Tools to Help Product Managers Think Strategically and Commercially

BY Susana Lopes ON JUNE 18, 2018

Kevin Trilli joined Onfido as our chief product officer last year and brought with him some great experience, tools, and techniques. His methods have got us much more in tune commercially, and thinking strategically. It’s made me want to share how we work, so others can try it too and let us know how they’ve improved some of these methods.

In these two posts I’ll cover three tools. This first post covers Positioning Documents, which I bought to Onfido from Pragmatic Marketing training, and Line of Business Meetings, which Kevin brought with him. The second post covers State of Product, which Kevin also brought with him.

The Positioning Document and Line of Business meeting act as communication devices. It’s easy for a business to get siloed in functions, and the symptoms are well known: Marketing struggles to explain the why of a product, Sales sells things that don’t yet exist or comes to Product with a “must have for signature” days before the client goes live. These two tools help solve these problems.

The State of Product is an exercise in strategy, it’s an opportunity to take stock of where your product is, where it fits within the wider market, and where it should go. It’s a trigger to switch away from short-term, firefighting, inward-focused thinking to long-term strategic planning. It also stretches product managers to consider their impact on the wider business, by asking them to review their products’ margins and revenue generating impact. It’s the hardest presentation I’ve ever worked on, and it was so worth it.

Positioning Document

The positioning document is a very simple one-pager which serves as a communication tool between product manager and product marketing manager. It’s a way to clearly articulate why a product exists, or should exist.

Start with customer research on a particular problem, then distill the research into a series of customer problems, and map them to features that solve that problem.

Here are some examples from the Onfido world:

Customer Problem Feature Benefit
The risk of users being onboarded with a stolen document is high and the firm has already suffered from fraud Facial verification Through video capture we automatically check the user’s face matches the document.
Risk-averse firms are concerned with sophisticated fraudsters who know how to trick common facial verification systems by simply presenting a photo of a photo, or a screenshot from LinkedIn, etc. Robust liveness detection Onfido’s SDK asks the user to speak and perform facial movements, so we are confident they are a real person, and not someone holding up a picture.
Development resources are limited.

Customers are concerned with the drop off in end users when asked to provide identity documents and face.

Currently too many users provide blurry images, or partially obstructed, which leads to broken user journeys. Some customers ask for repeat images via email.

Mobile SDK Save development time and boost quality. Integrate with our thoroughly documented cross-platform SDKs, for higher quality input capture, and seamless in-app experience for your end users.

You can group problems together and address them all with a single feature. For example the Mobile SDK solves multiple problems in the above example.

You might find that some problems are only experienced by some personas, or a certain market segment. Write them all down for now.

Based on this you can start creating your positioning document.

These are the main sections:

Product Name

Onfido’s Verify, Facial Check with Liveness

Persona & Market Segment

Product Manager in Sharing Economy

Problem

There is a problem in the industry today …
[Describe firms (size, industry, vertical) affected by this and why it sucks]
[Describe how current solutions suck]

Solution

The ideal solution to this problem is…
[Describe how the problem would be best solved, ignore your product, be tech agnostic]
A low-friction, highly robust way to verify user is who they say they are.

Positioning statement (25 words or fewer)

Forget about identity theft and document-processing overheads, let Onfido’s Verify be the trust engine to powering your sharing economy

Product Description (50 words or fewer)

Onfido’s facial check with liveness verifies a user is present and the owner of the identity document used during onboarding, using video capture and randomised movements. With its easy-to-integrate SDK and a world-class user experience, the facial check with liveness reduces impersonation risk without affecting user drop-off.

Problem-Oriented Features

[Describe main features as the benefits they bring]

  1. Facial verification: Do away with face-to-face. Through video capture we automatically check the user’s face matches the document.
  2. Robust liveness detection: Forget about identity theft. Onfido’s SDK asks the user to speak and perform facial movements, so we are confident they are a real person, and not someone holding up a picture.
  3. Mobile SDK: Save development time and boost quality. Integrate with our thoroughly documented cross-platform SDKs, for higher quality input capture, and seamless in-app experience for your end users.

I recommend choosing a persona and market segment and start by filling out Problem Description and Ideal Solution.

Then fill out the Problem-Oriented features based on your previous table. The contents should speak to the specific persona selected, and it may be helpful to do one positioning document per persona.

You can then distill the contents of the Problem-Oriented features into a 50-word Product Description, and then a 25-word Positioning Statement. And finally a single word, or very few, as you name your product.

You might find yourself writing one of these before user interviews, and highlighting all the assumptions yet to be validated. Or writing one mid-project to give clarity to the Marketing team on the why of your product. You might decide to do this as a workshop with the design and product marketing team, or maybe just by yourself. Whatever you do, I have found positioning documents very useful and I would love to hear of any improvements you make.

Line of Business Meeting

The aim of this meeting is to surface commercial blockers and product updates. It’s a cross-functional meeting, and should include a representative from each function: sales, account management, product, service, engineering, and so on. It’s led by the product manager responsible for the line of business – a money-making product or feature that you sell independently or as an add-on. It’s held every week or every other week, depending on the frequency of fires and speed of your sales pipeline.

The agenda should cover prospects, current clients, upcoming product releases, upcoming product discovery and a product performance update. I like to track my agenda in spreadsheets. Here’s an example:

This meeting should help you to see fires before they arise. In the example above you see the prospect Nice Inc has a couple of product blockers before they can sign. This was only surfaced during the meeting when the product manager asked which languages would need to be supported, which then triggered the conversation during the sales process. This meeting helps you see blockers before they arise, as often product blockers are only discovered way too late in the sales process.

By listing all the upcoming features for the quarter, you set expectations and keep your team accountable.

Listing product discovery projects acts as a prompt to ask for help or introductions from your sales and account management team.

Finally the performance update gives you a forum to track key metrics regularly and take action if something goes wrong.

Look out for my second post on the methods we use to help us think strategically and commercially: State of Product, the hardest presentation you’ll ever prepare for.

About

Susana Lopes

Susana is the biometrics product manager at Onfido (onfido.com), having built up significant experience in B2B product management. Like Martin Eriksson, she's a proud ex-huddler. Bioengineer by training, into life drawing, kickboxing, bouldering and gardening. Find her on Twitter at @susanavlopes.

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