMere

bff

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

In 1853, U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry (no, not the Friends actor) sailed to the shores of Japan to strongly suggest (with several gun-laden vessels) that the ruling shogunate open Japan’s ports to outside trade. For 200 years, Japan had embraced a policy of near total isolation from the West, but with the Industrial Revolution fresh out of the oven, even isolationist Japan couldn’t ignore the benefits of trade. What does this history lesson have to do with Product Managers and Customer Success?

In most companies, each department is like its own, relatively isolated shogunate. Each manager has his or her patch of office space to rule, and each kingdom is somewhat suspicious of its neighbors. Take Sales and Marketing for example – a Corporate Executive Board Survey cited in Hubspot’s “The Power of Smarketing” revealed that 87% of the terms Sales and Marketing use to describe each other are negative. I would venture to say that the feelings of Product Managers towards Customer Success Managers are neither warmer, or fuzzier.

After all, as Product Manager, you’ve developed a product that works – why should it be your problem if buyers can’t figure out how to use it?

Nobody is going to hold a 19th century Paixhan shell gun to your head (they’re far too heavy), but opening your borders to Customer Success is the only way you’ll survive and thrive. Here’s why you, as Product Manager, should embrace Success. All across the SaaS B2B industry, this new and vital discipline is being developed. CSMs are charged with optimizing customer relationships, increasing product adoption and reducing churn.

Read More on Wootric


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