Strategy Update Feb 2020

A few months ago, we pivoted our core value proposition away from “remote team management” to look at whether we could build a business in the “product management” space.

How did we get there, by running a fixed discovery phase before committing to a solution.

Specifically, that meant running around 20 user interviews with remote employees to understand whether there was a problem to solve for them.

During those interviews, we discovered two things:

At least 15 of our interviewees were product managers, which, by the very fact that they bothered to respond & spend 30 minutes speaking to us, suggested there was some acute problem for this group

That, after running open questions on how these product managers managed their remote teams, it became clear that the problems was not “managing remote teams” but, quite simply, “managing teams” more generally

What were the implications of this discovery?

Well, that if we tried to build some sort of remote management tool, it wouldn’t really be addressing the core problem, specifically that:

Product managers do not feel equipped to manage their team & stakeholders effectively enough to deliver great products

We felt that, if we did launch a remote management tool, some people would use it. Maybe more experienced remote product managers. But for everyone else, they were far more worried about managing their teams & delivering impact with their product, so would never prioritise using such a remote tool.

In short, it just wasn’t a priority problem.

Recalibrating Our Business: Defining Vision

As a founding team, we therefore decided to focus on what we felt was the core of the problem, which has since become our Mission Statement:

“To empower every Product Manager to build great products”

Luckily for me, this was a topic VERY close to my heart, having seen so many Product Managers trampled on by pushy management, or simply struggling to learn the myriad new skills required of them on the fly.

I’d even published a 300-page book on the topic of effective product process & management in 2019!

Step 1: Is This Really A Problem?

To validate our assumption that this was an addressable market with an acute problem, we decided to set a specific goal to confirm that we would in fact build a business in this problem space:

GOAL: If we can convince 20% of our website visitors to sign up to our Beta Programme, then it suggests we have 1) a problem Product Managers feel a strong need to solve and 2) our proposed solution interests them enough to sign up & fill in a short survey

Yet this goal was not a strategy. It told us what we wanted to achieve, but not how we might achieve it.

To do that, we needed a specific direction to focus ourselves over the next few months (what we call a “Strategic Intent”, as we are setting a direction we intend to help us achieve our goal, but it is still assumed it will actually work).

But in order to understand what solution we could offer, we needed to learn more about our audience.

Therefore, we decided that, to achieve our goal of 20% website conversion, we would attempt to map the terrain ahead of us with a simple objective (what we call a “Product Initiative”):

PRODUCT INITIATIVE: Create a value proposition that resonates with product managers

We reached that goal within 10 days, running the following experiments (which I’ve summarised below):

Understand Core Problem: Interviewing 5x Junior/Mid-Level Product Managers to understand the main challenges they faced, as well as adding a Typeform survey to our signup form on the website

Running an A/B Test with 4 variants to test which message & solution ideas converted web visitors highest, increasing conversion from a baseline of 2% to 15% (creating leads from reaching out to Junior/Mid-Level PMs on LinkedIn)

Learning from that A/B test which variant worked best (the variant focused on helping PMs accelerate their career through learning &, more importantly, applying that learning in their day-to-day job)

Running 10x user interviews & gathering feedback from our LinkedIn outreach to understand how we could further optimise our website offering, learning that the solution offer was unclear

Running another A/B test focused on clarifying our value proposition, with one variant achieving 24% conversion

From an insight purely based on gut-feeling, as well as looking at other “education/training” businesses, we realised that we lacked strong social validation, so decided to reach out to product experts from Amazon, Google, etc., and build a network of mentors to work with us when we developed our solution. By adding a banner stating we now work with such experts, we then saw conversion increase from 24% to 32%

At this point, we had comfortably surpassed our goal of 20% conversion. Although we could have continued to optimise our conversion funnel, with a 3-person team, we have to use our time extremely carefully.

So we decided it was time to move to stage 2: Building a loyal audience.

Step 2: Defining Strategic Intent

Most companies try to just purchase sales through Facebook ads or relentless spam.

We wanted to do things differently by offering massive value to our potential customers as possible even during our Beta testing phase.

So we set a direction for ourselves that, we believe, will provide the foundation for our future success:

GOAL: Creating 100 loyal fans (also termed “True Fans” by Kevin Kelly. Read article)

If we can create 100 loyal fans, those fans will be willing to provide feedback, test out new product ideas and champion our business once we launch publicly .

But how do we create loyal fans? Well, it’s hard to say. And harder to measure!

Currently, we are pursuing the following product initiative to achieve that goal:

PRODUCT INITIATIVE: Help our audience realise that they can dramatically accelerate their career & build great products through Prod MBA

That seems pretty vague, but bare with me…

In simple terms, we want Product Managers to realise their goals extremely quickly (whether that be achieving autonomy, becoming Head of Product or starting their own product-led business) & that we are the vehicle to help them get there.

Seem through that framework, everything we are currently doing makes more sense:

Free mentorship calls: If we can help you define your professional goals & take the first step towards those, you will continue to work with us to get from step 2 to step 3 to step 4, etc.

Weekly emails/LinkedIn posts: If we can share insights from the Product Management community, as well as opening up our own vision, current strategy & attempts to fulfil that strategy, then we help you see how product management should be done. Each article or post helps you, therefore, move closed towards your goals as a world-class Product Manager

Onboarding survey: Even our Typeform is primarily there to help you stop, define where you are at currently vs. where you want to be & to notice that gap (& therefore act to reduce that gap)

As of February 27th 2020, we will continue to build a strong relationship with every one of you in order to show that we are true experts on product management, that we are genuine & that we are the right vehicle to help you accelerate your career.

(And we have an exciting product coming your way in the next few weeks!)

If you’re interested in trying out our new Product Management 101 Course, then book a call so we onboard you to that over the coming weeks (all products are - and will remain - free for those in our Beta programme for the next few months!)

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Henry Latham

Henry Latham

Founder, Prod MBA

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