Best in Class Product Management

This is a summary of the inaugural Global Product Management Talk held by Cindy F Solomon and Brainmates on 8th February 2011 (Sydney date). The full transcript of the event.

Steven Haines of Sequent Learning Networks led the discussion on ‘Best in Class Product Management’ by asking the participants a question that may seem simple but in reality has many nuances.

The first question from Steven was “What do you do to gain insight into your markets?”

Some of the answers:

  • Brainmates: To gain insights, quantitative analysis, customer interviews, focus groups, competitor review…
  • nickcoster: 1) Make sure there is a definition of who we THINK the market is. Then make sure we can find someone who fits the definition. 2) Watch what people are doing with product that they were never designed for and find out what they were trying to do. It’s obvious but, ask “why” like a 4 year old. Ask “why” till it hurts. Ask “why” until you find something unexpected.
  • cindyfsolomon: The actions I take depends on the lifecycle of the product – if there are already customers or competitors.
  • piplzchoice: Deep analysis of customer feedback and word of mouth.
  • launchclinic: My favorite are Win/Loss calls. Since most of my efforts on GTM. Amazing what you can learn.
  • sehlhorst: to me – understanding target personas – problems they want to (pay to) solve, and msging that works for them.

Steven defined insights as “to see beyond the data or information”.

Its not sufficient to simply have the market data but Product Management has to interpret and make some sense of the information obtained in a meaningful way.

Through the discussion, Steven felt that the group was focused on the tools used to obtain market insights instead of the activities that enables us to derive insights. Understanding a target persona is a method.

“Insights are derived when you see, observe, feel, or sense. The big deal is “What does it all mean?” “Why do people do what they do?” Insight means you ‘see’ into the situation of the three dynamics of the ‘market’ (Industry, Competitors, Customers). Aspects of the market drive insights. Insights stimulate thought. Thought stimulates strategy.”

Cindy asked “How do you validate your insights so they are not ‘subjective’?”

Perhaps you can’t. Scott Sehlhorst of Tyner Blain likened it to “distilling insight from the vapour of nuance. You can give yourself confidence with stats and data, but judgement skill is still required.”

Dave from Launch Clinic said “think of gaining market insights as a lifestyle change. Not a project.”

Hakan from Rymatech advised “to avoid subjectivity, make sure insight is comparable (to past trends), justifiable (can explain process used), repeatable”.

The second question that Steven asked the group was “What’s the most important thing you ever learned from analyzing market data?”

Here are some of the answers:

  • Launchclinic: I confirmed I didn’t have a market for a product I inherited. Killed it. Not popular.
  • Cindyfsolomon: Learned from analyzing market data – to stop supporting Mac users and focus on Windows users – painful decision.
  • Barrypaquet: What NOT to build.
  • Sehlhorst: Got out of that business :(. shame, too – cld have developed different approach. lesson learned for me
  • NickCoster: Learning that the original target market for a product was not the right target market.
  • Steven_Haines: One thing I did once? I fired a customer! Also, another thing I did… I figured out that product marketing wasn’t able to do their job!
  • Brainmates: Learning the hard way… for us… making sure we don’t sell to the wrong customer. Can never make them happy.
  • HakanKilic: Loser from revenue (market dried up or moved) or not enough margins to meet company objectives?

The third question Steven posed was “Anyone ever combine market research and financial data to make a more informed decision?

For some of us, this equated to the business case. Steven said that this could also be a strategy paper.

More was discussed but a definition of market data ensued. Steven defined market data as “industry + competitor + competitive product + market segments + customer targets.”

Brainmates added another attribute. “Market data also includes market trends.”

According to Steven, “every Product Manager and Marketer needs to harness i + c + cp + ms + ct and make a story about it! I call it ‘Market story’. Market stories provide themes, and gives reason to insanity.”

What does market insights and market data have to do with Best In Class Product Management?

Well.. gathering and interpreting market insights is part of the DNA of a great Product Managers.

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