If you want to be a bad product manager, compete on the same dimensions that have always been used in your industry. Another web host offers 1GB of disk space, so you should offer 1.5GB. Another search engine indexes 1 million documents, so you should index 2 million. Another photo editing software offers 25 filters, so you should offer 30. After all, these are the things that matter to customers, or else companies wouldn’t have been focusing on them for this long. Make sure your strategy is to take what the competition is doing and do more of it and do it better.
If you want to be a good product manager, question your assumptions about what matters to customers. Access to round-the-clock customer service from a web host may be more important to your target market than another 500MG of disk space. Indexing speed or ease of installation may trump maximum index size. Extra photo editing filters may be worthless or detrimental if customers never use them.
In A Pointed Lesson About Product Features, Marc Abrahams discusses how companies tend to focus research and development efforts using “industry wisdom” about what aspects of a product customers use to make purchase decisions. With just a bit of research, though, he shows how those assumptions are often incorrect, and how companies who compete on the standard product dimensions are no better off than companies who don’t.
Questioning even the most basic assumptions and conducting appropriate research will ensure you are focusing your product development resources on the areas that matter most to the market and gives you the opportunity to leap ahead of competitors who are not.