In recent months I’ve had the question nearly once a week about advice/tips for becoming a Product Manager or more commonly referred to as PM. These are generally coming from people that are either currently engineers, or previously were and are in some engineer/customer role such as a sales engineer or solution architect. There’s a number of high level pieces talking about PM and it often feels glorious, I mean you get to make product decisions right? You get to call some shots. Well that sometimes may be true, but don’t assume it’s all rainbows and sparkles.
Especially as a first time PM what your day to day will look like won’t be debating strategy all day long. Here’s a few of the good and the bad sides of being a PM.
These days if you’re creating a company you likely hope to accomplish more with less people, two ways of doing this fall to: The sharing economy and creating a platform. It’s easy to see the case for this when you have such unicorns like AirBnB or Uber. The opportunity for each of those to compete against hotel chains or taxi services which each need to manage their own inventory is incredibly exciting and revolutionary. In a similar fashion platforms can offer much the same, Heroku’s platform and marketplace made it easier than ever for developers to click a button and get everything they needed years ago. It’s not just their code, it’s everything from Postgres to Mongo to Logging. Or take the app store as example. Smart phones weren’t a new thing when the iPhone came out, but it was only the saviest of users that had apps installed on their windows smartphone or blackberry. The app store made the iPhone different than any other phone by allowing others to build and improve it, turning the iPhone not into a phone but a platform.
When it comes to go to market and marketing there’s lots of pieces in a toolchest that all work together. One that comes a bit later, but if used properly (much like a PR agency) can be valuable is industry analysts. And while working with a PR agency can quickly start to become clear. How to work with analysts so it is productive on both sides can take a bit longer to figure out, or at least it did for me. Even before you do start working with them there’s the question of if or when should you. Here’s hoping this primer makes it a bit faster and easier for others.
You’ve built your product and you’re now ready for your first major launch. Or you’ve been through a launch or two, but are looking to scale the process as you’re doing more launches and announcements. You really have two options: do it all on your own, or work with a PR agency. One frequent crossroad is that you’re not at the point of a full time PR person, but unsure what a PR agency can offer you; and, further what’s the best way to work with them so you’re getting the maximum value.
As I’ve talked to more startups lately, it’s become clear that effectively working with PR teams and the media is mostly learned by doing. Because there’s not much guidance out there, here’s an attempt at some basic guidelines.