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What Product Managers Do And How To Become One

User focus rather than technical skills matter most for great product managers

Product management is becoming increasingly popular as a profession. Not only is this a career path at Big Tech companies, it is also an important part of traditional businesses that choose to embrace technology. If a business has an app or a website, then there is probably somebody doing the product manager’s job.

Product management in its current form is a fairly new profession, which is why there is a lot of confusion about what it really is. While many product managers start with a technical background and have computer science degrees, this is not at all necessary to succeed.

Focus on the user’s problem

Rags Vadali, who currently works as Product Manager at Facebook, says “product management is sometimes art and sometimes science of building products.” According to Vadali, the product does not have to be an app or a website, and in fact he argues that this it the wrong focus.

“A product is a clearly identified solution to a people problem.” That solution could take many forms, but the main focus is always the user and the problem that they need to solve.

Diverse teams

Product managers work with a diverse set of professionals including engineers, designers, user researchers and data scientists. This list expands depending on the type of product they are building.

For example, product managers working on Facebook’s Instagram adverts will also work with marketers and business development teams. Product managers who help create apps for newspapers work with journalists.

All carrot and no stick

Product managers do not have the expertise to tell their colleagues how to design an app or write code, but nevertheless have to make sure that a great product is created. This potentially puts them into a very tricky position of ultimate responsibility and zero control.

Unlike a typical boss, product managers cannot mix the carrot and stick approach of incentives and admonition. Instead, they have to be collaborative and persuasive, because all they have is the carrot.

How to get started

The best way to get started in product management is to build a product. This is why startup founders often go on to roles in product management after they leave their business.

Another way to get relevant experience it to help a startup in your spare time. While you would not be driving the product, you will be seeing how it is made and taking part in building it.

You could also get involved in your existing employer’s product. I recently met a product manager at a major U.K. newspaper who began her career as a journalist. While working as a reporter, she often shared her ideas with the product team on how to improve the interface journalists use. As she got more and more involved, she made the transition from reporting the news to creating a product to help reporters. This example shows that understanding the user’s problems is far more important than having technical skills.

Vadali says he looks for user focus when interviewing candidates. He asks candidates what their favorite products are and why. If they only talk about app features without saying how they help solve a problem or create a positive fun experience, then they do not have the right mindset.

The skills product managers learn can be helpful for careers in senior leadership or investing. In fact, this is how Marissa Mayer former CEO of Yahoo, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google’s parent Alphabet and venture capitalist Ben Horowitz all started their careers. This is also why product management is becoming one of the most sought after careers for MBAs, displacing consulting and banking.

Good product managers understand the target user and have the influence skills to bring the best out of their colleagues. None of this requires technical knowledge, which means that it is one of the best options for non-technical professionals to join the tech boom.

Are you a product manager? How did you transition into this career? Tweet your thoughts to me @sophiamatveeva

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I’m an entrepreneur and advisor. I run Enty, a retail tech platform, and Tech For Non-Techies, a training community. This journey has taken me through top accelerators, exposed me to investors, taught me how to build a product, lead a team and grow revenues. On Forbes, I write about the entrepreneurial journey as it really is, rather than as I wish it would be. Find me on http://www.sophiamatveeva.com

Source: What Product Managers Do And How To Become One

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A Five-Step Approach To Creating Stellar Product E-Content

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My team and I have been working in product e-content for several years now. After working with many of the biggest FMCG companies globally, we’ve developed a comprehensive yet streamlined process for product e-content, which I’d like to share with you here.

What is product e-content?

Brands selling products online — be it on their own e-commerce website or the likes of Amazon or Alibaba — are facing a real challenge: replicating the buying experience from a physical store and translating it to the online world.

In a physical store, we can clearly see a product on the shelf, touch it and smell it. We can pick it up and read the ingredients on the label and understand why — if the product marketers have done their job properly — we should buy it. How do you recreate those aspects of the shopping experience in a virtual store?

The answer is highly optimized product e-content, which refers to all product information that facilitates the online shopper experience on digital platforms. Product e-content starts at product detail pages and extends to brand and category assets.

So, what kind of content would you need to create to improve shopper engagement with your product? Ultimately, content that helps conjure a more enjoyable and complete online shopping experience and that helps shoppers overcome their barriers to purchase.

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Before you throw yourself into creating a whole host of shiny new content, you’ll need to traverse five stepping stones:

1. Assess your current content needs.

Do you currently have product content in place, and is it really telling the story behind the brand and products in the best possible way? Are there gaps that need filling?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of your product in comparison with competitors? Have you benchmarked against them to see if their e-content is doing a better job of selling?

When working with brands, we recommend running a gap analysis. Analyze all aspects of your product page — from the title to hero images, and from product descriptions to advanced images or videos. Score each aspect in order to assess the level of readiness and to spot gaps vs. competition, thereby only implementing changes where needed, saving time and costs.

2. Get strategic.

Once you know your content needs, establish a specific action plan by brand. Set out what elements of product e-content need to be created and by when.

Action plans are best established with all stakeholders around the same table. We recommend including brand managers, trade marketing managers, e-commerce or e-business leaders and agencies. Under the leadership of an expert, such training sessions help the project owner to understand what type of content is already available, what can be repurposed, and what needs to be created from scratch, identifying clear roles and responsibilities for all parties.

3. Create.

This is where you start putting the strategy into action. Create specific actionable briefs by workstream (i.e., images, video, copywriting, etc.) that allows your respective agency or in-house team to develop content with your goals in mind.

Make sure product titles are specific, focused and searchable through SEO or internal search keywords. You’ll want to create basic high-quality images with CGI technology, allowing mobile users to clearly see essential product information (like quantity or flavor variants). Your written product descriptions should use the brand’s tone of voice, focus on key features and benefits, use local search keywords and be consistent with your advanced images, which are usually used to show the product in use or to demonstrate how it should be used. This is an opportunity to overcome shopper barriers. With food products, for example, you might want to include recipes. For appliances, you could show the product within a home environment.

Make it easy for would-be purchasers to ask questions about your product and to see ratings and recommendations from other users. And forward-thinking brand managers should think outside the box, like producing short, punchy videos or incorporating AR.

Don’t go thinking these are mainly nice-to-haves. Far from it. They are all must-haves that we’ve found directly impact conversions.

4. Deliver the assets.

Once you’ve created your product e-content assets, make sure all key stakeholders across your organization know how to access and use them to their best effect. From our experience, in addition to uploading all assets onto a Digital Asset Repository (DAM), what really works well is the creation of a “playbook” document containing not only the assets but also implementation guidelines that explain the best ways to use each of those assets.

Playbooks can also ensure continuity in circumstances, such as when a new manager takes over. Think of it as a “book” that contains all your key product e-content information with mockups and real examples.

5. Measure.

You’ll now need to measure the success of your new product e-content. How will you report back the results within your organization? What metrics and insights can you gather to help improve and tweak future iterations of the content?

When it comes to metrics, a simple framework will go a long way.

We recommend monitoring your sales progressions through your “sales per product” page as you implement new product e-content. Besides that, product e-content drives improvement in most retailers’ search algorithms, so be sure to monitor the ranking of your products against specific keywords. Last but not least, work on your rating and reviews to make sure you can achieve a 4.2-4.5-star rating, and establish a routine to read consumer feedback.

In Conclusion

As you can see from the five stepping stones I’ve briefly described above, there is considerably more that goes into creating product e-content than getting your creatives to chuck a few ideas around to see if they stick.

But if you take a best practice approach to each step and the process as a whole, you will be in a brilliant position to create exciting content that can help increase online sales of your products.

Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?

CEO of eBusiness Institute. We help companies invent their own tomorrow. Business transformation experts creating value for all stakeholders. Read Luigi Matrone’s full executive profile here.

Source: A Five-Step Approach To Creating Stellar Product E-Content

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Rebrands Can Be Tricky and Expensive. Here’s How to Get It Right the First Time

About a year after its 2016 launch, Pencil realized its name was bad for business. Co-founder Sydney Liu would talk about the online storytelling platform to enthusiastic listeners at events–but would-be users, thwarted by a second-rate domain name (usepencil.com) and a barrage of unrelated search results, couldn’t find its website.

So, in 2017, the company, based in Menlo Park, California, decided to redo its logo, site design, and color scheme before ultimately relaunching as Commaful. The overhaul worked almost immediately. “Within a week, we were number one on Google for our name,” Liu says, and organic sign-ups began to increase.

Rebrands are fairly common for startups and small businesses that don’t spend the time (or money) in the early stages to get their messaging, logos, or even monikers just right, says Douglas Spencer, president and chief brand strategist at marketing consultancy Spencer Brenneman. Besides discoverability issues, “they can run into legal challenges,” he says, or “find themselves with a logo that just looks amateur.”

But change is expensive: Most small companies (with less than $30 million in annual revenue) can expect to invest $90,000 to $180,000 on a rebrand, according to marketing agency Ignyte.

Fortunately, there are ways to cut down on costs–and make sure your investment pays off.

1. Do your homework.

Serial entrepreneur Dan Demsky once had to throw away thousands of dollars of packaging because of trademark infringement issues, so when it came time to brand his latest venture (men’s travel-apparel site Unbound Merino), he started with the basics. “Memorability and ease of spelling,” Demsky says, plus “having the domain name.” He also hired a good trademark attorney.

You’ll pay $2,000 to $2,500 for a comprehensive trademark search and around $1,000 for the application, says Marc Misthal, a lawyer with intellectual property firm Gottlieb, Rackman & Reisman. Expect added costs, including extension fees, if the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejects your application.

2. Solicit, but limit, feedback.

Opinions are a dime a dozen, so while you’ll want to run your brand plans past some employees and clients, you’ll also need to drown out the noise. When content marketing software company PathFactory–formerly known as LookBookHQ–started considering a change to its name and logo in 2017, it limited the internal brand committee to five people.

“Keeping the decision-making committee as small as possible really helped, because everyone will have their own idea of what [the brand] should be,” Cassandra Jowett, PathFactory’s senior director of marketing, says. “Changing your company’s name is not necessarily a democratic decision. Not everyone should get a vote.”

Conduct customer research, but avoid simply asking people whether they like a potential new name, logo, or color scheme, says Emily Brackett, founder of Branding Compass, a web-based branding app for small businesses. Instead, focus on the value prop you would like your name, logo, or design aesthetic to convey.

“You could say, ‘We really want to come across as caring and compassionate,’ ” Brackett suggests. “Does this logo look caring and compassionate, or does this [other] logo look caring and compassionate?”

3. Have a rollout plan.

PathFactory officially announced its new name and logo at the 2018 SiriusDecisions Summit, a major event for the B2B marketing industry. “We tied it together with a product announcement to explain the need for a change in our image,” Jowett says. “The two together got a good reception”–and a lot of much-needed media coverage.

Prior to the official announcement, the company sent swag bags to select customers, and for months after the rebrand, PathFactory left messaging about the change on all its digital channels. Even then, “not everyone realized it was the same company,” Jowett admits.

Smaller-scale rebrands won’t require so many bells and whistles. But you should still communicate why you’re making a certain change, Brackett says. Messaging can come in the form of a press release, blog post, or email to your customers.

“You want to control the narrative,” agrees Bo Bothe, CEO of Brand­Extract, a brand strategy consultancy. “If you just throw it out there to the wolves, they’re going to tear it apart.”

4. Avoid second-guessing.

Once you’ve unveiled your redesign, expect some resistance to your changes. So don’t rush to backtrack if you receive immediate negative feedback. Chances are, the blowback will blow over. (See Slack’s early-­2019 logo redesign, below. The barrage of bad press ultimately dissi­pated.) Commaful had several users threaten to leave once it unveiled the new name and logo, though they ultimately stuck with the platform, Liu says.

“Keep in mind, the product is what matters,” Bothe says. “If the product is badass, the logo will become less relevant. As long as you’re not offending anybody, you’re probably fine.”

 If It Ain’t Broke…

When Nicolas Vandenberghe relaunched his software startup as Chili Piper in 2016, his wife and co-founder, Alina Vandenberghe, quickly designed a new logo and stuck it on the website. “It was meant to be temporary,” Nicolas recalls, but customers took to the little red pepper so much, it survived the company’s formal brand refresh last year.

Chili Piper hired a design agency to draft alternatives, but ultimately the New York City-based company realized “if we change the logo, our customers will go crazy,” Nicolas explains. “They love the logo.”

There are many reasons startups or small businesses rebrand, including copyright infringement issues and the lack of a competitive differentiator, says Brackett of Branding Compass. But founders should take a cue from Chili Piper and make sure they’re not trying to fix something that’s working.

For fledgling and cash-strapped businesses in particular, “there are so many people who haven’t fully learned about your brand,” Brackett says. “Don’t change it because you’re bored.”

 

Jeanine Skowronski Senior editor, Policygenius Magazine

 

Source: Rebrands Can Be Tricky and Expensive. Here’s How to Get It Right the First Time

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