Everyone is a better product manager than you

Everyone is a better product manager than you
Asher SaeedFollow
Hi! I am Asher Saeed, the founder and editor of topic.expert. I created this website to share my learnings with Product Managers and Product Leaders after spending a considerable part of my career building high growth businesses.
10 Oct 212 min read

Yes, you've read the title correctly, however do read on before handing over your product roadmap to someone else in your company.

Research isn't enough

The reason I say this is because, I want you to answer a simple question. When was the last time you talked to a customer? I mean, actually talked on a 1:1 level... not from behind a survey tool or through a research agency or some other similar medium. You might be thinking, "but I have tons of customer research and feedback that I often refer back to"! While that is good and you should always have research you can refer to, it doesn't substitute for a real conversation.

Aggregate data, personas, and random comments collected don't help you understand your customer, they are far too "anonymous" to paint a complete picture of a customer's mind. Unless you're extremely meticulous about how you collect this data, you will likely never know why a particular customer chose your product over others, how they discovered your product and what impact it has on their life. Yes you can collect this in a feedback survey (and maybe you should as a starting point) but there are layers underneath each of these things that can only be uncovered with an actual conversation.

Start with the customer

So why is everyone else a better product manager than you? Because almost everyone else in your business probably spends more time talking to customers than you (I'll admit I am often guilty of this). Think about how frequently, your support, sales, and marketing teams talk to customers? You'll find that they have way more touch points than you do and you could argue, "but its their job". However its also your job! These teams are likely to toss a number of seemingly random "feature requests" or "roadmap ideas" at you.

We often dismiss them thinking: its not based on research the product team has done, or that there's little validation, etc. Truth is, these are all valid pain points or genuine ideas that can make your product better. However the magnitude of importance, commercial viability and strategic alignment is where you need to weigh in. You're definitely not supposed to say 'yes' to everything and by no means am I suggesting you become a feature factory. What matters is understanding the customer mindset, and as product managers, we often miss that (as much as we'd like to believe our strategy and roadmaps are grounded in authentic research).

It's not about the shiny things

Its easy to get carried away with the shiny things such as UX, design and building roadmaps. However true value creation happens by becoming an actual customer expert. This helps you ground your thinking, and stay on top of changing needs, especially in a world when research tends to go out of date pretty quickly. Another benefit to doing this, is that often you'll find that customers are quite willing to become your product's evangelist when you discuss your ideas with them.

So next time, when someone from your support team comes to you with an idea, think twice before dismissing it. There are many things we can do to become better product managers, but it all starts with the customer and the problem.