Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


How do you develop product leadership?

One of the most challenging aspects of any product organization is knowing what products to build or services to provide. There are so many ‘voices’ and distractions vying for your attention that make it difficult to know where you should put your time and efforts. Ultimately, every product leader wants to create products their customers will buy, so cutting through the clutter is a critical to your success. Continue reading

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Are you a leader in product innovation?

What drives innovation in your company or organization? Do you have a group of “thinkers” who come up with the new ideas? Do you watch the trends of competitors or others close to your market? Do you look outside your corporate world for clues to where you should go next?

In a recent MIT Sloan Executive Education innovation@work post the author Eric von Hippel asserts that company leaders focus too much on what’s next based on their internal product innovators, and they do not listen enough to the people using the products. On the topic of who are the real product innovators, von Hippel says:

It’s consumers not the product innovators who should be viewed as the new experts. A new school of innovation thinking says that product innovators who work for manufacturers have received far too much credit for product innovation, while product users have received far too little

The Product Management Perspective: The topic of product innovation goes to the roots of every product manager. Most forward-looking organizations rely on product managers to innovate their products, to assure their viability to the market, with the end goal of increased sales revenue. Visiting your customers—whether consumers at a tradeshow or large enterprise customers at their place of business—is key to the innovation and future success of your products. If you (or your boss) need motivation for looking to the outside for product innovation, I recommend the article three reasons to visit customers.


Communicating with customers

When times are good, communicating with customers is easy. Travel budgets are typically flush with cash, optimism abounds and your desire to discuss company direction is high. However, in difficult times one of the first things to drop off in many companies is customer interaction. Whether because of budget cuts or the more serious problem — loss of company confidence — communicating with customers seems to go by the wayside when times get tough.

Regardless of how well your company is doing, you need to communicate with customers. In a recent IBD article, Gloria Lau emphasized the importance of customer relationships:

Get out there and make sure clients know you’re there for them. A lot of suppliers are spending time internally focused, curtailing travel expenses. Instead, this is the time when you should spend more money with customers. You need to build those relationships to let clients know you’ll be there for them in the long term. Once you have a solid relationship with customers and you help them through a crisis, their memories can be pretty long.

In difficult economic times spending money to interact with customers is a sound investment. Spending time and money on potential customers is also relevant. Chances are your competitors are not making the same effort, so make the most of your opportunities.

The Product Management Perspective: Much has been written about the importance of customer visits to the success of your products. In this podcast with Stacey Weber we discuss the importance of customer visits, and other topics such as business problems and requirements analysis.