Mistakes Product Managers Make

3 minute read

April 27, 2016

Mistakes Product Managers Make

Consider the following common mistakes that product managers often make:

1. Confusing Customer Requirement with Product Requirements

Most product teams focus on either the customer or the sales and marketing function when contemplating the nature of the product to be built. This approach might be ideal when doing contractual product development work or when building a custom product. However, this approach doesn’t always produce the product you had intended. This could happen if you are trying to create an inventive product to meet the demand of a broad range of consumers.

After communicating with the sales organization and the customers, most product managers base their product on the information that they receive. However, few good products are built from such information because of two reasons:

  • Customers are mostly stuck in the middle and don’t know what they want. Not because they aren’t smart, but because they are so focused on the problem, they are unable to see what the best solution might be.
  • Customers aren’t aware of possibilities. They only have an idea of what solution might work for them, but it is the product manager’s responsibility to provide with the best solution.

2. Confusing Yourself with the Customer

Naturally, it’s very easy to view yourself as the target customer. This can be dangerous as it might make you apply a different standard to the product and make it ultimately unusable. For example, you may have an overall understanding of your product. However, your target customer may not identify with your product and react negatively to the product by thinking it is too complicated or exasperating, thus considering it unusable.

To ensure that you are on track and ahead of the game, product managers should constantly showcase their products directly to their customers in their targeted market and vigilantly consider their response as opposed to their own skewed viewpoint. Today most products are unusable to all except the product builders.

3. Confusing Adding Features with Product Improvements

When a product team is struggling with a problem relating to a certain product, the first thing that the team hopes will address the problem is to implement a new set of features. The intent behind this is to entice customers to buy. This is understandable because your team is likely telling you quite loudly that, “adding feature “a” will make the product much more appealing” or worse “we have tried “b” and “c” but it is not working.”

Regrettably, bringing in fresh features seldom improves your product. In fact, adding new features often makes the problem worse because more features can make the product harder to use. The answer is to keep up with continued product improvement. This will increase your product’s usability and improve its reach to target customers.

4. Inability to Differentiate Features with Benefits

Typically, it is easy to be carried away by the features that build up your product, instead of acknowledging the true value that those features are providing. Your product must have a clear and compelling value proposition that speaks to its benefits not its features.

A product may be perceived as having little value because it is not solving an important problem. Additionally, despite having interesting technology and usability, it is just not suited for its targeted market. The product may also be ideal for the target market but due to the complexity in messaging, its value is lost in the haze.

Product Launch vs Sustenance

Most product teams tend to loosen up after creating and launching a product successfully. However, this is only half of the product manager’s job. Making the customers happy, satisfied, and staying ahead of the game are his other goals. Sadly, most teams stop short or stop paying attention to the released product and move to the next product.

Beyond these common mistakes, it is vital that you understand how to navigate the various pitfalls that are inherent in product management. Understanding what works and what doesn’t can significantly improve your chance for success.

Remember…better product management begins with having the right team in place. This will help you avoid these common mistakes by taking a comprehensive approach.

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Alok Chowdhury

Written by Alok Chowdhury

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