How Product Managers Manage A Product That Nobody Needs

by drjim on May 14, 2012

Nobody needs a DAC, but everybody should have one…

Nobody needs a DAC, but everybody should have one…

What’s the first thing that every product manager learns? Simple, that you have to figure out what problem your product solves for your customer if you want the product to be a success – this is almost part of the product development definition. That’s all fine and dandy; however, what’s a product manager to do if it turns out that customers don’t really need the product that he’s managing?

Why You Don’t Need A DAC

Do you own an iPod or some other brand of digital music player? They’ve been on the market since about 2001. Pretty much everyone who wants to have one now has one. What this has meant for the music that we purchase and listen to is that its all gone digital.

Now my ears are not all that sensitive, but the people who care about such things tell me that digital music lacks something that the old analog music had: warmth. They say that the music that is streaming out of your iPod is dull and lifeless. The old analog music that we used to listen to when we all had record players had a lot more smoothness to it.

The good news for those of us who have invested heavily into digital music is that there is hope here. A product has been created that will turn our cold digital music into warm sounds. This product is called a “Digital To Audio Converter” or a DAC.

As cool as this concept sounds, there’s a problem here. Nobody really needs a DAC. I mean, clearly the music coming out of our iPods is good enough. Why should we go to the expense and effort of adding yet another component to our already overloaded home stereo system? If you can figure out a way to solve this problem, then you’ll have something to add to your product manager resume .

How To Product Manage A DAC

I guess that you could say that a DAC falls into the category of being almost a luxury item – you don’t need it, but you sure might want it. This presents a lot of different challenges for a product manager.

Since your customers wouldn’t realize that they had a problem, one of the most important things for a product manager to do would be would be to make the potential customers aware of the problems with their current way of listening to music. Although you could explain it using words, a much more powerful way to accomplish this would be to get them to listen to the difference.

In order to make this happen, you’d have to set things up correctly. The best way to do it would be to have your potential customer provide you with a copy of one of their favorite digital songs. Then you could run it through your DAC product and share it with them. The goal is make the difference as significant as possible.

The next challenge that you’d have to overcome would be the complexity issue. No matter how you look at it, a DAC is yet another device that your customers are going to have to hook into their home stereos. In order to help them get over this issue, some sort of product support material would have to be developed such as instructional videos that show how easy it is to add a DAC to their existing system.

What All Of This Means For You

The simplest products to manage are the ones that every customer has a very clear need for. Where things tend to get trickier is when you are asked to manage a product that your customers could get along without — this is the stuff that is never in your product manager job description.

Product managers who find themselves in this type of situation have to do two things. The first is to clearly demonstrate to their potential customers why their current way of listening to music is inferior. This will require a demonstration and if the demonstration can be done using the customer’s music than all the better. Next the complexity of adding a new component to a customer’s existing home stereo system needs to be mitigated via simplified installation instructions or videos.

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

Question For You: Do you think that a non-necessary product can ever be as successful as a necessary product?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Have you ever given any thought to the damage that you might be doing to your company’s other brands when you slash the price of your product? It turns out that cutting your product’s price might boost your product’s sales, but at what expense?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Giles Farrow May 15, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Alternatively, you probably ought to figure out what customers really do want. And solve that problem instead.

As a product manager, that should be your #1 priority. Not applying lipstick to technically brilliant but unwanted product

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