Managing a product is not just a business, it’s a science. Nobody knows more about the science of product management than Dr. Jim Anderson.
As Dr. Anderson says “I don’t embrace excuses from product managers about why their products are not successful, I embrace solutions.”
Over the last 25 years, Dr. Anderson has transformed failing products worldwide. Dr. Anderson will turn these money pits into money makers. Welcome to the premier blog for learning how to develop, launch, and manage wildly successful products.
For a product to be successful, it takes an entire company working together.
Ah, to be a product manager at Coke-Cola.
Would that not be the best job ever? Coke is a huge company, it has a very large market share, and every customer that you might ever want to capture has already heard about about your product. What more could a product manager ask for? Coke has been focused on creating sugary drinks even as the rest of the world started to shift its drinking habits to water and healthier options. Coke’s sales were starting to stall and this called for a change in their product development definition.
What could their product managers do to turn things around?
When it comes time to ship a product to a customer, product managers in the U.S. know that they have three different options: the Postal Service, FedEx, and UPS.
FedEx and UPS generally cost more, but they are fiercely competitive and if you hand your package off to them, you know that it will reach where it is supposed to go.
However, it turns out that UPS has been running into some problems and their product managers are going to have to get creative to solve them.
There are exciting product manager jobs and then there are the product manager jobs at the really big food companies.
Yes, yes – the good news is that you’ll probably be a relatively successful product manager no matter what you do simply because the big food companies provide us with the products that we all know and love. However, because of the sameness of the job, there is a good chance that this will not be the most exciting product manager job out there.
However, lately things have been changing and this job is starting to become a lot more cutting edge…
Sigh. As product managers we all would like to think of ourselves as being the person who is in charge of a cool product like Facebook or the iPhone.
However, the world is filled with other products that need the help of product managers and so who’s to say what product we will eventually be put in charge of? One product that perhaps none of us would look forward to managing would be adult diapers. I mean, nobody really wants to buy this product, right?
What’s the best way for a product manager to deal with a product that people need, but don’t want?
As product managers, we all spend our time trying to better understand what our customers really want.
This can be a tricky thing to do. We need to understand what motivates our customers in order to better understand how we can provide them with the products that they will be willing to buy. Product managers at some of the largest companies out there, Amazon, Walmart, and Target, have decided that being able to deliver products that customers have ordered the next day is the best way to attract more customers.
Just exactly how are they going to go about doing this?
Imagine for a moment that you were a product manager working at Starbucks.
The company is growing, everyone likes your product, you would be on top of the world. In fact, Starbucks has opened over 2,000 cafes in the U.S. over the past three years. The result of this rapid growth has been that you can find a Starbucks just about anywhere. However, the downside to all of this growth is that their traffic growth is starting to slow.
What is a Starbucks product manager to do?
Quick quiz: where have you been eating your meals lately?
Perhaps a better version of this question would be: how many times have you eaten at home lately? If you are like most of us, your answer is going to be mixed. Yeah, you might grab a breakfast at home, but do you take your lunch to work? How about dinner – do you eat at home or go out?
Since you are not eating at home as much as you should, you are starting to cause problems for packaged food product managers.
So here’s a quick question for you: what’s the most important meal of the day?
If you said breakfast, then the product managers at Wendy’s would agree with you. Wendy’s has decided to once again make an attempt to expand their product development definition and start to offer breakfast items in an effort to attract more customers to their stores in the morning.
The market for breakfast foods is a crowded market and the Wendy’s product managers may be up against some stiff competition: how can they be successful?
When you travel and you need transportation at the other end of your trip, what do you do?
If you are like most of us, when you are buying your airplane ticket and making your hotel reservation you go ahead and call up an established rental car company and make a reservation. When you fly into the airport, you take the car rental bus to the car rental lot, pick up your car and you drive away. That’s all fine, but that is so old school.
It turns our that there is a new way to get around and it’s changing the rental car product development definition and causing headaches for established rental car company product managers.
The Amazon product managers have a real problem on their hands.
They are in charge of one of the more popular brands in the world and the creation of their Amazon Prime service has only made the company even more popular. However, as we are all aware of, what you did for me yesterday is nice, but what I’m really interested in is what you will be doing for me tomorrow. The Amazon product managers are under a lot of pressure to continue to update their product development definition and keep growing the brand.
One part of the world where Amazon would like to become bigger is Britain. What the product managers need is a way to hook more customers.
The product managers at Amazon have a big problem on their hands.
The company, which is already huge, wants to keep on growing. What this means for the product managers is that they always have to be looking for new businesses that Amazon can expand into.
They think that they may have come up with one that could, over time, make a substantial contribution to the company’s bottom line: a new line of grocery stores.
Retail giants Amazon and Walmart really, really want to start selling a great deal in India.
In fact, they are willing to spend billions to set up shop there. However, their success is not guaranteed. It turns out that they are going to be battling the countless number of mom-and-pop stores that are already there and these stores are not going away any time soon.
How is this battle going to sort itself out?
In the world of shopping in bulk, you have choices.
Specifically, when you need a huge amount of toilet paper or paper towels, you can choose to go to either Sam’s Club or Costco. Where do you choose to go? If you are like most people, if you have a choice you generally choose go to Costco. It’s not clear why we make this choice. I suspect that one of the reasons is because Sam’s Club is so closely tied to Walmart that most of us really don’t want to go there. You would think that the Sam’s Club product managers would have a real challenge on their hands when they went to China.
However, it turns out that was not a problem.
Let’s face it: Amazon is a very big company and they have done a lot of different things very well.
However, it turns out that they may not yet be able to do everything perfectly. One area where the Amazon product managers are still struggling is in Europe. Specifically, when it comes to selling both apparel and footwear they have not yet quite figured out what Europeans really want.
What can the Amazon product managers do to fix this problem?
If you lived in a modern city, how would you chose to get around town?
Yes, you could always walk – however, that’s going to take a lot of time and you are going to be tired when you get where you are going. There are cabs / Uber / Lyft and these all work, but they can quickly become quite expensive. Most cities have buses and subways, but how far away from you is the closest stop and how close is it going to get you to where you want to go?
In these modern times in which we are living, it turns out that you may have another option – ride a bike.
Clearly product managers at the Starbucks coffee chain have no problems getting customers to drop by their stores in the morning and purchase coffee.
However, as is the case with product managers everywhere, the Starbucks product managers are under pressure to keep growing the firm’s profits.
If they are going to do this, then they need to come up with a way to get their morning customers to come back to the stores later in the day and buy more coffee.
When you go shopping, what do you get?
If you are like most of us you probably pick up some eggs, some cheese, some vegetables, and, oh yeah, some milk. However, what type of milk do you get? For a very long time our choices have been somewhat limited. We always got the same types: whole, 2%, or skim. However, some creative product managers are getting ready to change the product development definition of milk and the existing milk product managers are going to have be be ready to deal with it.
What’s going on here?
As product managers, when we want to boost the sales of our product, one of the “levers” that we have to make this happen is the price of our product.
If everything works out the way that it should, if we lower the price of our product then sales should go up. However, product managers who work for traditional retailers are discovering that for them their product development definition has changed and this lever is not working the way that it should. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the fact that their customers are starting to use more technology when they shop is part of the issue.
What can be done to put control of a product’s success back in the hands of product managers?
So here’s an interesting question to kick things off: do you wear a watch?
Not all that long ago, the answer to this question would have been pretty much “yes” for everyone. I mean, how else were you going to be able to tell what time it was? However, as with all such things in life, things have changed. Now when people want to know what time it is, they whip out their mobile phones and glance at them. Kids these days just don’t think about purchasing the fancy watches that their parents used to buy.
What can watch product managers do to change things?
I suspect that if I asked you to take a moment and feel sorry for the product managers who work for Amazon, you probably would not.
For that matter, if I asked you to take a moment and feel bad for the product managers who work for Amazon, you probably would also find that hard to do. However, it turns out that being one of these types of product managers is quite difficult. The reason that it is so hard is because although your company is already very large, you are still under a great deal of pressure to keep growing your product lines.
What’s a product manager to do?
Crate and Barrel sells a lot of furniture.
They are now faced with the age old question of how best to get their furniture noticed by their potential customers. In the past, the firm relied on what had always worked for them: still photographs. However, lately that has all changed. The company now has over a million Instagram followers. They also now produce more digital content then they produce photographs. New videos are published on YouTube weekly.
What changed at Crate and Barrel?
I can’t actually tell you if it would be one of the best product management jobs to have, but I can tell you that it would certainly be one of the most delicious.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about being a product manager who works for YUM Brands. You know, the company that owns the Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and KFC brands. It turns out that the world of fast food that these folks live in is undergoing a great deal of change and that means that these product managers have to scramble to change their product development definition and keep up.
As I’m sure that we all know by now, Amazon is a very large company that does a lot of different things: they ship books and products, offer cloud computing resources, and even run an internet based television channel.
The product managers at Amazon are under an enormous amount of pressure to always be looking for ways for the company to keep on growing. This is why they have expanded in to such diverse areas as grocery stores. However, now the Amazon product managers are taking a closer look at how they run their business and they’ve decided that it’s time for some of the firms that they have been relying on to go away.
Now Amazon is getting ready to update their product development definition in order to take on UPS and start its own delivery business.
So for just a moment, picture yourself as a product manager for one of the most iconic products out there: Coke-Cola.
You’ve done a great job – Coke is one of the most popular drinks available and no matter what country you go to, it is very well known. The company makes an enormous amount of money from your soft drink product every year and in all honesty, traditionally you’ve only had one real competitor – Pepsi. However, in the past few years, things have started to become a bit more challenging for you. More and more of your customers are staring to reject the sugary beverage that you are offering them and instead they are choosing to drink water and sports drinks.
What’s a product manager to do?
So who among us has not heard about the famous TV show “American Idol”?
This is the show where anyone can try out to be on the show and the best singers are then selected to compete in a multi-week competition in which one of them will eventually be crowned the “American Idol” and potentially get a lucrative recording contract. This show used to be very popular, then it fell out of popularity and eventually ended up getting canceled. However, now another network is thinking about bringing it back.
Can their product managers change its product development definition and bring a once popular TV show back from the dead?
Amazon is a large and powerful company that dominates the world of online selling. Walmart is a large and powerful company that dominates the world of bricks & mortar selling.
These two firms are starting to come into conflict when it comes to next-day home delivery as Walmart starts to move into online sales and Amazon starts to move into home delivery.
The product managers at Amazon are going to have to sharpen their skills and review their product development definition in order to go into battle with the product managers at Walmart.
Every product manager job is different. Some are easy and some are hard. Right now, being the product manager at Boeing who is responsible for the 737 MAX jet would defiantly fall into the difficult category.
The reason that this would be such a hard job to have right now is because this airplane has experienced a set of disastrous crashes. In October, Lion Air Flight 610 crashed just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, Indonesia. It was the first fatal accident involving a 737 Max. 189 people died. This was followed in March when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, involving the same Max jet model, also crashed minutes after takeoff, killing all 157 people on board.
How can product manager come back from product setbacks like this?
So if you were a product manager who was in charge of an automobile, what do you think that your #1 concern would be? Do you think that your customers would care most about how fast your car could go? How about how many doors it has or the size of its tires? Could it be the sound system or the built-in navigation system?
What’s very interesting is that although all of these items may be important to your car buying customer, they may not be the one thing that will cause them to buy or not buy your car. What could that one thing be you ask?
How about cupholders?
So if you are running a business and you’d like to keep your customers aware and informed about what products you are offering, what’s the best way to go about doing this?
In our modern age, a lot of product managers would look at their product development definition and say that you need to update your web site and they’d be correct.
However, what more and more store owners are discovering is that one of the oldest retailing tricks has somehow survived the arrival of the e-commerce wave – the paper circular.
Quick question for you: when was the last time that you were in a Barnes & Noble bookstore?
When I tried to answer this question, I had to think about it for awhile. I think that the last time I actually entered one of their stores was around Christmas when I had whittled my list down to the last few people who are always hard to shop for. Since then, I haven’t been back. The Barnes & Noble product managers know that I have not been back – that’s a problem for them.
Clearly they need to make some changes in order to get people like me to both visit their stores more often and, of course, buy more stuff!
So if I was to take a look inside of your purse or wallet right now, what would I find? I’m willing to bet that you probably have either a Visa or a Mastercard credit card, perhaps an American Express credit card or even a Discover credit card. However, what else would be there?
Would you have any store issued credit cards? Perhaps from Walmart, Macy’s, Home Depot, etc.?
Well guess what, these store issued credit cards are in trouble and their product managers are scrambling to find ways to change their product development definition in order to save them.
Shaving is something that men without beards or mustaches do just about every day.
In all honesty, I don’t think that we spend a lot of time thinking about shaving – it’ just something that we do.
Over at Gillette, since they make razors, they spend a lot of time thinking about how men shave and they have reached a startling conclusion: their products cost too much!
Let’s face it: if you are a product manager for the traditional car engine, called an internal combustion engine, things are looking rather tough for you right now.
The world is changing and you’ve suddenly got a lot of completion. The arrival of popular electric vehicles and a bunch of new government regulations about pollution mean that internal combustion engines are now at risk and their product development definition is going to have to be changed.
The good news for product managers is that the auto makers and oil companies are coming together to find ways to save this type of engine. The secret appears to be a new high-tech engine oil.
So let’s talk about email for just a moment. If you are like me, you get a ton of the stuff. In all honesty, most of it is junk and I just end up deleting it even before I read it.
However, there are those one or two emails that just happen to catch my eye. I’m in the market for something and that email seems to be talking about what I know that I’m looking for. When this happens, and it doesn’t happen very often, I will open and, gasp!, read the email.
It turns out that retail product managers are currently not doing a very good job of getting me to open the emails that they send me. What’s up?
When was the last time that you went out to a mall?
For most of us, it’s probably been a while. We used to always go to the mall – that’s where you could get stuff, especially during the holidays. However, with the arrival of online shopping most of us don’t go to malls as much anymore. This has created a problem for mall product managers.
Creating and filling a mall with stores used to be a straightforward job for product managers: get a few big stores, get some smaller but still well known stores, and ta-da you had a mall.
However, with today’s changing retail situation, mall product managers are having to change their product development definition and how they do their job.
Product managers for grocery stores have actually had it pretty easy for quite some time. If you think about it, your local grocery store probably has not changed all that much since you were a little kid. Oh sure, now they have organic vegetables and perhaps they create prepared meals, but their product development definition has not really changed all that much.
It turns out that big changes are getting ready to come. With the arrival of “shop from home services”, grocery stores are going to have to change in order to stay in business.
It sure seems like their product managers are going to have to start to get innovative.
How many of you have ever been involved in a water balloon fight? I’m willing to bet that most of us have at some point in time.
Do you remember how that went? You got some balloons, then it seemed to take forever as you used the hose to fill the balloons, and then you proceeded to run around your yard throwing your balloons at your friends trying to get them as wet as you possibly could. I think that we can all agree that the biggest delay in our fun was the annoying time that it took to fill up all of those water balloons.
Well good news, that problem has been solved. However, soon after it was solved someone else came along with the same solution.
What’s a product manager to do?
So here’s a quick question for you: what is the shortest time that you’ve ever worked at a product manager job?
Product managers are generally considered to be valuable members of the product team who work on the product development definition and we can have a direct impact on the bottom line of the product project that we are involved in. We’re valuable and generally a company would be resistant to getting rid of us as long as our product is doing well.
That’s why I was surprised when I got fired after two weeks on the job at my new product manager position.
As product managers, the one thing that we’d all like to have is more customers. We dream of the day that we’ve created a product development definition that will cause our customers think about our product and then as quickly as they can take action to get their hands on it.
These hopes and dreams are no different for product managers who work in the restaurant industry. These product managers have the same set of things that they want. A little while back they thought that they had found a way to make it happen: create mobile applications to support their restaurant!
Well, good idea, but it came with some side effects that nobody had counted on…
Let’s be straight about a few things: the world in which we live is currently changing. A lot. Nowhere is this more evident than perhaps when we take a look at how consumers go about buying food.
This used to be a simple task: people jumped into their cars with their food shopping list in hand and drove to the local grocery store and got what they needed. However, with the arrival of that internet thing, this is all starting to change.
People are now starting to shop for food online. What this has meant for food company product managers is that their world is changing. Case in point. People who are shopping online tend to just buy exactly what is on their shopping list. Nothing else.
This means that product managers have to come up with ways to change their product development definition so that they can convince them to add last minute items that they may not have been planning on buying. How are they going to do that?
So let’s see a show of hands. Who here enjoys a delicious, juicy, burger? Hmm, I don’t see everyone’s hands going up, but I do see just about everyone’s hands going up. There is no question that in the developed 1st world countries, people do love their meat.
There’s just one problem – it turns out that it’s really expensive in terms of land, water, and feed to raise the animals that produce all of that meat. As the rest of the world starts to develop a taste for protein, we’re just not going to be able to keep doing things the way that we’re doing them today.
Looks like its time for the product managers to step in and lend a helping hand by changing their protein product development definition.
Every product needs a product manager. This means that things that are good for us (think vegetables, running shoes, and protein bars) all need product managers. Likewise, things that are legal but perhaps not so good for us also need to have their own product managers (think guns, fatty foods, and porn). Into this latter category falls cigarettes.
There is no doubt that cigarettes are a big business or that they are bad for the customers who choose to use them. They are legal, but they are also generally considered to be deadly for those who choose to smoke. This is the way that the world has been for quite some time. Until things changed.
All of sudden, cigarette product managers found themselves in the challenging position of having to find ways to get their customers to not smoke.
Just imagine if you were a product manager at Amazon. What would one of your biggest challenges be? There’s no problem with Amazon having what your customers want – Amazon is huge and they’ve got a lot of warehouses. No, your biggest problem would be just exactly how you were planning on getting what your customer has ordered from your warehouse into their hands. Like a million times a day. Good news. Amazon thinks that they may have found a solution to this problem: hub.