How To Be A Good Product Manager

Tips on product management and product marketing for product managers. By Jeff Lash

Address the most important problems

Posted on August 27, 2007 by Jeff Lash · 2 Comments

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If you want to be a bad product manager, avoid fixing the main problems with your product. Sure, you know that it doesn’t run as fast as it should, or that the amount of storage available is less than what customers really want, but there are all sorts of reasons why you can’t fix those problems. So, instead, just add some other features or upgrade another part of the product. It will take attention away from the parts that aren’t as good as they can be, and it gives your sales and marketing staff something to highlight.

If you want to be a good product manager, address the main issues facing your product. If storage capacity is important to your customers and the inadequate storage capacity in your product is hurting sales and customer perception, fix it. Don’t pretend like it’s not a problem. Don’t explain why you can’t fix it. Don’t make some other upgrades instead. Confront the problem directly. If the issue is serious enough, it may even be appropriate to put off all other projects until the major problem is resolved.

Imagine you are the product manager for a passenger car. The mid-level sedan has leather seats, a sun roof, keyless entry, and a huge trunk with a full-size spare. However, the engine is very weak, causing the car to struggle getting up hills when carrying several passengers. Your sedan is losing out to a similar car from a competitor that has an adequate engine and fewer features, despite the higher price. What would you do? Would you lower the price, add a high-end stereo system, or improve the performance of the engine? Despite how obvious the answer seems (fix the engine, of course!), there are countless products where sometimes unnecessary features are added to attempt to compensate for major flaws.

Why does this happen? It depends, but some causes could be:

  • Product managers and product development teams are so caught up in the awesomeness of their product that they can not look at the product objectively, as a customer would from his or her perspective.
  • The problems are hard to fix and product managers think it is easier to add more features or lower the price.
  • Working on new features is more exciting, interesting, and rewarding than fixing existing ones, and may be more highly regarded within the organization.
  • There is a mistaken belief that major flaws with the product can be skilfully avoided through good marketing.

Good product managers confront the major issues facing their product, especially those that are having significant impact on revenue and customer satisfaction. Rather than ignoring the problem or trying to avoid it, you should make sure the entire product development team is aware of it and focused on fixing it before moving to other areas.

Translations available:

How To Be A Good Product Manager features tips on product management and product marketing, written by Jeff Lash (@jefflash on Twitter), Vice President and Group Director for the Product Management and Portfolio Marketing research and advisory services at SiriusDecisions.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • Xilin // Aug 30, 2007 at 11:28 pm

    Hi, Jeff! Happy Blog Day! I’ve recommend your blog on mine, and I love your articles on product management! I have translated this article into Chinese onto my blog, thanks again for your work!

  • Chris // Aug 31, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    Good post – immediately made me think of the cell phone companies, who for years thought that poor coverage and inferior signal strength could be overcome by flashy phones and lots of TV commercials…

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