In this #mtpcon Digital APAC session, Smriti Pant, then Product Manager at Hike, talks us through 5 rookie product management strategy mistakes and offers tips and tricks to solve them all.
- You should factor motivation, timeline, capability, and alternatives into every product decision you make
- You can avoid taking a solution-first approach by working back from the problem
- Knowing your customers is vital, it’s easy to make mistakes by thinking you know what customers want
- Make sure you build for customer needs and not just what the customer wants
- While it’s tempting to add features, ask whether they really contribute to your north star metric
- Don’t get so obsessed with metrics that you forget the customer experience
Making rookie mistakes
Rookie mistakes are so simple to make that they’re easy to repeat without thinking. Smriti says that while she’s launched lots of products (and killed a few!), every time she made a mistake she would think “I’ve done this before”.
She starts her talk with an example scenario, asking the audience what they would do if they were told they needed groceries despite the grocery store closing in 10 minutes. Would they just run to the store?
Or would they ask:-
- What’s the need? – Motivation
- How far is the store? – Timeline
- How do we get there? – Capability
- Is there any other solution? – Alternatives
Motivation, timeline, capability, and alternatives all need to factor into a decision, but won’t be if the decision is a knee-jerk reaction to a problem. You might not know the answers to these questions for your product.
Mistake 1: Taking a solution-first approach
A product manager’s job is to ask the right questions and work towards a decision. A solution-first approach means a bias towards one solution, and you’ll probably use your data to validate that solution in your head. It might lead to quick decision-making but it also leads to a boxed-in thinking structure, with no room for innovation and reduced opportunity to collaborate, and means that blind spots will be missed.
You resolve this mistake by working backward from the problem, asking yourself the key questions of motivation, timeline, capability, and alternatives, and creating a process of checks and balances. Smriti also gives an example of how this kind of rookie mistake was resolved in her organisation.
Mistake 2: Not knowing the customer well enough
Product managers are advocates for customers in their organisations. If you don’t know enough about customer preferences then you make decisions based on your own preferences. It means you can end up building a product that isn’t useful to the customer, that you’ve wasted resources and you lose credibility. It’s resolved by speaking to users, making user personas and concept-testing and usability testing new features.
Mistake 3: Building for customer wants not customers needs
Your customers are not experts on what to build. Their requests are based on what they already know, rather than what is possible. It’s a mistake that hampers innovation and can mean you end up with a product that is full of useless features or is a copy of another product. To solve this mistake, says Smriti, you should identify the customer behaviour that’s driving these requests – user interviews should focus on pain points rather than features, for example.
Mistake 4: Falling into the bells and whistles trap
Adding features is tempting, says Smriti, but it can mean you end up cluttering up a product with too many features and not really solving a user problem. It makes for a poor user experience, wastes time and resources, and deviates from core features. To avoid this mistake, you should make sure that the core is working before adding new features, experiment extensively, and ensure the feature somehow contributes to your north star metric before adding it.
Mistake 5: Becoming too metric-obsessed
Smriti comments that while metrics are important we should remember they are proxies and success is all about a great customer experience. Obsession with metrics can lead you to build in order to get the numbers you want rather than to solve customer problems. You might overlook significant problems with user perception or get myopic about one particular problem just because your numbers are great. Smriti says you should always “take your numbers with a pinch of salt” and have a set of qualitative goals in order to solve this issue. You should also track sentiment metrics beyond the business goals.
Smriti advises the one piece of learning that product managers should take away from her talk is that they should “talk to customers, know their customers, listen to them and engage with them. It’s their problem that you’re trying to solve”.
Did you know?
Ordinarily, premium content like this can only be accessed by Mind the Product members. Today, we’re offering up this talk to everyone in the community. If you like the content and want more like it, you can check out our Mind the Product membership plans. And, if you still need career advice and inspiration, browse even more Product Management Career or use our Content A-Z to find specific topics of interest.
If you’re a Mind the Product member, you can also check out more #mtpcon video content.