How Product Managers Can Find More Customers

by drjim on February 20, 2017

Finding new customers requires a bit of multitasking

Finding new customers requires a bit of multitasking

Image Credit: Ryan Ritchie

I’m pretty sure that we all know and understand that product managers don’t work in sales. However, our career is very closely tied to the success of the product that we are responsible for. So, while we don’t have primary responsibility for selling our product, we are however quite motivated to make sure that the thing gets bought! This is why when we become aware that sales are not where they should be, the sales part of every product manager has to spring into action…

Getting Existing Potential Customers To Buy

I recently had a chance to work with a small software vendor who was getting by, but only just barely. They had a good product development definition. The software product that they had created websites for their customers and they had done a great job in creating this software. Their challenge was that not enough of their potential customers understood the value of a website and were willing to pay for their product. Their product managers were highly aware of how things stood and knew that they needed more sales in order to keep the doors open.

When I first met with them, we had a talk about what was going to be possible. They knew that one of their highest potential markets consisted of state employees. However, they were not sure how to reach this market. The firm was small and so creating a large advertising campaign was out of the question. So to was creating a fancy mailer to send to their potential customers even if there was a way to do that. The product managers found themselves in the typical scenario: they knew what they needed to do, they just didn’t know how to go about doing it.

I suggested that what they really needed to do was to strike up a conversation with their potential customers. In order to do this, they were going to have to get the email addresses of as many of their potential customers as possible and then start to send them emails on a regular basis. No, not everyone would read every email, but some would some of the time and that’s what it takes to turn a potential customer into a real customer. Since they didn’t have any of the email addresses that they needed and didn’t have the cash to buy lists of state employees, we did the next best thing. We went to the state’s websites, found lists of employees and their email addresses and with a little bit of software development were able to create files with properly formatted lists of names and email addresses that could be fed into the company’s emailing tool. Now that’s the kind of thing that you can put on your product manager resume. Problem solved!

Opening New Markets

The next challenge that the company faced was trying to grow their market. They already had two sets of very different customers who were purchasing their online website services. However, in order to grow the business the product managers realized that they needed to grow beyond these two markets. Now the big question that was facing them was where to go next?

One of the problems that we all face is that if we spend every day trying to capture more of our existing customers, then we’re going to be hard pressed to be able to see beyond our existing markets. This is the situation that these product managers found themselves in. It’s not that they weren’t willing to seek out new markets, it’s just that they had spent so much time going after the two markets that they were currently in that they had lost the ability to identify new markets.

I worked with them to start to find new markets for their product. As you can well imagine, our first step in this process was to do some Google searches. The key here is that you need to be able to phrase your searches correctly in order to get the answers that you are seeking. With a bit of word smithing we eventually started to ask the right questions and what we discovered is that lawyers generally do a very poor job of creating websites. Combine this with the fact that successful lawyers often have the financial resources to outsource the creation of their website, this sure seemed like a market that would be worth the company’s time to investigate.

What All Of This Means For You

As product managers we realize that it’s in our product manager job description to sell our product – generally there is a sales team that takes care of that. However, when the company that we work for is small or when times get tough, it’s time for the product manager to step up and see what we can do to help more sales start to happen. Recently I was working with a small software vendor who was facing this very situation.

They had two problems. The first was that they were struggling to turn their potential customers into new customers. The reason that this was so hard was because of the company’s limited financial resources and the fact that they didn’t know how to contact their potential customers. We found some email address lists and transformed them into mailing lists. Next they needed to discover new markets. Using Google and some well-crafted searches, we discovered that lawyers might have a need for their product.

No, there were no magic solutions here and I think that if you take a look at the things that were done you’d agree that they are pretty standard product management tasks. However, knowing what you need to do and then doing it is the key to being a successful product manager. Learn from this example and you can go out and convert more potential customers and discover new markets for your product!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: How often do you think that you should get in contact with potential customers when trying to turn them into real customers?

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P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Product Manager Newsletter are now available. It’s your product – it’s your career. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I’m pretty sure that by now you’ve heard about “the cloud” – it’s the mythical place where companies can get their programs to run and their data to be stored in such a way that they don’t have to buy any computers or storage systems. Another company takes care of all of the day-to-day activities required to make this all work out. This cloud thing is estimated to soon be a big deal and it turns out that the product managers over at Oracle are getting ready to go to battle with the product managers at Amazon in order to own a bigger chunk of it.

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Love can be tricky to find online – unless a product manager helps out

Love can be tricky to find online – unless a product manager helps out
Image Credit: Moni Sertel

Let’s talk about love, shall we? I fully understand that your job as a product manager probably takes up a lot of your time and you really don’t have a lot of time left over to think about such trivial things as love, but it’s all around us if you’d just take a moment to look. For that matter, love is a big business and nowhere is it bigger than the exploding world of creating a product development definition for online matchmaking sites. However, none of these sites seems to have come up with the perfect formula for getting the right people together. Perhaps we can use our product management skills to discover how to do this correctly?

It Turns Out That Dating Is A Market

If you allow yourself to get all caught up in the chemical / biological processes associated with falling in love, well then you’ll never be able to come up with a product that can help the love lorn find their perfect match. However, if you are willing to take a step back and instead consider the process of finding the correct life mate a market then all of sudden this starts to seem like a solvable problem. In fact, dating is not just a market, but it’s a specific type of market: a matching market. Get this right and you’ll have something to add to your product manager resume.

Other examples of matching markets are markets where patients are matched to organ donors, students are matched to schools, etc. In order for an online dating site to be a success, it first has to create a market that has a lot men and women who are seeking to link up with each other. The good news here is that the other online dating sites have shown that there are a lot of people online out there who are looking for love online. However, having a lot of people who want to use your online dating site causes its own set of problems. The most common of these problems is what is called “congestion”. Congestion in this context refers to a bottleneck that shows up in a system of exchange. An example of this kind of congestion occurs when men spam every woman that the Tinder app matches them with. This kind of behavior is to be expected in systems that permit you to match with people endlessly.

Another problem that online dating sites run into is that it is very easy for their participants to engage in what is called “statistical discrimination”. What this means is that people who are visiting the site are using stereotypes to evaluate possible matches. This happens when people read someone’s online profile and then infer things about them that may or may not be correct. Another problem is that try as they might, online sites can’t actually tell you if the person that you’ve been matched with is someone that you’d like. However, this is where computer algorithms might be able to be used. If Netflix can make movie recommendations for us based on what movies we’ve liked in the past, then dating sites should be able to make dating suggestions based on who we’d probably like.

Signaling Makes Finding A Match Easier

The problem of men spamming women on dating sites is a real problem. In fact, this is one of the most frequently heard complaints from women who use online dating sites. There has to be a solution to this problem. It turns out that there is. What needs to be implemented is a form of a signaling mechanism.

One way to go about doing this would be to provide members of an online dating site a limited number of “virtual roses”. These roses could be included in a communication that you sent to a person that you were interested in. The result of this was that people who received a communication with a rose attached were more likely to respond because the “spending” of the rose meant that the person who had sent them the note was truly interested.

Ultimately, if we wanted the people who were using our online dating site to successfully find their life mate, then we’d need to work with them so that they would learn how to avoid “romantic unemployment”. This is just a fancy way of saying that we need to get people who are using the site to lower their standards just a bit in order to increase the pool of people who might match with them. A number of studies of online dating sites has revealed that those customers who were less picky ended up finding their match much quicker than anyone else.

What All Of This Means For You

Love Is a many-splendored thing. In the world of online dating sites, many such sites exist, but so far none of them seem to have gotten the process of helping people find their perfect mate taken care of. As product managers who, based on our product manager job description, understand both products and markets, it sure seems like this is the kind of thing that we should be able to step in and help out with.

The first thing that any online dating site needs is a lot of men and women as customers. The good news here is that the evidence shows that there are a lot of people going online to find their one true love. Having a lot of customers is good; however, the unrestricted nature of many existing sites is leading to congestion where women are getting spammed by men. There are many different ways to prevent this from happening including providing limited amounts of signaling mechanisms. As product managers, we’d need to find ways to work with our online dating customers in order to boost their chances of success by not being too picky.

Considering that men and women have been successfully meeting up long before there ever was an online world, the arrival of online dating sites should just make this process more efficient. As product managers who understand how markets work and what customers want, we are uniquely suited to finding ways to make online dating sites more successful. Take some time and think about love. Perhaps you might be the person who creates the world’s best online dating site!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that online dating sites should charge people for using them or should they be free to attract more customers?

Click here to get automatic updates when
The Accidental Product Manager Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Product Manager Newsletter are now available. It’s your product – it’s your career. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

p>I’m pretty sure that we all know and understand that product managers don’t work in sales. However, our career is very closely tied to the success of the product that we are responsible for. So, while we don’t have primary responsibility for selling our product, we are however quite motivated to make sure that the thing gets bought! This is why when we become aware that sales are not where they should be, the sales part of every product manager has to spring into action…

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