Alexander Franz


Why Too Much Sales and Too Little Product Management Can Hurt You

Image credit: “Push Pad to Open Automatic door. Right…” — Dave Stone

It’s not that you are bringing in too few leads. It’s the lack of conversion and keeping users. I have been talking about SaaS product management with quite some startups over the past 8 weeks. A common theme is that they believe they need to create more leads. Better search engine optimization. Better Facebook ads. More cold calls to bring in B2B customers.

But while we talk, it almost always turns out they have a fantastic number of registered users. They have a good number of page views of their homepage. In sum, they have great product marketing, in the sense of bringing in potential users.

What they don’t have is a strong product management. They don’t have clear strategic rules which features to add. Will the feature increase the price you can ask for, increasing the top line of your financials, and your ability to fend off competitors? Will the feature increase the market you can address, without much extra cost, thus increasing the bottom line? Do you know whether you have a rising star or a cash cow in the terminology of the BCG matrix, and do you use that insight to decide on which feature to build next?

Knowing the Status of Your Users Isn’t Enough, Understand How They Feel

Do you actively manage the funnel of leads that come in, to first-time users, to frequent users, to users who spread the word?

Skype did an excellent job at this when they started out. Same for Facebook, Dropbox and many others. In the product management role I held, we analyzed these companies in much detail, every single step of their on-boarding process. How they managed the user experience on an emotional level, in the sense of preventing frustration or confusion, and instead creating excitement or surprise when signing up for the product or returning to it after a break.

It’s not about how many cold calls you make, not about how many users you bring to your homepage once you are above a minimum threshold. It’s about making it as easy as possible from there to become a product enthusiast. This is how Alli Blum summarized the point for the kissmetrics blog:

“you need to make sure you’re eliminating the hidden work that you create when you don’t give your readers the ability and motivation to act.”

That’s a huge part of successful product management, and something very often rejected.

I wrote this article in Vienna, Austria, with love and a good cup of Viennese coffee. To continue the conversation, or discuss how I coach startups and corporate entrepreneurs, please get in touch via LinkedIn. But before you click that link, please log in to Medium and “recommend” and share this story. Thank you! I owe you coffee next time you are here.

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