Why startups need Product Managers?
I am noticing more and more startups emerge with a great business plan and get funded to start building products that they think can help meet a market need. What is appalling to me is that while the product is the key thing that will make or break the company, they completely ignore the one role that can really help them accelerate and deliver a better market, the role of a good product manager. Initially, these companies may not feel the impact of this decision, but over time, as product starts materializing, and users/customers start showing up, this becomes a costly mistake. By the time they realize what an impact a product manager would have made in the early stages of the Product Life cycle, its often too late.
It is important to identify early on what is the role of a Product Manager in a startup.
A product manager can bring a lot of value to the product definition and focus, both through the inbound and out bound activities.
Some of the key inbound activities are:
- Product requirement scoping and setting clear priorities with the development team as to what are the value add features that will drive revenue and customer acceptance. If the engineers know why they are building what they are building, they will be much happier and produce a far more superior product.
- Clearly identifying and understanding the competitive market space and defining the market-scope for the product. When the engineers know what they are asked to compete against, they will often excel and beat the competition. If sales team can articulate this, then this results in better sales!
- Make sure all the skate holders (sales, support, engineering, professional services, marketing, and executive sponsors) understand the market well enough about what market need and pain points the product aims to address.
On the other hand, outbound activities are important too, such as:
- Identify and build relationship with the the early adopters and that would be willing to participate early on at the Beta testing and provide timely feedback. This enables you to deliver a better product to the market.
- Make sure the sales teams are trained and are confident to pitch the products to the market. If they don’t understand what they are selling and who they are selling to, you won’t get the sales numbers you need.
- Build a strong relationship with customers and partners to make sure the value add of the product is well understood before they start adopting the product. This yields a happier customer who does not get frustrated with a misunderstood product.
- Work with the marketing team to fine tune and update the messaging and positioning of the product to create buzz and awareness of the product in the industry. Leverage social media to spread the word out, and don’t forget talking to the analysts, they need to know how cool your stuff is so they can tell their clients.
So, if you are a startup or working in one, make sure you understand the importance of a product manager who can be the passionate evangelist of the product and technology you are building. Behind every successful product, is a successful product manager! 🙂