This post is based on the experience and extensive notes of a Countly team member who previously worked alongside dozens of product managers for more than 10 years.
If you currently work as a product manager, are thinking about a job in product management, or work with product managers, one thing is certain: you will hear a different definition of what a ‘product manager’ is (or does) from each person you ask.
Is the product manager the “CEO of the product” (which is a broad and misunderstood definition), the person who manages the product (a much narrower view of product management), or both?
There’s definitely a lot of confusion around the day-to-day role of a product manager.
In fact, the main reason for the different definitions is that a product manager’s role may vary based on the company, industry, and a number of other factors. Significant differences exist between the responsibilities of a product manager and the way they do business in a large enterprise, and what a product manager needs to do when working in a start-up setting.
What makes a successful product manager and what do they do?
Instead of trying to define the role of the product manager, let’s look at the characteristics someone in this role should embody. This list is based on years of observing successful product managers managing effective teams.
- They know the customer. They know the problems of existing customers and try to identify the problems of prospective customers.
- They are very capable of telling stories. When presenting the product, they focus less on specific features and functionality and instead tell a story about how their product meets the needs of customers and helps them be successful. They understand how to tailor their story to make it easily relatable for different types of customers.
- They should be well versed about preserving data security and be aware of data privacy regulations. Maintaining data security best practices must always be a priority, especially with ever-evolving user data privacy frameworks.
- They find the first beta customers. This includes figuring out which people will invest the necessary time and resources, will actively use the product, and will provide thoughtful and valuable feedback.
- They’re able to engage with happy customers who have been using the product and get them to agree to spend time providing information and feedback for use in a case study.
- They prepare the case study, write the text, create the story, publish it on the website and also find other channels for distributing the study.
- They create the rules of drip marketing (step-by-step marketing). They train potential customers who leave their e-mail addresses according to the prescribed criteria.
- They have basic web page preparation skills.
- They determine the price or the price range of the product, and while doing that, they also research how similar products are priced. They know that a low price does not always bring more sales. If necessary, they set the price according to the customer.
- If the products don’t meet expectations and achieve the goals that have been set, they are ready to pivot the structure.
- They have deep knowledge of design and user experience but are not overly obsessed with this. They work in harmony with the design team.
- They are able to communicate what they want to the design team in detail. If necessary, they make basic drawings in advance and prepare an analysis document.
- They know which features to use and when. They get rid of the unnecessary parts. They know how to organize features, hide those that do not need to be visible, and when to remove them.
- They work like an orchestra conductor, encouraging the active involvement of other team members in the product development process.
- They balance the requests and wishes of each of these groups, and ensure that all groups are synchronized so as to increase sales and complement the product vision.
- They know their competitors’ products almost as well as they know their own product.
- They know their opponents. They are always up to date. They check the market. They follow them through all kinds of channels (social media, web, blog). They do not create financial, technological, or administrative excuses. They first focus on their product. They use their time efficiently.
- They focus not only on the product but on the revenue and the customer as well. The number of technical features the product has is important but doesn’t take priority.
- They utilize qualitative and quantitative values to improve the product. They know how to evolve the product using numbers, instincts, and feedback.
- They make their own reports on time and share them with both top and side units. They ensure that the product development process is transparent throughout the entire organization.
- They are open to communicating with their teammates even when the ideas from the team are not immediately relevant. They care more about keeping communication and ideas flowing than about all ideas being valid.
- They include teammates in the process, delegate jobs when necessary, and ensure output is 10x. They do not take up everything on their own.
- They know how much time and money it will take to develop a particular feature. They follow the product roadmap and the time schedule weekly.
- They solicit everyone’s input before turning a thought into a product. They ensure that the work being done is questioned by the teams working on different aspects.
- They do their job fondly and without stress. They aren’t nervous, they take the tension out of their environment. They take care of the details but do not get lost in them. In this way, they can empathize with their teammates and establish a stronger basis for communication.
- They avoid short-term cause-and-effect relationships by establishing long-term communication with both the team and the customers.
- They get involved in the deployment process of the product. They are directly involved with the client.
- They coordinate all the operations that need to be done before releasing the new version.
- They know and follow every customer complaint. They keep track of each complaint, how many customers have made the same complaint, and other related information. They develop the product according to these complaints.
- They market the product. They train the company, demonstrating the best use cases. They listen to feedback from marketing teams.
- They’re focused. Instead of trying to solve all the problems of the customers immediately, they prioritize issues and schedule them as part of the overall development plan.
- They know every aspect of the product well. They master their subject like college instructors and thought leaders.
- They can see the big picture of the product. They design what every attribute will add to the product and provide it to their customers. They progress strategically.
- They regularly train the revenue team. They regulate and organize the product in accordance with the sales team. They play an active role in sales strategies.
- They find customers who are actively using a new feature of the product, listen to them, get feedback, and share it with the team.
- They share positive feedback from satisfied customers with the entire team, provide confidence, and create happiness :)
- They explore potential partnerships. They figure out with whom they can collaborate to increase product awareness in the target industries or geographic areas, and they accomplish it.
- They prepare product training documents and videos. If they are working with a third-party company for this process, they will be involved in the process with them.
- They are aware of technological developments and work with the development team to reflect them in the product at certain points.
- They have courage. To try new things, to push beyond conflict, to empower people with the tools they need, and to step outside their comfort zones.
After reviewing all these items, we can easily make the following conclusion:
The product manager is never the person who gathers ideas from inside and outside the company, selecting the best among them before handing the job to the development team and ensuring it gets done.
On the contrary, a product manager is someone who has countless abilities, like rapid development, team-play, customer recognition, increasing sales, and user experience enhancement.
In order to accomplish this, a product manager must be a person who can listen, decide, communicate clearly, and overcome their ego.
In short, a good product manager is multi-faceted.