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Move Fast and Have a Vision: A Product Manager’s Guide

Building a product is similar to setting out on a mission; it involves picking a destination (objective) and researching the right route (validating your idea). Seasoned explorers will often ask each other for tips and advice; with software, it’s important that you listen to your customers if you already have them — and talk to as many people in your target market as possible — about what gaps your product will fill and how you will need to close them. Getting your product to market is important, but making sure that a market actually exists is equally important.

In 2010, market research indicated there was an under served segment of advertisers who had long been paying “technology tax” to multiple vendors and third parties. Our customers, and target customers, were using Microsoft Excel to manage their day to day marketing campaigns and media planning. We knew that this manual process had to change. Our target market and gap had been identified.

As our team set out to build a SaaS solution that could empower a segment of early adopters and end users, here’s what we learned:

1. Treat every idea and product line that you own, small or large, as if you were a founder. Work with your engineers, marketing team, sales team — and most importantly your customers as you bring a new product to market.

2. Believe in what you are doing. You need to love the product that you are building. If you can’t geek out and fall in love with the product every day, chances are that engineers and end users won’t either. You need to be a user and an evangelist.

3. Never build anything in a vacuum. Understand the history of your product line. What has been tried before? What were your customers doing before, and what software were they using to do it? Pay attention to the world around you, but be careful not to get distracted. You need to listen to your customers’ requests, analyze data points coming from heavily implemented analytics solutions, and constantly fix bugs that could impact customer experience.

4. Focus on the big picture. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the latest fantastic feature, but a string of those will leave you with a totally unusable offering. With every spec and every line of code make sure to ask yourself, “How does ‘this feature’ interact with ‘my product,’ and how does ‘this feature’ fit into my global workflow?”

As you set out to build a product, ask yourself:

  • Why is what I am working on important?
  • How often is this feature requested via the sales team and our customers?
  • Does this help increase ROI to my customers?
  • How will different types of customers interact with this product?
  • How can we educate our customers about this release?
  • Have I met my goal? Am I done?

If the answer to that last question is “yes” — as a product manager, you have failed. You are never done. You need to to keep thinking about the big picture; building for usability, and building based on market need. While you may not be shipping code weekly anymore, nothing that is “On Production” should be out of sight out of mind. As the market evolves, your users evolve. Always listen to customer feedback. Always analyze the data. Keep driving the vision.

At Nanigans, our mission is to arm marketing teams with the best software to manage their digital advertising in-house.

What’s yours?

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