What Product Managers Need To Know About Going Mobile

by drjim on May 7, 2012

Just how does a product manager create a mobile app?

Just how does a product manager create a mobile app?

If you have been out to a mall, driving in traffic, or attended a sporting event lately then you’ve seen that just about everyone had their faces planted into a mobile device of some sort. From a product manager point-of-view, this sure seems to be telling us that we need to find a way to get information about our product onto everyone’s mobile phones. But how?

Why Product Managers Have To Go Mobile

Clearly, trying to add a mobile marketing channel to your product communication program is going to cause more time, effort, and expense for you. Is it going to be worth it? The answer is almost assuredly “yes”.

The new reality is that people always have their mobile devices with them and they are almost always turned on. This is a product manager’s dream. If we can figure out how to make information on our product part of our customer’s mobile platform, then we’ll always be in their thoughts. Creating a mobile app for your product should almost become part of the product development definition.

Careful now. Nobody wants to have an ad for your product taking up space on their mobile device – space is limited and your app will be quickly deleted if it is not providing value. This is where your real product manager creativity is going to have to come into play.

Whatever application you create for your customers to download to their mobile devices, it’s going to have to either entertain them or provide valuable information to them. This means that you’re not going to be able to make an application that talks about your product directly, rather you’re going to have to deal with the problem that your product solves and somehow associate your product with that. Figure out how to do this correctly and you’ll have something to add to your product manager resume.

How Product Managers Can Create Their Own Mobile Apps

Once you’ve figured out what kind of application your customers would be willing to download and not delete, then the real work starts. Although I’m sure that your company’s IT department would be more than willing to help you out, if they don’t have any experience in this area, you might want to look elsewhere.

The simpler your application is, the easier it will be for you to do most of the design work. There are a number of online firms that are willing to provide you with templates that are designed for the market that your product addresses. No programming knowledge is required – you just change the text and specify when the various screens should appear.

As product features change over time, the product manager can return to these sites and edit the app’s content and republish an updated version of the application. A couple of firms that provide this service include Bizness Apps and Red Foundry.

Getting Someone Else To Do It For You

In some cases, who’s got the time to sit down and design their own mobile app? Alternatively, simple templates may not do it for you – you may need custom mobile app design work.

In this case, you’re going to need to hire a developer to create your new mobile app. As you might well imagine, prices for this kind of work are all over the map. However, if you need a planning price then you can assume that it could run you up to US$10,000 – $20,000.

For this price you will get to control all aspects of the app. This includes using custom photos and artwork. The nice thing about spending all of this money up front is that most of the time it’s a one-time fee. That means that if after the app is developed you start to sell it to your customers and potential customers, then you will have created a new source of revenue for your product that you will get to keep 100% of.

What All Of This Means For You

Part of the joy of being a product manager is that the job is always changing. Right now we’re seeing one of those changes show up and start to knock on our door – the arrival of mobile applications. I’m willing to bet that we’re going to see the ability to add these apps to a product become a part of every product manager job description in the future.

Every product manager needs to be taking a close look at the world of mobile applications and trying to determine how you can use them to boost sales of your product. You need to see if you can create an app that will either entertain or provide value to your customers. In order to create the app you have many choices: you can design it yourself or you can hire a developer to do it for you.

One of my customers runs their product management department with the slogan “fail early, fail often”. I think that applies to the world of mobile apps. It won’t cost you that much to get started so give it a try and who knows, you may have just created the next “Angry Birds” app for your product!

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

Question For You: For the first mobile app that you create, do you think that you should sell it to customers or give it away for free?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

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?

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