Episode 01: A Story Of A Product
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Today’s episode of product management podcast is about the in the life of a product, not Product Manager, a product, I’m going to take you on the journey from the idea, or actually a bunch of ideas to a single product that was taken to the market. First of all, let’s look at the product context. Let’s look at what is it that makes it a product in the context of this particular industry and Product Manager scope of responsibilities. This particular product was built for a wireless industry a few years ago. For those who are unfamiliar with wireless industry, this is the slide where you have your regular United States carriers, your AT&T, T Mobile, Verizon, or whoever else was there at the time. They provide services obviously, the cell phone services, they also dictate what kind of phones can be used and the procedures and how to actually Activate the phones how to which plans to use to owners of wireless stores. The owner of wireless stores can operate anywhere from one to 100 different wireless shops or stores where smartphones are usually sold where you can buy a phone upgrade the plan or sign up a new plan Adeline and so on and so on. They’re also warehouses the may or may not be associated with the companies that own wireless stores. In either case, wireless store owner pays the warehouse to ship the equipment to ship the phones and accessories to the stores. As customer goes into the store and buys a phone or upgrades the line or as a new line or buys a brand new service that earns the store owner a commission. That’s that commission is in most cases the only the only income or most of the income that Marla store owner has the income that comes from operating the shop the wireless store is insignificant compared to the Commission’s they still earn some kind of revenue based on sales of the accessories. However, cell phone usually does not bring in as much money as commission paid by the carrier to the wireless store owner for the purchase of the phone or a purchase of the new occupation of a new line or upgrade of the existing line. That’s pretty much as much as you need to know about this industry. As much as you need to know about the context to understand what the products and ideas were at the time and to kind of take get on with this journey. Additionally, when I look at parties that are involved, as I said, there’s carrier there is wireless store owner, the warehouses and the actual stores plus the customers who are buying this Interesting thing is this industry is the business with a small margin. What this means is there’s really little revenue generated by selling the phones or upgrading lines or any of the activities. So as the business with thin operating margin, these cut the these businesses store store operators are really price sensitive. You can’t really say hey, here’s another product that costs $10,000. Buy it and everybody jumps and buys it. It goes down to the point that people have switched vendors switch software vendors, if they see 510 dollar difference a month for subscription price. About 60% of this market is operated by mom and pop shops. What this means is about 60% of the market owned by store in Digital stores from one to three stores, businesses that operate no more than four stores. That’s about 60% of market. On the other side of the spectrum, about 20 25% of the market are large companies that own hundreds of stores. It’s kind of your premium segment, those companies can afford the expensive tools, those companies can afford expensive products. problem is there’s only 20 to 25% of the market operating, it was operated by those companies.
That’s most of what you need to know or all of that you need to know in regards to the business side of this industry. So let’s move on to what is product manager does what is it product managers responsibilities in scope of this particular product, when we’re going to talk about is someone who is operating their product as a business the person who’s responsible for all aspects of product success in a way although this term is somewhat from The fund a product managers emini CEO, he drives every aspect of the product, yet he does not get the CEO compensation. She as you can imagine, product managers involved in all sides of product from idea to development, to taking it to the market supporting interacting with customers, marketing, finance, legal, you name it. With that said, let’s embark on this journey. Let’s look at this journey of a bunch of ideas was sort of that to individual product to a single product that went to the market. First and foremost, what is the idea funnel? Obviously, you need to have a funnel, same as a sales funnel, if you will, where you have a bunch of ideas, you sort through them, you make sure that you pick only the right ideas and you get rid of wrong bad, dead in the water ideas really quickly, in our case in case of this particular product We started with about 35 ideas that we together generated that were addressing about how just 14 customers requests and by customer requests. I mean, our sales people went met with clients or had extensive conversations over the phone. And they collected all the asks all the ideas, all the requests in a pretty neat Excel spreadsheet. So everything was documented, everything was prioritized. Five people wanted this then people wanted that hundred companies asked for this. It was pretty robust list of as I said about how just 14 customer requests as we sorted and sifted through this list, we ended up with about 25 hot asks that generated about five prototypes. And those five prototypes eventually generated a single product addressing three high value points that we took to the market. So where ideas come from Since ideation is your period where a product manager goes and talks to a bunch of people, ideas can come from anyone. ideas can come from CEO CIO sales support, even marketing, the problem with CEO and CIO, they have way more weight to throw behind their ideas. So they tend to say, hey, let’s do this because I think it’s a great idea. Guess what? Not always, not always CIOs idea or CEOs idea are the best. In many cases, they’re usually loud because there’s the loudest person in the room being the C level executive. So, this is where a product manager comes in and tries to do their due diligence. This is where the product manager responsibility comes in. Where he says, You know what, let us collect all these ideas. Let us go through to analyze them and see which one hold water which ideas actually makes sense versus the idea. Is that just look cool? Sounds cool. But that feasible either from the market standpoint from an implementation standpoint, or just simply not interesting to the customer, and they are a solution looking for a problem. So what happens on the ideation stage? What happens at the stage where you generate all these ideas, and everybody’s excited, and CEO, runs around and asks, so when are we getting? What are we doing this? When can I look at this and see if it’s done? At this point, you ask yourself and you ask customers and you ask your subject matter experts? Would the actual customers be interested in doing this ideas would actually solve a real pain point for a customer? What is customer think about this idea? You can even mock up? We call it a fake demo. So you mock up a demo, when in the demo, you mock up a data or you mock up certain functionality, but you show something live at the idea stage, you can throw together a workflow or a couple of screenshots.
And you show the customer Hey, Mr. Customer, this is approximately what it would look like. Does that make sense to you or not really, you can discuss real ideas of the customer so you can prepare a serious pitch. As long as customer understands what you’re talking about, they should be able to understand and provide the feedback. So how does it work in the real life? We had an idea for a brand new messenger for alerts and updates. So we approach a customer and ask them Hey, would you be interested in getting these dedicated messenger that would not be that disruptive for with messages from your relatives, but not distract you from anything else, you will only get alerts and updates about specific transactions. For example, if customers come if customer comes back to the store and tries to return their phone, it’s the deal for a store. So a manager needs to be notified. If a customer comes back and wants to upgrade the phone to but downgrade the line, it’s a big deal for a store manager needs to be notified. If the store is running on a really popular phone store manager needs to be notified, maybe someone needs somebody above the store manager needs to be notified. So they can approve additional inventory purchase. All these things needs to happen in near real time. And we thought it would be a good idea to keep customer in the loop. Their response? Hell no. We’re being bombarded by text messages from our relatives. Men face Facebook messenger from friends Viber what’s up a bunch of others and you guys want us want to give us another messenger? Please don’t. So obviously after talking to a couple of customers, they said yeah was dead in the water. Again, this was mostly targeted to companies that owned a Hundreds 10s and 10s and hundreds of stores. Therefore the are limited amount of customers would be interested in in that service. Obviously, if just a few of them thought it was incredibly bad idea, we didn’t expect others to say yes, great. Give me give us more messages. next idea that we did a bit of a research nowhere near prototype just just kind of did our homework was real time emotional voice sentiment analysis, kind of put microphone right next to the point of sale, and try to analyze what the customer thinks what based on the tone of the conversation that they had. Obviously, it didn’t work out. Because these stores are enormously noisy environments. It would be very hard to capture specific customers voice. Customers tend to roam around the store trying different phones as they interact with a salesperson. So the idea was dead in the water because We could never guarantee that we’re going to capture long enough conversation to assess the sentiment. Another great idea that we thought we had was inventory trends. Obviously, apple, Samsung, other companies release their phones at a specific time. different models come out in different quarters, flagship phones always come out close to the end of the year to bad companies bottom lines. So there’s a certain seasonality to the data. And we thought we could analyze that. Apparently, it was way too hard to analyze. From a developer point of view, we didn’t have enough resources we didn’t have enough data and we company were wasn’t that invested into this idea. So the idea of analyzing and providing insights into the inventory trends sort of died out. Next cool idea on the on our list was employee schedule, in this industry, who process that transaction matters. Because the cell salespeople in the store are also commission based. So if john doe sells the phone to a customer, john doe earns $1. If he upgraded the customer to a more expensive plan, he earned $5. This needs to be recorded with together with a transaction as it happens. There’s also certain level of fraud going on with people a lot of transactions outside of their working hours. And people forget to log out of the transaction or log out of their workstation, and somebody else may process transaction erroneously. And it gets attributed to somebody else. So the idea of implementing an employee’s schedule was floated around, hey, if this guy’s only in the store from five to nine, or from nine to five, then he can only log in the transactions during that time. Obviously, we had
some kind of legacy functionality towards that. Obviously didn’t work. People wanted to business owners wanted to Create schedules on the mobile phones or from the convenience of the home, they didn’t want to be in the store to create schedules in the point of sale. And additionally, a lot of sales people travel between the stores. So even though your schedule may be from nine to five, store may be open for 1216 hours at a time and your first four hours could be in the morning at store a, then you would take a break and then your next four hours of your eight hour workday would be at the store be in the evening. This is usually popular with high performance sales people where they are being thrown into the stores to increase the store performance. So they will be thrown in at the peak times whenever that store experiences at peak time. So this was pretty interesting and very important problem. Very important asked from the customer. But a company that I worked for realized that we’re not in the business of creating software for employee schedules. We’re in the business of building point of sales. So first so the functionality of scheduling, creating work shifts and managing employees schedule was partnered out. I did the research as a product manager, I created list of recommendations. We interviewed a few companies and eventually picked one. And it was partnered as we created the third party integration, where schedules and work hours and all of that was kept in a separate system, but it was referenced in the transaction. So we always knew who processes to try the transaction and who earned that commission. Another interesting problem that we ideated and actually did go to early prototype stage was the Endless Aisle back and 2016 2015 it was really cool idea about Endless Aisle where you had a physical store and you wanted to connect it to the online e commerce store, where you can order things online and pick them up at the store, order things at the store. Pick them up online, wherever you are, it would create the seamless integration experience. We prototype pretty successfully, a ecommerce integration between the point of sale and e commerce store front end. At samples, we’ve realized that even though we were able to successfully build the prototype, we will not be able to scale this once a lot of customers get on board. So this is this was an interesting problem. And we were glad that we caught it early on. Can we build websites? Can we build ecommerce websites? Absolutely, it’s no brainer. It’s so problem we can we can do that. But scaling it and maintaining it for each individual clients with their individual rules with their individual problems with their individual inventories and creating that inventory. Integration was somewhat complicated. And again, this was not the business who were in we’re not in the business of building websites, or in the business of building point of sale. So that idea actually got spun off into a completely new line of business. We’ve created a separate division within the company, where people integrated our point of sale with online Rp. So that the RP system was not only taking care of ecommerce front end, but tracking, shipping and a lot of other things that were not in the initial prototype. It worked out pretty well. It was even in the first year when we went from a failed product prototype into a successful line of business. It’s earned almost a million dollar, almost a million dollars for a $50 million company, which is pretty successful line of business in my book, given that the prototype of a product failed. Another interesting thing that happened actually, from idea to a product was inventory integration with third party websites. One of the problems that our customers were facing was when they added accessories to their inventory. They had to order those accessories from several websites. Some of those websites are sanctioned, approved by the carrier so they must buy from those websites. And the rest not so approved, but there’s better pricing. So our customers store owners had the joggle kind of do a balancing act between purchasing from the stores that were sanctioned. And purchasing from the stores that didn’t really that we weren’t sanctioned but had a better pricing. Obviously, when you’re a wireless store with a bunch of customers, it’s not like you’re ordering a couple of covers for one or two phones, you’re ordering 10s hundreds, thousands, sometimes 10s of thousands items, we’re talking about hundreds of SKUs and 10s of thousands
items. Obviously, if you don’t have an integration with your inventory module, it’s a problem to import all this inventory. back into your system, how can you sell something if it’s not in the inventory, we were able to build an integration module pretty simple. That would just parse the receipt, parse the purchase order, or the parse the invoice whichever was submitted with the list of purchases will list of the accessories and generate a list of products SKUs and names and import them automatically into our point of sale system into the inventory module. Therefore, removing anywhere from 10 to 20 hours of work per month for almost every customer, completely removing and replacing it with three four clicks of a mouse on the specific web page. We gave that product away for free, it became our retention tool. In other words, yes, you can go and use another system you can go on to another point of sale provider, another point of sale vendor. But hey, if you leave us you won’t be able to use This tool. So now you have to hire that person back and have them spend those 1520 hours importing manually, all these all these accessories all this inventory, because you’re not using our product anymore. It worked like magic. And the end of the day, we found an idea that sort of generated interesting buzz had that fuzzy, warm feeling where we thought, hey, maybe this is an interesting thing. Maybe we should look into this. It was a commission reconciliation. As I mentioned earlier, most of this business sits on top of commissions that carriers that a business owners for selling phones and activating lines can use a carrier tells you how much you’ve you’ve earned. And you don’t really have much of the information to say, hey, maybe you’re wrong. Maybe you’re right. I don’t know. We found a way to reconcile what happens at the store, what actually which transactions were actually pretty That the store versus those that were recognized by the carrier, we figure there’s a big discrepancy. And our customers may be losing 10s maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars by not seeing these the these differences not seeing these discrepancies and not disputing them with the carrier. This idea kind of took on and that’s the idea we ran with. As I mentioned, there’s a lot of prototyping and this the prototyping is really magic phase. During the product development, this is the time when you can ideate and prototype and experiment. Hey, I like this idea. Let me try it. And this is the time when you can fail. And well I can say without repercussion. But the repercussions of failing at the prototyping stage is really, really minimal. Its product managers responsibility to decide which ideas are working They have a prototype. I talked briefly about how we validated some of the ideas early with the customers and with development team and with the industry itself. But at the prototype stage, you really need to be asking these questions consistently, constantly, every day, as you build your prototypes. Why are we building this prototype? What’s the value? What’s in it for me as a customer, that I’m going to need this? Can we actually build this? And this is this is one of those things when we were unable to build real time voice, way sentiment analysis can scale and this is where we failed with the idea of Endless Aisle and ecommerce integration. Yes, we can build it but we cannot scale it. This is work the way it’s supposed to work. This is the time when you as you prototype. You start doing internal demos, as you build these internal demos as you conduct these turtled demos, you need to find believers in your product inside each organization inside support inside sales inside development. Why? Because you’re going to need support of those people as you move along as you move further in your product developing activities. Most importantly, can this product be sold.
And this is probably one of those big eye openers for a product manager, especially if you haven’t taken the product to the market from point A to point z. There are a lot of times when you think this is a great solution for the problem the customer has, but at the end of the day customer says you know what, I don’t want to pay for this. If this was free, I would gladly use it. But I’ll save my money for something that’s more important. I’m okay with experiencing this miles pain, if I can keep my money and as I mentioned earlier that This is a thin margin market, people are really price conscious. So a lot of products, we were not able to sell, for example, the product that we gave away for free, it has huge benefits of being retention tool. So it had merit, it had somewhat of a of a revenue attached to it in the form of retaining the customers. But customers there was pretty, they were pretty loud about this, we don’t want to pay for this, we’re not going to be paying for this event, if it would cost $1 a month, we’re not going to pay for this. And as you prototype and as you go through this, you start building a product brief, you start building the actual product documentation that you will enhance and build on top of as you move forward. Your prototypes as you move forward with them not very early prototypes are the most important thing you’re going to use to sell for sales. Sales should be your biggest believer. If sales is not believing your product, they’re not going to be able to sell it. Even if they try, they will inevitably fail. Sale your sales organization there your sales people need to believe in your product the same way you do as a product manager. On top of that, obviously, before you commit resources of development team or the company, you need to prove you need to show that the product makes financial sense. Sales are the people who will help you make that financial sales. And as you do the demo as you having conversation with sales, you need to understand if they can sell this product if they want to sell this product so they know what they’re selling to they know how to sell this product. They are your apostles. They are your followers, advocates, ambassadors, and this is what happens in the real life as you continue to engagement, internal departments, you’re doing demos, you’re doing these prototypes, you’re having hot conversations, you’re recruiting subject matter experts from each department. You updating them on schedules, progress challenges, hey, I don’t think this is working, we need to do something else or help me figure out this part. You need to show progress, you need to show that you’re taking that feedback, however bad it is. And you need to show that you’re implementing this. And this is what happens in the life of this product that that we’re looking at. We had a VP of Sales who was extremely negative towards this particular product. His opinion was that we’re wasting time wasting effort wasting money on I something hypothetical, you know, a pie in the sky, where we should be dedicating all the effort into fixing problems with the existing product. What he failed to realize, or maybe he didn’t realize, but he didn’t really care about it. Was that we had a legacy product, that it was increasingly more and more expensive to fix problems with that product, instead of building a new one, and the new one was in the way was too far away, but didn’t really make sense to fix issues, minor, especially minor issues in the legacy product if we knew that the new ones on the way. And as I had these meetings, either official meetings or one on one conversations, whether it be of sales, he went ballistic, he went extremely negative on the product. He started pointing all the inadequacies, all the stupid things like he called them in the product. I deliberately didn’t say anything. I did not react. I just wrote down every single thing he noted. Two days, three days, five days later, I came back and I showed him and now the prototype that addressed half of those items. He’s still win all medieval me and still showed me Hey, this doesn’t work. This doesn’t make sense, you should get rid of this. And week later I showed him the next prototype that addressed some of
his concerns, major concerns. And as we went through this on and on and on continuously iteratively, he saw that I am not only taken aback by these negative feedback, I’m using his him being emotional and being passionate about why this product should fail to really uncover flaws in the product design, fix them and give him a new version, a better version to go on about this kind of fixing things that he wasn’t most upset with. And in about month and a half, two months timeline, it turned him from being the most vocal critic into most vocal supporters. I was able to demonstrate by eternity meeting and providing it taking his feedback and providing value and providing updates fast enough back to him that not only I am listening and acting on what I think is very valuable input from one of the most experienced subject matter experts in the field. As this was happening, I was able to start recruiting other sales people from his organization into ranks of folks who believed in the product who wanted to see it succeed. As I started talking to the salespeople, they started sleeping out to customers that hey, we’re working on this product is going to be really cool. I want to talk to you about it, but later when we have something to show you. And this allowed us to get to talk to subject matter experts from the customers, people who are actually in the field. We’re actually experiencing this, these pain points and who actually were able to help us Figure out the business process behind this commission reconciliation problem and build a product around that business process. As we had these ICT hoc meetings and conversations with multiple departments, we went from 25 product features to just five. Why? Because we wanted to simplify it. One of the things that I didn’t realize was as I was building this product, I became so knowledgeable about this problem, I figured it out to the depth and breadth that not all customers are able to understand. So the product was overcomplicated product was not bad. It was just so sophisticated that only I could use it. So we had to simplify it. So even our smallest customers, or people without too much time on their hands to learn new things, could understand what we’re trying to give them and use it within their own business processes. Hey, We’re doing this reconciliation, let’s look at this report. Great, understand everything that it says, Let’s take this as an action item and move on. And don’t forget, as you work on this product, you’re going to have a bunch of other activities. So you need to fit your other activities into this product, product building exercise. On top of that, you will have these disappointing conversations. When somebody like your CEO or customer or customers representative will ask you, Hey, this is great. But can your product do this? And you’ll be really puzzled if you just talked about them, hey, this product makes coffee. And a customer looks at it and says, This is amazing. But can it also drive me from New York to Boston? And you would look at this, like, how did this how does that even connect? And apparently it doesn’t, but customers like to ask those things. So you need to be prepared for those conversations. Once you build your prototype, To the extent of the MVP, it’s time to take your product to the market. And taking your product to the market is a great time to do this one activity that I absolutely love. And not everybody understands what it is. So I’m going to I’m going to focus on this a little bit higher your customers. Your customers are already with you, they already paying you money, they already interacting with you pretty regularly. This is more true to b2b segment rather than b2c segment. But this is also possible the b2c segments as well.
Have your customers as the subject matter experts, and they’re going to be the most vocal critics, they’re going to be the most the best subject matter experts, not because they know better, but because they don’t think in terms of is this product good. They think in terms of Can I use this product in my daily life? How do I apply this product to solve problems I am experiencing today. And customers will help you look at your product from a different angle from a different point of view. Can I use this in my business process within my business processes? Or can I use it in my daily life? Like I said, product got too sophisticated and too complex for people to use. So Can someone operate the product without knowledge and expertise as much knowledge and expertise of product management God, as he was building this prototype? Does it truly makes their lives easier? Or is it just again, a solution looking for a problem as you talk to them, and this is what happened with us. We were trying to hire these customers. We had a list of 10 what we call the champion customers. We got about three of them picking up phones and answering our inquiries to agreed to help us one of the customers after the extensive demo and asking questions. Literally laughed in our face and said, You know what? This is crazy idea. This is crazy talk. There’s another company that charges $1,000 a ticket thousand dollars a month for doing this. The I’m just giving you an approximate pricing point at this time. They they’re charging thousand dollars a month for this. And they know what they’re doing. You guys have no clue. I’m not interested, Don’t ever call me again with this crazy idea. And we only ended up with two customers who were willing to work with us. We created the cadence, hey, we’re going to let you use this. We’re going to give you all the data that we have. Give us an hour, two hours of your time a week or every two weeks. So we can walk through your data with you and understand what’s happening. And you will provide feedback to us so we can understand if the product makes sense to you. And we had these goals we had about four or five goals. We went through the data with the customer. This is our report, this is how we would look at it. This is your report, tell us what you think. Tell us if that if this makes sense to you. And as customers started realizing the value this as they started to realize that they’re getting a lot more value than they thought they would. People talk, people started talking. And in this industry, people know each other. And about a month and a half later, I have a salesperson approaching me and telling me Hey, remember that guy who we did the demo for? And he didn’t want to do it? I said, Yes, of course. He’s He’s really smart. He asked really smart questions, and I really would love to work with him. So yeah, he wants to he wants to, he wants you to show another della. He wants to see maybe you guys made some progress, and whatever else, and it immediately struck me as somebody thought somebody shared their feedback about our product, our building our product with him. And now he wants in again and again, since he’s one of our valuable customers who absolutely let him and we absolutely said yes, he was our champion customer number three. It was great relationship, he really helped us figure out a couple of issues. And as a part of it, we were able to build trust and build relationships. If at the beginning of this, they had no idea who I am, they never pick up the phone never returned my calls, never answered my emails. In a month and a half after doing these demos. They knew my phone number by heart. They called me themselves directly on my cell phone instead of a company number. They will always pick up my calls on the first or second ring. It was absolutely amazing and great relationship that I had with customers because they saw the value that I was providing to them. And they were really interested in seeing more and getting more And they were genuinely which surprised me. They were genuinely interested in success of this product.
Another thing as you’re building the MVP as you’re going between the prototype and MVP, and the launch stage, is your ability to iterate fast. And the only way this is possible, is when you expose your developers directly to customer feedback doesn’t mean all the developers have to hop on the call with a customer, but you should not shield them from the harsh reality of the feedback. If customer says, Hey, this is crap. It’s a crap new developers know it’s a crap. And sometimes it’s painful for everyone. Sometimes you iterate too fast at this stage, and it’s also painful to developers. This is how we actually lost one of our developers want to our first developer that we hired, we hired outside of the con Because our developers within the company didn’t have capacity, and the prototyping phase is way too fast for them, I was able to create four or five, seven versions of the prototype within the week. And if if i had i given this job to our development team, I would only be able to get one. And this this was not the speed I wanted to move with. And one of the first developers, the first developer that we hired for this for building the prototype, it was too fast for him as well. And he was not happy that we changed things so fast. It was like in the morning, he would give me the the new released a new update, I would go around, do the demos. And in the middle of the day, at the end of the day, I would go back to him and tell him Hey, let’s redo everything. This rebuild everything and start from the almost from the scratch because this doesn’t work. He wasn’t happy he quit at some point. He quit and the spot said I can’t deal with this anymore. I don’t want to do this. And we had to hire somebody else. Now it was a requirement to be able to keep up with us with a fast pace of change. As you work with your champion customers back to hiring them, they help you validate not just the existing prototype, not just the existing MVP, but the way you want to move forward. They help you validate your priorities and features. And as you move through, validate the existing prototype, they will voice a concern saying, Hey, we as we look at this piece of data, we really want to look at this. And if we’re answering these questions, we really cannot make a decision without this piece of data. And eventually, you build you build this idea in your head that hey, I need to know all of this together in order for my customer to have a specific answer as an example, As we started producing these reports, the product generated reports for our customers. Some of the customers were not processing transactions correctly at all. So a lot of fields that were supposed to be populated with the road data from the transaction were empty or blanks. Their system didn’t work. Obviously, the product didn’t work because there was no data to work with. But what the reports what the product demonstrated was not that, hey, your commissions are wrong, but your process your sales process at the store is wrong. So before you even go and challenge your carrier before you go and challenge your business partner, that should not pay me correctly. You need to fix a lot of problems in your own stores. You need to fix the problems with your salespeople. That was that was a revelation to them. We as we were building the product, we kind of expected that. But that was a pretty interesting turn of events for the customer. As they said, Hey, we didn’t know this was a problem. But now they do now they understand what’s going on. Again, same way, it worked with our VP of Sales when he saw how even harshest feedback that he provided was immediately taken into action. And product was fixed. The same way our customers were seeing that every time they will challenge us, or they will say, Hey, this is wrong, or this doesn’t work. In the in the few days in a week and a couple of weeks, they see an update, they will see the change, they’ll see that we took their feedback to heart and we addressed it. It created trust, he created this understanding between the customer and the product manager. And one of the things that I love to do for our customers is create magic. It’s when you show them hey, this is the problem and boom, this is the solution by bypassing the whole you know how we got their part. customers don’t really care how you solve the problem as long as you solve a problem for them.
They’re okay. They don’t really need to know they may be curious, but they don’t really need to know how you solve the problem for them. So by showing them hey, this is your problem. Let’s apply this magic potion. And boom, there’s a solution. They absolutely fascinated you love you even more. Everybody understands it’s a psychological trick customers probably most of all, but they still love it. They still see it as a Hey, he did the magic for us. And they love you for that. Now with the MVP launch, and everybody knows what the MVP minimum viable product in truth, meal viable product is not what makes products tender. So it’s what you can sell on the market as the minimum set of product capabilities that your class can tolerate, and they will pay money for. As we thought before, this is where full scope of Product Manager responsibilities kicks in. high gear You need to develop your value proposition, you need to develop your marketing strategy, how are you going to tell your customers that this product is out there? Right? You lucky if you have your marketing department but in that particular case within and I was the person tasked with developing marketing strategy from zero to two, whatever we did in the market, I was the person who created and conducted demos for customers for sales and develop sales collateral, one pagers, flyers, I had some help. I hired some help from the outside, but it was mostly on need to provide all the information to provide feedback, a circulate and make sure that everybody had what they need. All the tools all the collateral, all the demos operational, so that sales can sell customer support can answer questions, and everybody can work in unison. I had to work with legal making sure that We had all the contracts and agreements and MBAs in place. I had to work with customer support and training them how to support this product and how to make sure that they know how to answer questions, most popular questions or how to gather intelligence on what’s working for the customer, it’s not working for the customer, so they can give it back to me and I can process it and provide them with some kind of feedback, additional training or whatnot. I needed to conduct customer training. It’s not the business owner who’s going to be doing this who’s going to be one of the people in their company so I need to find that person and train them and understand their process of on this what is their process of reconciling the Commission’s and hey, this now you’re going to use us our product to enhance or rebuild or, you know, completely rehash or just a man to process however it applies. I was I had to it Establish a customer support organization, will we have customer support? I need to know have my experts. Everybody can answer generic questions, but I need to have a few people who could who could dive into details and really get to the nitty gritty details of what’s working for the customer. It’s not working for the customer, what’s missing and what needs to be that
as you launch the product, your MVP or whatever else was you launch the product. There’s a lot of things to happen internally, you need to hand over certain parts of your product to the other organizations, billing and finance they need to know how to charge you need to know how to process the contract, how to process subscription, support sales, operations, need to know when we start selling it, so when they can start answering questions when they can start telling customers about this new product. Then you need to measure everything in anything. You need to measure performance. Need to see what happens internally, and I’m talking about internal performance. Let’s say we just launched this new product, 5 million people signed up, and our support lines are choking because of that. So we should have, we should scale back. Or we should either increase our support organization or scaled back and only make available make products available to certain markets or certain cohorts of people. And that’s where Product Manager actually gets hands on with almost every aspect. Same thing externally as you earn, build trust within the relationships. You get as much feedback as you can from anyone and everyone. measure what you can measure. It’s really easy to measure things. When you’re doing b2c product, you can just throw in analytics, and at least that’s there. With b2b products. When you’re selling piecemeal one by one. It’s hard to measure performance or measure accrete analytics automatically. But you still can collect some kind of feedback either through sales or through support. You see the level of tickets being raised for this product, you see number of questions, you see which questions are the top 10. And at least on that level, you can understand where you at, right after the launch, you can measure sales performance. If you see a lot of, say a successful sales, that means you hit the spot, if you’re seeing a lot of inquiries, but not a lot of sales. That means either you’re not clear on the value proposition or your sales don’t know how to communicate product benefits. So you can go back and adjust, which in essence together makes up the overall product performance. And as we’ve launched as we kind of looked back on the whole process, the whole process took us about nine months from Roy idea when we just started charting first first sketches of this idea on the whiteboard to the moment when we sent off press release sent out old email communications and we had an official launch date, about nine months. Just a couple of lessons that we’ve learned. The only stable thing in product management is failure. And as a product manager, you will fail at every step of your product building journey. And when you run out of steps to fail, you will find new steps and new ways to fail. And this is probably the most exciting thing because
you learn so much from the failures. It’s a scientific thing, obviously, you learn so so much from failures that you won’t be able to learn as much from success. simplify everything. As I mentioned earlier, we went from 25 features to five and we actually got more successful in introducing our prototypes and VPS to customers customers and they’re still with the product does better and faster when we had 25 features, customers were all over the place this So does it do this? Does it do that? When we got them to the five feature point, they immediately grasp what they do the product is, oh, it solves this problem. Cool. Let’s run with it. It had to be dumbed down to customers level. But at the same time it made customers. It made it easy. It made it easier for customers to understand what the product does, because they don’t have all the time in the world listening to you talking about all the features. And guess what manuals is better than automation. When we just launched the product. We were sending out the product was basically generating reports. So instead of giving customers access to the product that was generating reports, we were manually sending these reports to the customers and then calling them with a follow up call and saying hey, we emailed you this report Monday. Today’s Wednesday, I’m pretty sure you haven’t had a chance to look at it. So let me take an hour of your time, two hours of your time walk you through the report, let’s analyze, let’s see what was going on that generated tremendously positive response. Because not only we were given them, giving the customers what they wanted, given the customers the value from the product, we also were proactively teaching them how to use it, and how to extract maximum value from that product. That was probably the most important and most valuable part of this conversation. Plus, we’ve got so much feedback by having these phone calls and face to face with customer that we would never got if we just automatically sent out those emails, and waited for customers to call us back.
That is it for today. Thank you for listening. Hopefully this was interesting, and I’m looking forward to creating more content for you. Check out my website: Vgrubman.com. My name is Vlad and this is my first podcast about product management. Thank you
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