Just exactly what does a product manager job description say that we have to do? Yes yes, we are responsible for creating our product development definition, managing it, and delivering our product. However, is that where things stop? Could it be possible that we also have a responsibility to go out and find new customers for our product? Generally we think of this as being a sales job, but depending on the size of your company and the complexity of your product, this might be a task that the product manager has to undertake.
Just Exactly What Does A Customer Look Like?
If you want to step in and help your company out by finding new customers for your product, then you are going to have to start somewhere. I would suggest that you take a moment or two and spend some time trying to think about what customers for your product actually look like. Yes, we’d all like it if everyone in the world would go out and buy our product, but assuming that that is not going to be happening any time soon, everyone (people and businesses) can be divided into two groups: those who will buy our product and those who won’t.
Clearly we don’t really care about the people who will probably never buy our product. Instead, we’d like to be able to identify those people who we have a fairly good chance of selling our product to. Who are they? As product managers we understand that the people who might buy our product have to be experiencing a problem that our product addresses. What this then means for us is that we need to have a very, very clear understanding of just exactly what problem our product solves.
Once we understand what problem our product solves, we can start to identify our product’s potential customers. One of the things that we need to realize is that even though we may know that our potential customer needs our product to solve their problem, they may not know that they have the problem and they probably don’t know that they need our product! In my product management career, another thing that I’ve come to realize is that even if a potential customer has a need for your product, that need has to be a high enough priority for them to take action to solve. It’s only the squeaky wheels that get the oil!
Where Can You Find More Customers?
With a little luck, you already have some customers for your product! Congratulations – that’s something to put on your product manager resume. Now your next step as a product manager has to be to go find more customers for your product. This brings up the sticky question of just exactly where you are going to be able to find those customers? One simple answer to this question is, of course, where you found your existing customers. There is something that ties your existing customers together in terms of how they became aware of your product and the fact that they had a problem that you solve.
Once you’ve exhausted the easy path to more customers, you now have to start to branch out and find where other customers are at. The good news here is that other people may have done your work for you. There is probably a product or service that your product competes with. There will be customers who have selected that product. You may believe that your product is better than the product that they have selected and so if you talked with these customers, they might be willing to switch to your product. Even if they don’t switch today, perhaps later in the future they may seek you out.
Finally, once you’ve identified potential customers that have the problem that your product solves, you need to understand how they are going about solving that problem today. Some may have selected your product, some may have selected a competitor’s product, and then there may be some that have chosen to just live with the problem. It’s this third group of potential customers that you are going to want to go after. You need to find a way to point out to them that the problem that they are living with is a bigger deal than they thought that it was and that you have a solution for them.
What All Of This Means For You
In order for any product manager to be successful, we need to offer a product that will attract customers. As a product manager, we tend to spend our time working to make sure that the product that we can offer to our customers is as attractive as possible. However, depending on the size of our company and the complexity of our product, there are times that we may be called upon to help find additional customers for our product.
The first thing that we need to do is to identify what our potential customers look like. We need to have a good understanding of just exactly what problems our product solves.. Once we know this, we can then identify those potential customers who have that problem. Knowing what problem our product solves is a great start, our next step has to be to find customers who have that problem. We can always get more customers like the ones that we have. Next, we can get customers like the ones that our competition has been able to capture. Finally, we can convince customers who are living with the problem to select our product in order to solve the problem.
In order for a product to be successful, you always need to be adding new customers. As a product manager there will be times that your company comes to you and asks for your help in getting more customers. Knowing how to make this happen is a critical product manager skill. Make sure that you know where to find your product’s next customers!
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™
Question For You: If you decide to try to take customers away from your competition, do you need features or can you just cut your price?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
Once upon a time, being a product manager at HP was a great job to have. The company prided itself on its innovations and it was always trying to bring new products to market. However, time has passed and HP fell on hard times. Eventually the leadership at HP decided that they were trying to address too many different markets to be just one company. They decided to split the company up into two separate companies. One will tackle the rapidly changing technology business and the other will sell personal computers and printers. What will the product managers at the printer part of HP do to keep their company afloat?