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How do you get product management to focus more on customer problems and solving them, and less on shipping features that customers don't need?

They want to convey 20+ features to the public when we should only focus on top 3-5 features then figure out what the true benefit is to the end user.
11 Answers
Caroline Walthall
Caroline Walthall
Quizlet Director of Product MarketingJanuary 30

Yes! I can relate!

Feature-level messages are so limited on the marketing side. Part of your job as PMM is help recommend the best way to 1) connect features benefits, 2) roll benefits into value props, and 3) provide positioning statements for your target markets. 

PMMs can take the lead on drafting this work but it's really beneficial to include your PM and other key stakeholders in the process to get their buy in. Once you settle on the place you want to go with regard to value prop, consider testing the messaging and putting it in front of customers. 

As you validate the strength of leading with higher level benefits and storylines, you can bring that as a key filter for product planning. Ask, "does this new feature help us shore up our core value proposition?" If not, "how does it tie into our marketing platform? Is it truly additive or does it complicate things unneccessarily?"

1021 Views
Uri Kogan
Uri Kogan
OnPlan VP Product MarketingMarch 3

Based on the question, it sounds to me like your product management team isn't thinking very strategically. Perhaps they're not close enough to customers, or they're too close to a select few, who have taken over the roadmapping process for their own needs.

I'd encourage you to try to translate the company's strategy and positioning into themes, and talk to product leadership about what the key areas of innovation are that will make the company successful over time. Product knows as well as any team in the company that sprints are one of the most precious resources in the business. Help them see that they have to strike a deliberate balance between blocking and tackling the basics and investing for the longer term objectives of the business. Make sure they're getting in front of sources of information that they don't usually hear from. Maybe bring them along to a conference, or send them articles or your notes from a talk. If they're aren't typically on sales calls, bring them along or send them recordings of key bits you heard that influenced you thinking.

I haven't met a product team that *isn't* interested in doing important work. It's just sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees. Make sure you're pulling your PMs out of the weeds and remind them of the larger picture, and 9 times out of 10, they will thank you.

536 Views
Becky Trevino
Becky Trevino
Snow Software Executive Vice President ProductsMarch 1

The job of Product Management should be to focus on solving customers problems not simply shipping new features no one is going to use. 

If this behavior is isolated to one Product Manager, then I would work closely with that PM to understand the key metrics of success for that feature which should relate back to some form of product adoption. 

If this behavior is broad – meaning the entire PM organization cares more about shipping features than solving customer problems – then this is a very tough problem. You can’t solve this yourself. Only the Head of Product can solve this problem and if he/she doesn’t see this as a problem, then that is the problem itself.

536 Views
Alex Lobert
Alex Lobert
Meta Product Marketing Lead, Facebook for Business & CommerceAugust 26

I suggest that you start by taking a step back to really diagnose the problem. Why is it that the team wants to ship so many features? 

I try to always assume good intent. With that in mind, the team's actions are probably logical, but there is either mis-alignment on the goal they are optimizing for or the process that will best get to the goal. 

Start by getting on the same page about the goal. Do you have the same undersatnding of vision for the future of the product? Are you focused on the same metrics? Are you building for the same segment of customers?... Does the product team well understand that segment of customers? 

Once you're aligned on the goal, then align on what approach will best get you there. Why is shipping 3-5 features better than 20? What are the pros and cons of each approach. If you can tell a good story about why your approach is best to achieve a shared goal, you just may change their mind.  

If the root cause is that the product team doesn't understand the segment of customers well enough, that is great signal that there is need for research or a customer immersion. Consider getting your product team in front of your customers so they can hear first hand what their needs are. 

920 Views
Lauren Craigie
Lauren Craigie
Cortex Head of Product MarketingApril 27

Ah I'm sorry you're in that situation. PMM should be part of product roadmapping meetings, since everything that's in the queue should be going through some sort of business valuation (what is the cost/benefit of putting this feature into the world).

But I think stepping back to understand the motives here might be a good place to start. Maybe there's a company OKR on product differentiation, or a cross-team initiative to reduce competitive losses? Or maybe product<>market fit isn't quite there and the team is experimenting with different use cases for different audiences?

If none of those situations apply, then I would say that PMM can play a huge part in shifting roadmap direction. But first, you need to show why you think some features are needed, and others aren't. Have product usage, ARR, or conversion rates gone down in your target audiences since these new features were shipped? If not, you will have a hard time making the case for why shipped features aren't useful to customers.

If you do have those data points, implementing an NPS system is a good start. Interviewing detracters, and/or churned users from accounts that were identified as otherwise fitting your ICP (ideal customer profile) can help you elevate the biggest problem areas for product to consider. If you just want to help reset the product team's understanding of your ICP and target users, sharing new research on segmentation, win/loss rates, buyer feature-value rankings, and surveys can help.

326 Views
Hannah Hughes
Hannah Hughes
Affirm Director of Consumer PMM and LifecycleAugust 31

A few ideas on how to respond to your product partners in these situations:

  •  Propose bundled launches- Group similar features into one announcement to decrease cognitive load for users.
  •  Create requirements for broader marketing support- Create a framework of how PMM supports different levels of features. How does your team support features that are seeking product<>market fit vs scaled mature features? Share explicit expectations around funnel performance with your product partner, dig in with them about how to improve feature engagement.
  •  Highlight risks- If a feature doesn't seem valuable, be vocal in expressing your concerns! This, if handled with grace, could save the org a lot of time and effort. It's definitely sensitive and needs to be handled delicately. A few ways this has worked for me in previous roles: connecting PMs working on similar features and asking them to consider a consolidation, partnering with Product on usability feedback, suggesting a different launch time (different month or quarter) to avoid conflicts with other launches.
495 Views
Mike Flouton
Mike Flouton
GitLab VP, ProductSeptember 7

You're basically asking how to get PM to do their job. It sounds like the PM in your example just lacks a fundamental understanding of that they need to do. That's a HUGE issue. My advice? Forget about the PM and look at his/her boss and the CEO. Is this a systemic issue with the company, or is management bought in to what PM needs to do. If management is bought in, you might want to suggest an offsite or putting the team through Pragmatic Marketing. If management is NOT bought in, get a new job because your company is going nowhere fast. 

 

 

554 Views
Carlos González de Villaumbrosia

The Product Manager's job is more than that, but you are right. We have to focus on consumer problems and solve them. However, we have a massive list of problems and bugs to fix and prioritize based on business growth, data results, and features that directly impact the goals. You can try to ask your Product Manager about the changes and bugs that he is prioritizing to understand how long it will take to fix the problems the users and marketing identified. Some Product Managers can make mistakes like dive into new features instead of fix problems, but if these problems significantly impact revenue and results, they need to be addressed. 

327 Views
Gregg Miller
Gregg Miller
Oyster® VP of Product MarketingJuly 24

Whether you're trying to improve the relationship with the PM or to advance the conversation with their boss/leadership per Mike's suggestion above, you can make a more effective case if you're able to bring data to the discussion.

First you need to be able to clearly articulate customer problems that are unaddressed with the existing product and roadmap. If you don't know what those problems are, as a PMM you have scope to try and help define them. If you're in B2B, talk to salespeople to get an initial idea. If you're in B2C, look for on-hand feedback from sources if you have them: NPS surveys, customer support tickets/inquiries, community forums, etc.

Once you've got your hypotheses about unaddressed needs, talk to folks in the market. You can cheaply source a dozen interviews with people in your market (in the market, not customers) via tools like UserInterviews.com. Gather insights, synthesize them, and share that with the relevant parties at your organization. If the disparity between what you're shipping and what's needed in the market is as clear as you're suggesting, that should come across very obviously in the insights you've gathered. 

If that doesn't prompt a conversation about changing the roadmap, you really should get out of dodge!

810 Views
Tracy Montour
Tracy Montour
HiredScore Head of Product MarketingJuly 29

This is extremely important but not easy to do. Sometimes it feels like product managers are so busy shipping features that they don't see the forest through the trees. If you involve them in the research process, they are more apt to incorporate the customer feedback into their deliverables. If possible, get your PMs face-to-face with a customer. Help them build some customer empathy. If that's not possible, provide short snippets of conversations in Gong. Be persistent. It's important. 

253 Views
Gaurav Harode
Gaurav Harode
Enablix FounderOctober 31

I agree with Mike's answer here. In many B2B organizations, a Product Manager is synonymous to a Release Manager. And in these environments, the product teams are not communicating to sales. If that is the case, it will be difficult to change that culture. 

The best way to cut through this is to quantify feature prioritization in $$. In most organizations, the only language that everyone understands is that of revenue. It can help you get the necessary support from management. 

Here are some tips that I have seen work in my previous roles: 

  • Engage Customer Success. You need the customer success team on your side. They will be an ally in your quest to focus on customer issues. And in today's world of subscription-based pricing, you can easily attribute revenue to feature requests. 
  • Engage Sales. This is a no-brainer. But you need to take it further and attach your feature requests to deals in the pipeline. For instance, feature X is linked to $3M in the next fiscal's pipeline. And if you can have the sales defend these claims, it will make a strong business case. 
  • Measure Feature Cost. If your team is doing any estimation for features, then you should be able to come up with an approximate feature cost. It will help you use this cost to draw attention to higher and lower ROIs on feature investments. 
  • Track Dead Features. It is quite likely that you currently have previously-delivered features in your product that are unused. Keep track of them. I will not recommend to use them in every prioritization discussion, but it doesn't hurt to bring these past missteps to defend future decisions.

461 Views
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