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If you want to be a bad product manager, rush an undifferentiated product to market in order to grab market share. Sure, a competitor may have beat you to the market, but now that they are out there creating demand for an innovative offering, you don’t have time to waste. Your version may not be terribly unique and it may be a bit less than what the competition offers. Still, there may be customers who don’t like what the competitor has so you’ll get their business, or you can skim on advertising and sell yours a bit cheaper to create more demand. Either way, it should be pretty easy to get a successful product out of it, right? If you want to be a good product manager, look to differentiate your product and avoid being a “me too.” Speed to market is certainly important, though it is almost always better to be later to the market with a better product than slightly quicker with something that does not stand out. Being first is good, though no guarantee. (Amazon.com was not the first online bookseller; the iPod was not the first portable MP3 player; Google was not the first search engine;…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, make your decision about whether to buy, build, or partner on a product one in the same with your decision about whether to create the product at all. Maybe the market isn’t particularly attractive, but you can get into it pretty easily by partnering with a company. Or maybe you have a good idea for a product and you think it will be to difficult to build it, so the idea should get “shelved.” After all, you have to figure out how the product will get created at some point, so you might as well figure that out before you decide to go forward with it at all. If you want to be a good product manager, do not let your buy vs. build vs. partner decision unduly influence your go / no-go decision. Ultimately, the decision about whether to launch a product is a serious one, and the build / buy / partner decision is just one that needs to be taken into consideration. Unfortunately, sometimes good product ideas can get stopped in their tracks because of a feeling that it will be too hard to build or partner for…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, don’t worry as much about defining the problem as quickly finding the solution. Problems are usually very obvious and clear, and any time you spend dwelling on it is wasted time that could be spent on solving it. The sooner you start solving the problem, the soon you’ll have it figured out. How hard is it to define a problem, anyway? If you want to be a good product manager, get a good understanding of the problem before you try and solve it. Product managers and many others unfortunately assume the problem is evident and jump right to solving it. However, ill-defined problems lead to ill-defined solutions. Albert Einstein purportedly said that, given one hour to save the world, he would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and 5 minutes finding the solution. One of the most important aspects of defining the problem is to “size” the problem properly. If you define the problem too narrowly, your possible solutions may be very limited and uncreative. If you define the problem too broadly, your solutions may be out of scope and irrelevant to the business context. For example, pretend you are a…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, start developing a product and release it as soon as possible. If you’ve got a good idea for a product, why wait? You need to get it defined, get it developed as quickly as you can, and then release it right away, without any delay. Everyone knows that the first product to market usually wins, and the sooner it’s released, the quicker you’ll be profitable. If you want to be a good product manager, consider your market window as part of your product strategy. Often companies come up with what they believe to be a fantastic idea for a new product and there is a tremendous push to release it as soon as possible. There are usually two main reasons for this push: The hope that the sooner the product is in the market, the sooner it will recoup its costs. The belief that a competitor may also be trying to get a similar product to market, and you would like to have first-mover advantage. To address these sometimes mistaken beliefs: While a product obviously can not start recouping its costs until it is available for sale, simply releasing a product…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, copy everything that Apple does. Everyone knows that Apple has some of the best products in the world, so you’d be a fool not to copy what they do. If you want to create a product as successful as the iPhone or the iPod, then just follow their lead. If you want to be a good product manager, learn from the mistakes of Apple, including those related to the iPhone 3G S. Apple has produced some legendary products which have been wildly and there are many aspects of their product development process which product managers would be wise to understand and emulate. However, they are not perfect, as evidenced by less-than-stellar ideas like the Mac Mini and Apple TV, and slip-ups around launches of products like MobileMe. Their recently announced iPhone 3G S provides a few examples of why not to blindly follow Apple, and how to learn from their mistakes: Product naming: The name for the original iPhone made sense — a phone + iPod, from Apple = iPhone. The iPhone 3G was a good extension; while 3G is more of a technical term, it is common enough parlance for…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, just focus on prioritizing features. That’s what product managers do, after all — just collect features from customers and decide which are the most important ones to add to the product. Plus, now with all these great tools that let you collect features directly online and have customers vote on them, it’s even easier since your customers are doing all of your work for you! If you want to be a good product manager, realize that your job is much more than prioritizing features. Sure, a product manager needs to understand what features need to be added to a product to meet customer needs, though just focusing on collecting and prioritizing features is an extremely narrow view of product management. Product managers need to have a much broader view, seeing and understanding everything from the underlying customer needs to the business model to the product roadmap to the go-to-market strategy. Unfortunately, it is all too easy for product managers to fall in to feature-focused development mode, especially for online products and those developed using Agile methods. Why does this happen? A few possible reasons: It is perceived as a relatively “safe”…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, release all of your features at once. If you have some cool functionality, why would you wait to show it to the world? You need to get as much out as you can right away — if users don’t see everything that you have to offer the first time they use the product, there’s a chance you might lose them. Sure, there may be some features that they don’t care about, but customers will gladly sift through extra functionality to find the few pieces which might be really worthwhile. If you want to be a good product manager, save some features for later. It’s important to include enough functionality when a product is first released, though there are legitimate reasons to delay the addition of some non-essential features for future releases, including: Customers have difficulty processing too many features at once. With new products, it is too easy to get into “feature overload” and make it hard for users to focus on the most important functionality. Extra features may divert attention from the truly differentiating elements of the product, so much so that some customers may get distracted by the less…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, assume your product is the center of your customers’ world. After all, you’ve created the most amazing product ever, so who wouldn’t want to use it all day? Sure, you’re spending 40+ hours a week thinking about your product, though you’re sure that customers and users are just as enthralled by it. If you want to be a good product manager, realize that your product is likely one of a multitude which your customers use in the course of a day. Only in very unique cases is a product truly the center of someone’s universe.  Product development teams need to recognize that they are thinking about their product much more than anyone else outside their organization, and make decisions about design and communication accordingly. Overestimating the importance and focus your customers place on your product can have negative implications — here are a few examples: You come up with a fancy new user interface, which you think is “better” than anything else out there, though it’s so different than the other programs your customers interact with that they can’t figure out how to use it. You add features that users would…

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If you want to be a bad product manager, build the “best” product and assume that the customers will come. That’s all that matters to customers, right? Sure, it might seem like a bit of a hassle at first to switch over, but once people will realize how great your product is, they won’t mind at all. If you want to be a good product manager, understand relevant switching costs and attempt to reduce them as much as possible to improve customer acquisition and perceived value. Every product has a cost, whether implicit or explicit. Even “free” products have a cost, most notably the time a consumer spends learning and using it. People will buy and use products where the value and benefit they get from the product is higher than the cost to them. In most cases, the main cost is explicit — the price of the product to purchase. However, in many cases, the cost to someone is beyond just what they have to spend and takes into account other factors. These switching costs take multiple different forms: Learning cost: A new product might have improved functionality or capability which requires an investment of time and training to…

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