Common Pitfalls for First Time Product Manager

by Ashima Dua –

When you’re first starting out in Product Management, it can be easy to fall into common misconceptions and pitfalls. Navigating through uncharted territory can make anyone unsure of what to do or who to reach out to, so some growing pains are bound to happen. Here are some pitfalls most first time product managers face and what you can do if you find yourself in this situation.

Building products in isolation

A good product manager will need to interact with many teams: sales, marketing, client success, as well as the usual design and development teams. Each team will bring their own perspective, thoughts, user feedback and where they think the product should be headed. Often times this direction may be different from what you wanted and you may not want to listen. After all you’re the PM, you should get the final say right?

That may be true, but not listening to other can also lead to failure. Difference of opinion and direction is okay. It’s your job to listen to every team and hear their perspectives and insights. You’ll co-mingle all this information to learn more and ultimately shape the best direction for your product.

Not understanding your user

There are many ways to understand your user, make sure you’re using multiple ways to build a better product for them.

Market research and competitor analysis can help ensure you’re up to date with your landscape and the different features / products being launched. You’ll know how your product stacks up and how you differentiate.

User surveys and feedback can help give you insight into what a user thinks about your product.

User support requests can help surface the problems that exist in your product, especially if multiple people are reporting the same thing.

Analytics on your product can help show user behavior, drop off or non use of features that you thought were successful.

All of this can help you understand your user and build products with their needs in mind.

Not knowing how to measure success

Before you ship any product or feature, you should define and know how you’ll measure its success. Do you want to increase the number of daily users, do you want to save x amount of time, do you want just have a certain percentage use the feature? Whatever your criteria, you should make sure it’s designed and know you’re going to measure it to ensure the feature is successful. Sometimes it’s easy the definition is easy, but you may realize you can’t measure that. Take some time to figure out how you’ll do so and have that set up prior to launch.

Being able to measure will help you see if what you intended is happening and how you should stay the course or change directions.

Not experimenting enough

As a PM you may need to experiment to see how you can help solve a particular problem. It may be as simple as, I need users to register and I’m not sure where to do so. Should I have them sign up at the start or should I tease them a little of the product and hook them before getting them to sign up?

In comes experimenting. If you’ve already researched and think one way is better than another try it out. Do a test. Maybe you can have ½ a segment of users try the way you think will be successful and another ½ try another way. As you watch users go through your intended flows you’ll be able to measure what they’re doing and if your hypothesis is successful. If it is, great! Launch the feature as is, if not change or experiment some more. And always keep measuring to learn.

Being afraid of failure

As a new PM you may not yet have experienced failure. It’s hard, everyone want to be successful and failing all the time isn’t so great. But don’t let the fear of failure stop you from putting our new products and features. Now, this isn’t free reign to do sloppy work. Of course you should research, and analyze and make sure the product shows no major bugs. But if you’ve done all that and are still hesitant on whether your feature will be successful, just put it in and see what happens.

You’ve already set how you’re going to measure success, now do it, and don’t overthink yourself. In a few days or weeks, you’ll know if your feature was as you intended or a bust. And even if it was a bust, you’ll learn and more importantly know why and be able to design and change for the better.

Want to learn more?

Women in Product, in association with Wayfair, wants to help provide answers! Join us on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 to: Learn from the Experts: Break into Product Management or Take your PM skills to the next level!

Our awesome panel Gillian Roslyakov, Mary Kaufman, Melissa Appel, and Sarah Donner will share their stories and give you tangible tips and tricks on navigating your career and making sure your resume is top notch for that job you’re vying for.

Come join us to gain knowledge and a tool kit to help you be successful in your next product management career move!

Ashima Dua is Director of Product and Engineering at WiserTogether.  In her professional life, relationships are everything and Ashima loves creating meaningful ones.  This may mean connecting with her teammates, and understanding their ambitions and goals, or empathizing with customers and building something that is truly impactful.  The people around us are the heart of any successful endeavor.

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