Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

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The tuned in product manager

I recently wrote a post about the great new book Tuned In: Uncover the Extraordinary Opportunities That Lead to Business Breakthroughs. This book has wide application to different types of organizations, markets and individuals. Anyone looking for ways to improve their success will be well-served by reading and applying the principles in Tuned In.

I have found particular application to of the Tuned In principles to product management. Product managers succeed when their products succeed. Their products succeed when they solve previously unresolved problems, or existing problems in new ways. The tuned in product manager identifies problems that the market wants to solve and provides context to help the company create the solution. Successful product managers are:

  • Tuned in to the market: Tuned in product managers understand their customers and also their potential customers (the untapped market). Many great blog posts exist about understanding existing customers. Knowing your potential customers — i.e. the market — can be more tricky. Finding places where potential customers gather (either in-person or on-line) and spending time with them is one way I’ve discovered to gather important market data. Relevant industry trade shows can be a great option to meet with non-customers. Tuned in product managers discover unresolved problems and find ways to create products that will fill the unmet needs.
  • Tuned in to the product team: Tuned in product managers lead the product team with market facts. They know their team members, understand what inspires them and provide relevant product direction. They work to instill confidence in their ability to lead the products and the team in the right direction. They know what motivates the team to go above and beyond their normal abilities. They take the initiative to make important decisions, and then stand behind those decisions. They foster productivity on the team.

Tuned in product managers are the driving force behind the products that become resonators in their markets. They pay attention to details and provide context to enable their teams to succeed. And ultimately, they have fun doing it!

For more information on this topic please see the article Steve Johnson and I co-wrote: The Tuned-In Product Manager. Join us on July 11 as we present a webinar titled Tuned In Product Teams. Pragmatic Marketing has also published an article I wrote: Five Factors of Leadership. Check out the Tuned In landing page for other great events and articles associated with the Tuned In release.


Knowing your potential customers

Savvy product managers not only understand their customers, but also their potential (non-) customers. Finding and getting time with potential customers can be tricky. They do not have an established relationship with you or your company and may not even know anything about the company. However, they typically gather and associate with the same people who are customers.

One of the best places I’ve found to get feedback from non-customers is at industry specific trade shows. I recently attended a trade show that targets companies that make up the bulk of my potential customer base. We had a booth on the exhibition floor which a few members of the sales team staffed for the most part. I spent about four hours there in three days and spent the rest of the time in breakout sessions and talking with people at the show.

The sales guys were not overly impressed with the show leads. However, the show was a huge success for me because I spent three days talking and interacting with potential customers. Here’s what I learned:

  • Potential customers will talk about their business successes and struggles (both of which are valuable)
  • Industry specific (targeted) trade shows present an excellent forum to get valuable information about potential customers
  • Knowing what drives potential customers helps you develop a market-driven product roadmap
  • Gaining valuable information about potential customers takes a lot of digging. It’s hard work but well worth the effort.

Product managers need to gain a deep, visceral understanding of the potential buyers in their market. Though the value of trade shows has been called into question, attending the right shows presents an excellent opportunity to know your potential customers.