Your internal customers are almost as important as your real customers are

Your internal customers are almost as important as your real customers are
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Product launches are one of the most difficult things that product managers are called on to do. The reason that they are so difficult to do well is because no matter how detailed of a product development definition you’ve created, there are still a large number of moving parts that are involved. It can be very easy to focus on the target customers who you are hoping will select your product. However, it turns out that there are even more types of customers that you should be worrying about: internal customers.

Sales

Let’s face it: your product will never be a success if the sales team does not go out and sell it. What this means for you as a product manager is that you need to make sure that you take the time to communicate with your sales teams long before the product get launched. Get this right and you’ll have an important addition to your product manager resume.

This is an area where you need to make sure that you are not guessing. What does your sales team really need from you? You could end up creating all sorts of presentations and brochures for them; however, if this is not the way that they sell your product then your time will have been wasted.

Instead, you need to have a talk with sales. Find out how they expect that they will be selling your product. If it’s possible to do so, go out with them and shadow them as they visit customers. Discover what customers want to know about your products and then equip your sales teams to provide it to them.

Support

Right after support, the next internal department that is going to contribute the most to the success of your product will be your support team. Once the product has been sold, these are the people that will be getting the calls directly from the customer in order to get answers to questions and to get issues resolved.

One of the most important things that a product manager can do is to make sure that the support team has plenty of advance notice about a new product. You need to ensure that there will be no surprises. They need to know what the product does and any limitations that you know about before it goes out the door.

In addition to making sure that your support team knows what is going on, you need to make sure that you’ve reserved enough time for them to get trained on your product. You want them to be intimate with how the product works before they get the first call from a customer about your product.

Finance

One department that many product managers forget to think about as an important internal customer is the finance department. This is a mistake. The finance department helped your product to get off the ground, it’s now critical that you keep them in the loop as the product is launched.

One area that will have the interest of the finance department has to do with the decisions that you make during the product launch regarding pricing. The initial pricing of the product, the proposed discounts, and the actual discounts will all have an impact on the company’s bottom line.

Before, during, and after the product launch you need to be working with your finance department. The two of you will have to be watching your profit targets, and the product costs so that you can ensure that your product will be profitable.

What All Of This Means For You

There is no one thing that will make a new product a success. Ultimately it comes down to a number of different, but interconnected, items. All too often a product manager can focus on the customers who will be buying the product and forget about the internal customers whose support is needed in order to make the product a success. Working closely with these internal teams should be a part of every product manager job description.

There are many different internal groups who make up your internal customers. The sales teams are among the most important. You need to work closely with them to understand what they need from you and to provide them with it. The support teams will have the most contact with customers who purchase your product. Make sure that they know what the plan for launching the product is. Finally, your finance team is not always considered when launching a product, but they can be key to making sure that you have any additional funding that you need and supporting your next product launch.

No, being a product manager is not an easy job. However, understanding all of the various parties from whom you need support in order for your product to be a success is a key step in being a successful product manager. Make sure that you take the time to meet the needs of your internal customers and they’ll be willing to help you to make your next product launch a success.

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

Question For You: How much prior to a launch should you start working with your sales team?

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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

In the end, it turns out that product management is all about more than just creating a good product development definition, you have to be a good communicator. However, before you can become a good communicator, you first have to have a network to communicate with. Building that network can be a challenge. What product managers need are some tips on just exactly how to go about building the network that they’ll then be able to leverage in order to ensure that their product will be a success.

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Social media is a great way to create product buzz

Social media is a great way to create product buzz
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As product managers living and working in the 21st Century, we all know about the importance of social media. Many of us have probably already added these skills to our product manager resume. However, discovering just exactly how to make the best use of these new tools that allow us to get in contact with our customers is still something that we are all struggling with. What we need is some expert guidance on which social media tools we should be using and just exactly how to go about using them.

Twitter

One of the biggest mistakes that Product Managers make is that they think that social media is all about distribution. We view it as a way to inform the world about our product development definition. We end up putting the same story out on each social media tool. However, each tool is different and each one requires you to tell your story in a different way.

Twitter is all about getting people’s attention. If they are already following you, then those tweets that you send out about the next version of your product or the new customer that you just signed up will get read. However, what about everyone else?

It turns out that Twitter is all about the hashtags (#prodmgmt) . What you need to do is to take a look at what hashtags are trending when you go to make your tweet. Once you know this, make your tweet relevant to this hashtag, include the hashtag in your tweet, and pose your tweet as a question that will cause your readers to stop and think for a moment. If you do all of this correctly, then your readers will turn into followers and that’s how you get the word out about your product.

Facebook

Facebook postings are all about the image that you include. People who see your posting will be seeing a lot of other postings at the same time. You are going to have to take the time to come up with an image that is going to grab their attention and get them interested enough to slow down and read your copy.

What you need to do next is to provide them with exactly the information that they need to know. When people are shopping for your product, what features do they use to compare your product with others? Mention these features in order to help your potential customers evaluate your product.

On Facebook it is ok to go for the sale. Include a link that has the words “buy now” before it. On Facebook, if you want somebody to do something, you have to tell them to do it.

Instagram

Instagram is all about you acting human product manager. Instagram is very, very personal. It is a way to capture those real-life moments. Instagram is also all about images – real-life images. The people who are viewing your Instagram want to know answers to questions like “where are you?” or “what are you looking at?”.

The images that you post on Instagram don’t have to be nearly as polished as the ones that you post on Facebook. These are the images that look like you snapped them with your cell phone camera – because you did!

Instagram does not allow you to include links with your photos. The only place where you can have links is in your Instagram bio. Make your photos interesting enough so that people go to check out your bio and from there they go to find out more about your product.

Pinterest

People use Pinterest to look up their dreams or to find out how to do things (utility) . You need to make sure that your posts support one or both of these ideals.

When you are using Pinterest you need to keep in mind that you are not trying to just sell your product. Instead, you are trying to educate your customer about how they can go about solving the problem that your product was created to help them solve. Give your potential customers context and inform them about everything that they would like to know about your product.

On Pinterest you can use a lot more text to talk about your product. Remember, people come to Pinterest when they are ready to buy things so they are going to be spending more time taking a look at what you’ve posted. They’ll also be looking at it with a critical eye so make sure that you take the time to write clearly!

What All Of This Means For You

In order for your product to be successful, as the product manager you need to get a dialog started with your potential customers. One of the best ways to go about doing this is to use today’s social media tools to connect with your potential customers and tell them about your product. This ability should be a part of every product manager job description.

Determining which social media tools to use is the first step. The experts recommend that you focus on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. For each of these tools you are going to have to understand what its audience is looking for and you’ll have to create a personality that will work with that audience.

This sure seems like a lot of effort. However, it turns out that it is a very good way for you to spend your time. If you can reach your social media audience with a message that they want to hear, then your product may turn into an overnight success story!

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

Question For You: Which of the four social media tools (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) do you think is the most valuable to a product manager?

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

Product launches are one of the most difficult things that product managers are called on to do. The reason that they are so difficult to do well is because no matter how detailed of a product development definition you’ve created, there are still a large number of moving parts that are involved. It can be very easy to focus on the target customers who you are hoping will select your product. However, it turns out that there are even more types of customers that you should be worrying about: internal customers.

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New Book: How Competition Makes You A Better Product Manager

October 6, 2014

  What You’ll Find Inside: TO BEAT THE COMPETITION, PRODUCT MANAGERS HAVE TO DO SOME HOMEWORK HOW YAHOO PRODUCT MANAGERS ARE KICKING GOOGLE’S BUTT CASE STUDY: WHAT TO DO WHEN A LARGE COMPETITOR SHOWS UP ON YOUR BLOCK HOW PRODUCT MANAGERS SHOULD GO ABOUT DOING BUSINESS RESEARCH   Click here for epub, pdf, rtf, lrf, […]

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Why Product Managers Need Checklists In Order To Be Successful

October 6, 2014

Let’s face it, being a product manager means that there are a lot of different things that you are responsible for accomplishing. Many of these things are very small details, a few are medium sized tasks, and just a couple may be very large. However, if you “drop the ball” on any of the things […]

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New Book: Product Failure Lessons For Product Managers

October 4, 2014

Product fail. As product managers we need to be able to understand what makes them fail and how to prevent it. Get the book that tells you how to do this: Click here to for Paperback, Kindle, or Audiobook Download. Click here for epub, mobi, pdf, rtf, lrf, pdb, txt or html.

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What McDonald’s Mistake Can Teach Product Managers

September 29, 2014

Eating at McDonalds is a guilty pleasure that we have all done before. It seems like there is a McDonalds restaurant on just about every corner and when we’re in a rush, or simply don’t have time to plan a meal, we always know that we can go to McDonalds to get something to eat. […]

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Can Product Managers Be Too Clever When It Comes To Pricing?

September 22, 2014

How much does your product cost? I’m willing to bet that you have a price sheet / guide somewhere that took a big effort to create. You probably had to study the market, study your customers, and study what the other guys were charging in order to come up with your prices as a part […]

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How Product Managers Can Master The Art Of Conversation

September 15, 2014

When I’m talking with product managers who are first starting out, their questions all revolve around things like product road maps, how to create a product development definition, and the best way to collect customer requirements. It’s when I talk with product managers who have been doing this job for a while that the questions […]

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What Product Managers Need To Know About Job Opportunities In The Federal Sector

September 10, 2014

One of the responsibilities that we have as product managers is to teach others about where they can find good jobs — product manager jobs and others. As kids go back to college this fall, it’s the perfect time to open their eyes to the job opportunities in the federal sector. We all know how […]

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New Book: Sales Secrets For Product Managers

September 9, 2014

What You’ll Find Inside: HOW TO WORK WITH SALES PRODUCT MANAGERS & RFPS: IT’S A LOVE / HATE THING HOW PRODUCT MANAGERS CAN MANAGE A COMPLEX SALE A 3-STEP PRODUCT MANAGER SYSTEM TO MAKE YOUR PRODUCT SUCCESSFUL

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