If you want to be a bad product manager, only worry about what gets added to your product, not how customers will take advantage of it. There may be some features that you don’t want everyone to see, or that may require some setup. Just put them in the product but don’t worry too much about how they’ll get set up — that’s for some other group within your organization to care about. Your job as a product manager is just to get the feature in the product, not to figure out all the details of how customers will enable the feature. Sure, it might be possible to make the process smoother, and customers may have to jump through some hoops, but if they really want it they won’t mind taking the extra effort.
If you want to be a good product manager, consider all aspects related to any add-on features. A product manager is not only responsible for identifying what needs there are in the market. The product manager must also figure out how those needs should be filled by new or existing products.
There are many valid reasons to include something as an add-on to an existing product, including: to utilize an existing platform for lower cost and broader distribution yet still allow for additional revenue; to provide capabilities for one customer segment while not overwhelming another; or to leverage brand recognition while expanding the product portfolio. Usually product development teams spend a lot of time deciding whether or not to include something as part of the standard product, and much less time determining the steps for how someone would obtain that add-on. In fact, how easy it is for the customer to enable the feature or buy the add-on can be a big determinant of how successful it is.
Imagine that you have a great new feature for which you have validated the market need and determined that the best approach is to allow this to be added on to an existing product. This could be a home networking option for your cable modem. It could be an extra section of content on your web site. It could be an adapter that can be added to a jogging stroller to accommodate smaller children. If you want to launch these as add-ons, what do you need to first consider?
- How will customers find out about the option? It does not matter how beneficial the add-on may be if customers do not know that it is available. Rather than just “build it and they will come,” product managers need to make sure that customers of the existing product are aware that the options are even available.
- For example, jogging strollers usually are designed for toddlers, though some provide options to accommodate infants. Customers shopping for a jogging stroller need to be informed whether a particular stroller can accommodate an infant, and whether there is an add-on which will allow for use by infants. If it is unclear whether a stroller is designed for an infant, or whether an adapter is available, then customers may inadvertently overlook a stroller which meets their needs.
- How will necessary details be provided to customers? The level of detail provided about new standalone products is often more than provided about enhancements to existing products. If the product team treats an add-on as just an enhancement to an existing product, the result may be a shortage of information for customers viewing this as a separate purchase or setup. Product managers need to understand the decision process that customers will go through and make sure that the information is available and sufficient.
- For example, if you are adding a new section of subscription-only content to your web site, you need to provide a way within your existing site structure to promote and explain this new content. If the rest of the site consists of free content, then this provides a unique challenge of having to explain the value proposition to customers. Making customers available of the option is simply the first step; in this case, customers may require details around pricing, availability of archives, and various access options — all much more than would be provided were you just adding another section of free content.
- How will customers enable the option? Once customers are aware that the option is available, it must be straightforward for them to take advantage of it. Convoluted and cumbersome processes will reduce the number of customers taking advantage of this capability. The process for enabling the option needs to be part of the consideration when creating the option in the first place.
- For example, many Internet service providers include add-on options such as wireless home networking. If it is easy and quick for a customer to set this up on their own, this could be a big benefit. However, if this requires contacting customer service, scouring your router for technical details, and waiting for the option to be enabled by the service provider, these steps may negate the potential benefit and turn away prospects.
Additionally, product managers need to think ahead about how they will segment customers who utilize this option in the future. The web site in the example above has a simple way of communicating to customers who have purchased the subscription-only content, while the Internet service provider may have more of a challenge identifying customers who have enabled the wireless home networking option. Part of the product requirements would likely be to be able to identify customers who have enabled this option so that any necessary billing, communication, and support can be addressed.
Good product managers not only identify the customer need which is being addressed — they realize that in order to really fulfill that need, customers need to be aware that a solution is available, have the appropriate information about the solution, and have an easy and smooth way of taking advantage of the solution.