A comprehensive study of requirements, a well articulated requirement specification and a marvelous work of engineering may fall short of customer expectations. The fact that the product addresses the requirements does not necessarily mean that it meets market expectations. Poor success rate of new product launches worldwide is a clear indication that doing your homework right might not just be good enough for success. While the truth is that nothing can guarantee success, there are some simple steps that will help you increase your success probability. Continue reading
Shukla Bai, a sexagenarian based out of Bangalore used to baby-sit her grand daughter so that her daughter could go to work. With her grandchild now going to school she had some free time and thought of making some sweets and savories at home and sell them to friends and acquaintances. Shukla being a well known cook among her friends and acquaintances, it was not difficult for her to start selling purely by word-of-mouth. After a few months, she feels that this sort of home-made quality food product would be needed by even those who she does not know or does not reach her through word-of-mouth. Almost all her sales so far was through pre-ordering – it was kind of baked-to-order. But to increase her sales she had to identify the right mix of place, price and promotion where interested buyers would simply buy seeing the product and not pre-order for something which they have not seen. How did Shukla, not a management graduate, not a graduate, just a simple literate increase her sales? She did a customer-segment pivot.
Shukla would usually buy vegetables at a store near by and the cash counter had the desk usually free. She suggested to the shop keeper to try selling her eatables by just placing the transparently packaged eatables near the cash counter; customers who were to check-out after buying vegetables would see this home-made eatable and buy. The shopkeeper did not mind as his investment was zero and if it sells he would make some profit. Shukla was best at making pooran poli, a traditional sweet very famous in Karnataka and Maharashtra states of India. The sweet being a bit tough to make, many would like to buy if they see one with the right quality. She made packs of 5 pooran polis with a selling price of fifty rupees. She had hit the PLACE aspect for the product precisely on the target; there was good traction as far as enquiring about the product was concerned. However the sales really was not as much as she expected. The shop-keeper told her that most people asked for the price but did not buy. Shukla studied the people who frequented the store. Most of them were young couples or nuclear families with 3 or less members. Further, her competitors sold at eight rupees per piece whereas she was selling at ten rupees – because she did not compromise on quality. However how would a customer know without trying that her product is worth the extra two rupees? Why should a customer buy an unknown product? What did Shukla do? Customer need pivot!
Shukla – firm that she will not compromise on quality, reduced the size of each piece, made packets of three pieces instead of five, priced it at twenty five rupees per packet. The sales saw a dramatic increase – as the new price point was a lot cheaper – and the risk factor to try a new product was low as after all you have just three pieces, also perfect for a nuclear family. She got the PRICE aspect perfectly right.
Shukla does not even know about Eric Ries’ Lean Startup principles to say that she did a customer-segment and customer-need pivot. There is no need for her to theorize her actions. She did what every product manager must do – know thy customer. I as a product manager have lessons to learn from this sixty-year-old lady about passion for understanding the “need” in the market, addressing them and iterating according to signals from the market.
Last heard: Shukla Bai expanded her sales to ready-to-order meals in addition to the existing sweets and savories she started selling. Also, customers now started buying the 5 piece packets at higher price having ascertained the quality.
Sometimes you can derive parallels in product management from situations or roles in your daily life. Something totally different such as baby sitting can have parallels to situations in product management.
1. Assuming the user of your product is like you: Your constant concern as a parent is that the your baby (or toddler) eats well. I have felt several times that my kid does not seem to like the tasty porridge that we make for him rich with the finest almonds, raisins and saffron. Tasty for whom? Something that you feel tasty need not be tasty for the kid. Try having the same baby food over the next 5 days continuously and you will realize how tough it is and do not conclude something is tasty by just one single serving. Similarly, some of us decide what user needs by looking at what we like in the product – which can be shockingly wrong. The voice of the customer is the only grading sheet that matters for your product features. Continue reading
I have been in this situation several times. If you work in product management, I am sure you have found yourself struggling to answer this – What comes first the Product or the Client? Let me elaborate – you have an innovative idea to create a new product or may be just to enhance the current offerings. Being a smart product manager (that you are) you have got a business case with cost-benefit analysis approved by key stakeholders. However, now you face the big dilemma where the technology resources who will be buidling your product are not available. And they won’t be available for next 3 months as they are working on other “high priority” projects that can be capitalized to bring in revenue. What do you do then? Do you put your awesome plan on hold or do you try to capitalize this product so that you can then secure resources for this product? Scary, right? Well, there is no right or wrong answer and hence the analogy!
Companies work hard day in and day out to carve out one marvelous piece of technology solution that will change their fortune. They give in over 100% for a path breaking product to mark their presence in market place. Yet most of them fail and many just manage to float. The success rate of new launched products globally is said to be less than 5%. Marketing has four Ps, Product, Pricing, Place and Promotion, of which the first P is core to the success of other three Ps. It is the responsibility of a product owner to lay utmost emphasis on this P, which is his product and all tasks associated to the Product. In this post, let us talk about the first P and in that, let us limit our scope to the software products. The attempt is to identify the critical aspects of a product that a customer would and should emphasis while evaluating a product for his or her need(s). Continue reading
For the middle class in urban India, private doctor clinics form the primary health centers followed by diagnostic laboratories. Increase in specialist doctors and state of the art pathology laboratories have probably improved health care and life expectancy among the urban dwellers however time wasted by patients in waiting for doctors or for lab reports have exponentially increased. Continue reading
As organizations make their movement from Waterfall to Agile software development, a shift in culture takes place. One discipline that is most affected in this whole change is Product Management. They have to cope up with the demand for more releases within the same time and each release has to have meaningful content.
I have tried to list the traits needed for a successful Agile Product Manager here. Continue reading