A common issue in product management is dealing with assumptions and egos that when a problem arises with your product, that the product manager knows what to do to fix it. From there, the problem only gets worse as the product manager drives forward with implementing solutions to make a change occur based on their “knowledge” of how to solve the problem. The job of the product manager is not to magically know the fix for a product problem but instead to know how to go about a process to identify the breakdown, brainstorm on potential solves for that and work with users to validate the solutions.
Let’s talk over a specific example of this which deals with one of the most important metrics for your product. As a product manager, you look at your key metrics and one of them should be conversion or adoption and see your product conversion is down. From there as a business your priority is now to increase conversion. This is where the road typically splits with product managers that once they are presented with a problem they can take two paths to get to a solution where really only one path will get you the right answer.
Path A – Product Manager knows best: When a problem arises, Product managers can typically go through the product themselves to check for obvious problems or issues and identify where, if they were a user, they would drop off on a process. Product managers putting themselves in customer shoes can be a dangerous game for a number of reasons but the biggest issue is that the the product manager could have defined the on boarding and conversion workflow. They may not see the problems in front of them as they did not perceive the problems when they designed the flow. An easy comparison is when you write something, you have someone else read it to confirm the flow of the writing and grammar is accurate. Product Managers need the same process in that they will be their own worst validators of problems simply because they may not be able to see what is in front of them because they know it too well. So how can a product manager manage a product if they cannot see product problems in front of them? Let’s move to Path B.
Path B – Work with customers and data: If conversion is the problem you are trying to solve for, start by using data to see where your customers are dropping off in your conversion funnel. If you don’t have a funnel defined, start by defining the step by step process in which users follow from trying your product to paying for it and measure all of your leads to see where they are in this process. By looking at the data of adoption, you may be able to see that at a certain step you see a big drop in adoption or continued use of the product. This will help you focus in on the specific step in your funnel that is breaking down. From there, it is time to engage users at that point to do user interviews to see what specifically at that step is broken. What pain point is a user experiencing at that step in your funnel which is causing them to discontinue and disengage your product? The only way to know, is to ask them and complete rounds of user interviews with leads that reach that point or recently reached that point and decided to move on to hear what went wrong.
Once you are able to identify using data the specific breakdowns in a funnel you can then use customer feedback to identify the specific issues causing the issue in your product. From there, you can work with customers to identify a set of solutions to solve the issue in that step and then try to implement the solutions at that time. Again, monitor adoption and customer feedback once you put in a change to see if that fixed the glitch and interview users going through that step to see if the next wave is able to move forward within your funnel. If not, continue to change your solution to solve the pain point. Many product managers especially early in their careers assume their job is to put the product on their shoulders and just know how to make the product better and grow the business. This perspective is one that changes as you get more experience and mature your product management process and you realize that the role of a product manager is to build a business by solving more pain points that potential customers experience and the only way to do that is to ask your customers.