Product management is no walk in the park. Part strategist, part analyst, part marketer, part business executive, the product manager balances business objectives with customer needs to create innovative products that users love.
The best product managers are constantly learning and improving the way they work. If you’re just starting a career in product management or just want to understand more about the role, these seven best practices, collected from , provide some important insights into the art and practice of product management.
Product Management Best Practices to Live By
1. Understand Company Goals
How does your company measure success? How does the product strategy support overarching business goals and objectives? Who are your ideal customers, and what need is your product meant to address? Take the time to understand what matters most to executives and stakeholders (including users!) and align with them whenever possible.
2. Dialogue with Customers
Current customers and users are your greatest resource. After all, what’s the point of developing an amazing product if no one wants to use it? Many of your active customers will be happy to tell you which features they use and enjoy the most, and which are thorns in their sides.
Their insights are critical to understanding your product’s true value—and developing a proper product management roadmap. Conduct user testing or run a short survey to learn how customers interact with your product, try heat mapping software to see how users are interacting with your site, and gather feedback whenever possible.
3. Tap Your Sales and Support Teams' Knowledge
Your sales team is in constant communication with potential customers, and therefore has valuable insights into market landscape, your product’s specific strengths and weaknesses, and the problems customers are trying to solve when they come to your product.
Similarly, your support team understands better than anyone how current customers are actually using the product—not how you think they should use the product. Sit in on support calls to uncover the most common issues, complaints, and questions your team is fielding and learn which aspects of your product you need to prioritize.
4. Use the Product!
You've heard the saying, "Eat your own dog food." This may seem obvious, but you need to get hands-on and use your product every day. How is the trial experience different than the paid product? Which features work well on mobile, and which don’t? How intuitive is the UI? How often do you encounter a bug or glitch? You should know your product better than anyone.
5. Analyze Other Products
Think about the products and websites you use and love: what makes them so great? How do they design registration or trial sign up pages? What is the checkout process like? If you've had a bad experience, what made it so awful? Keep your eyes open and compile a so-called "swipe file" of ideas and inspiration to inform your own product management strategies.
6. Plan, Execute, Iterate
Use all the information and insights you’ve gathered by doing the above to define your long-term vision for the product, and then break that vision down into iterations of developing, executing—and applying what you’ve learned to improve and define the next iteration. Doing so will help you determine which features and capabilities to prioritize in the next release (and be able to justify that prioritization to executives and stakeholders).
7. Connect with Peers in the Product Management Community
Plugging into online communities is a great way to stay up to date on industry trends and best practices, expand your network, and learn from senior product managers with decades of experience. LinkedIn groups like the and , the on Quora, and the Slack community are all excellent resources for learning and connecting with other product management professionals.
Want to Start a Career in Product Management?
What does a product manager do every day, exactly? How do you get your foot in the door? What resources are available to help prospective product managers succeed? What are common product management tools and business process mapping software? If you’re interested in a product management career, check out our crash course introduction to the field: