Your very own product management toolkit — Part 1
In my last post describing What Product Management Is, I introduced a graphic that helped me put my definition of a PM in a comprehensible way.
I talked about each of the major skill categories as well, but now its time to drill down into all the sub-skills. This will give you an interesting insight into the different jobs a PM does on a day-to-day basis.
Here is it again to refresh your memory. And today I want to focus on the Effective Communication X User Empathy intersection in detail. There are three skills that I thought were important. Here we go!
Analytics and Critical Thinking
As a PM you might regularly do a lot of broad view analysis of the products you manage. This is done to understand how they are doing in the market and find some gaps that you can fill. Metrics are the fuel to validate your ideas, so you are always on the lookout to understand how you can prove that your feature/product/improvement is important enough to be worked on.
If analytics and data are the fuel, Critical Thinking is the vehicle using it to drive your decisions (lol). You are going to need to connect some dots that don't necessarily want to be connected, by doing a deep dive into your problem and solution statements.
For example, you are a PM for a meditation app like Calm.
One fine day, you are looking at your metrics and you realize that there is a noticeable drop in users after the first use of your app. Many of your users download your app, but for some reason are not engaging with your app after the first time they used it. This could be a potential problem if your business model runs on user retention. Especially for an app like Calm, which requires people to constantly use the app in order to better their mental wellbeing, and also subscribe to their premium model for revenue.
So now you put yourself in the user’s shoes and wonder, what could be the reason?
After doing some surveys, user testing, and critical thinking, you realize that the users simply are not able to prioritize meditation as part of their busy schedule and forget to use the app again after downloading it. The users say that they wish they would use it more.
So what can you do to fix this problem without annoying the user?
Well, Calm created this great Mindfulness Reminder feature for the user. Instead of sending you annoying notifications randomly throughout the day, they gave their users the ability to remind themselves at the time when they should be reminded to meditate.
And to take it a step further, their notifications are not intrusive and are always unique with a motivational quote to convince you to open their app again.
This is why Calm has really good user retention and a loyal customer base. The PMs did a great job on this one while making sure the user experience matches the theme of their service.
This stems from an interesting quote I saw from Product School —
A user doesn't care about your product, they only care about their problems.
User testing and interviews are some of the most core functions of a Product Manager. You must be able to gauge the user’s feedback and suggestions both directly and indirectly from their answers. This can be used to find new features, products, or even work on improvements for your current ones.
This also gives you a very strong foundation when you release your product since you know there has been user validation.
For example, let's take one of my personal favourite product companies, Spotify.
Through deep user testing, they may have realized that a lot of their users listen to music while driving, and have struggles changing the songs while driving, and would put the safety of themselves or others around them at risk.
When they gauged it was a serious enough problem, but they wanted to improve the user experience for the driver in the car. they made a solution for this. Spotify Car View. Have you ever used this feature? It shows true User Empathy that they care for their users in all types of situations.
You can see that they removed all unnecessary navigations and icons, and increased the size of the most used features that users use while driving.
Finally, as a PM, you are the main spokesperson of your product in each stage of its existence. You need to be able to pitch your product to get it built and keep the motivation within the team strong during the development.
Finally, once its time for release, you need to emphasize the importance of your product by use of internal and external marketing, as well as demos and presentations. It’s always fun to talk about it with your friends and acquaintances as well. It’s like your little baby. You want to show it off.
One of the best evangelists in the game was Steve Jobs. If you have seen his keynotes, you would know why.
But another great example of the same I saw recently was for this app called mmhmm.
It's a new tool to make video conferencing meetings and presentations more appealing and interactive.
Phil Libin, the CEO (who also founded Evernote), keeps it simple and lets his product do all the necessary talking while showing the demo video for his app. He touched all the relevant pain points and pretty much sold it to everyone who understands the struggles of communicating over video conferencing.
I actually got a Beta testing invite for this through my company, and I have to say its really promising.
And now we have reached the end of this post. I hope you enjoyed seeing these real-life examples of the skills of a PM in action.
Detailed explanations of the other intersections are to follow, so stay tuned.