Start with the Brand, not the Product

Start with the Brand, not the Product

We all work to bring products and services to life, from the initial idea to the full product life-cycle.
So, what do we do? We first find a need or a problem, a gap in the market if you will, and try to find the best possible solution by training ourselves to think like our customers. Hence, the product people are often problem-solvers, as they can deliver something of value to other people.

The way we do that is mostly by rationalizing the vision and breaking it into small, tangible parts. This makes it possible for the team members to build it and bring it to market. We use techniques, tools, frameworks (roadmaps, scrum, etc.) and documentation (MRD, PRD, etc., you know, all these… beautiful acronyms that give a sense of “more science than art”) to assist us in communicating what needs to be done and keeping track of the progress along the way.
In brief, we help build a product that consists of features and functionalities.
But a product is mostly a perception in the mind of the end-user, not a list of product attributes.

We often believe that branding is solely a role for the Marketing team, something that “they’ll deal with once we produce it.”
On the contrary. Branding is the key ingredient in the success or failure of a product — and more often than not, it is more important than the quality of the product itself. You can always improve the features and make a product better, but you can rarely change people’s perception of your product.
Put simply, branding is way too important to leave it –at the end-to the Marketing folks.

As Seth Godin defines it: “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
Bearing that in mind, I’ve recently tried to re-think product management procedures and I’ve started to ask myself, “Why not build a brand before actually building a product?”
To do that, I try to have a crystal-clear vision of the final product — whether it’s a part of other products or not — as a stand-alone brand.
— Could this product become a brand?
— Is the product conveying a single concept/idea to anyone who’s building it?
— Does it have a story to tell? If yes, what’s the story behind the product?
— Could this product-brand create a profound connection with the people who are going to buy and use it to make their lives better?

If we stop and think above beyond the specs and functionalities of our product, we can easily focus on the impact the product will have on our customers.
It’s clear to me that it’s the brand that should be driving the product development, not the other way around.
Ultimately, we’re here to deliver a promise. A promise that every little thing we bring to life will make a difference and stay true to the single-word value of our brand.
Would you build a new car at Volvo without having “Safety” on your mind?

The Importance of being a Product Manager at a startup

We all tend to believe that being a CEO at a startup is more than a role-playing game; it’s a highly demanding position, in which it’s required to do simply… everything.
Most of the times, this is true…

However, most startup CEOs either don’t realize just what value a product manager brings to the table because they don’t know what a product manager does, or they believe they can juggle all of the business tasks along with developing the product they’ve so lovingly conceived and now want to bring to life.

So, what exactly is a product manager? A product manager is someone who can process the vision of the CEO into a real product that is cost-effective and useful to the consumer. This is the person who has to firmly say, “No, we are not going to add that ‘one more’ feature at this point,” especially when adding that feature would dilute the product and keep it from getting to market in a timely fashion.

A People Manager

A product manager is in charge of the final product, but ultimately is a person in charge of other people. The product manager oversees the developers, designers, and even marketing and sales representatives. As such, a good product manager should have experience managing diverse groups of people and dealing well with the challenges that come with that territory.

A Customer Manager

Even though product managers have to make gut decisions regarding product development, they should also be customer-focused and get out of the office to actually talk to customers. The customer knows what he or she wants out of the product; so asking for customer feedback is essential to stellar product development.

A Metrics Manager

Along with being able to listen to customers and make gut decisions about product development, a skilled product manager will also know to track the metrics about product performance and usage, along with other metrics, when working on product development. Keeping a close eye on these metrics, analyzing them, and getting involved in marketing, sales, and conversions is crucial to a successful startup launch.

Other Qualities

Those are the three most important qualities for a good product manager, but there are others that are just as important. A product manager is involved in business-related decisions regarding the product, so they need to be business-minded and driven by the business. This is crucial in determining how to price a product, something a product manager should be involved in because of his or her intimate familiarity with the product and the opportunities for applying business models and marketing tactics to that product.

Finally, a product manager should be tech savvy. They don’t have to be engineers, but they should at least understand the lingo and have some passing familiarity with the technology. Product managers need to understand enough about the technology at use to know the possibilities and limitations of that technology, and to be able to understand what the engineers and developers are talking about in technical discussions.

All of these roles are essential to be filled, and a product manager is the right choice to fill them. When a startup is scaling fast, a passionate product manager can help share the vision of the founders and be a prime factor to the success of the business. Building a solid product management function into the business has been recognized as one of the most important steps in the development of a successful startup.