If somebody asks what’s the job of a product manager, the only correct answer is — pretty much everything. In traditional businesses, the product manager’s role is spread evenly across several departments or individuals. In the world of SaaS (software-as-a-service), it usually comes down to one person who’s tasked with devising a strategy for developing and unraveling a perfect product. This requires product managers to maintain a well-organized, streamlined process of product development.
At the same time, this process has to remain flexible and needs to be driven by vision and creativity.
One of the biggest challenges for managers is not getting lost in this multifaceted process. After a while, you may catch yourself not seeing the forest for the trees or vice versa — getting so stuck on the big picture only to miss the crucial details.
In this guide, our goal is to set a clear path for any product manager looking to streamline both their day-to-day work and long-term goals. With the right checklist and set of metrics, you can stay on top of your workload, focus on tasks that matter, and make the best of your team. Let’s get started!
Establish specific long term and short term goals
While goals differ from one product/project to another, there are some things that are universal to all good product development teams. Let’s start with defining the long term goals. For example, we can imagine that your main long term goal is to launch a new product successfully. But what does that even mean? For some businesses, it can mean just getting your product out there. For others, a successful launch means starting with a customer base of at least 100 users.
So, when you set your long term goals, it is important to avoid any ambiguity. Everyone in the team, from CEO to copywriter, needs to be on the same page when it comes to your company’s definition of successfully reached goals.
You’ve probably heard about S.M.A.R.T. goals before, but it never hurts to repeat. When you set them, keep in mind that they have to be: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Adhering to these principles will allow you to transform a vision into a clear course of action. So, let’s put it this way.
If your main long term goal is to launch your new software or app successfully, it’s good to break this down into SMART long term goals such as:
- Launch a product with three initial core features
- 100 subscribers after a month
- A retention rate of 25%
- Three case studies
These specific and measurable goals can actually be assigned as clear tasks for various company departments. Then you can easily branch them into smaller short term goals and tasks. For example, creating case studies includes approaching potential partners, tracking their results, writing a study, and promoting it using SEO strategy or through paid campaigns.
But what happens once things move from the starting point? As things shift from inner workings and move towards communication with customers, the main challenge for product managers becomes differentiating between routine daily tasks that move things forward and the ones that are hindering the project. For example, finding the balance between product maintenance and releasing new features often means walking a thin line. Too many complaints from the customers without a clear solution can kill your product. Focusing on every single complaint and spending too much time fixing minor issues can prevent your long term product development.
This is why your act of balance needs to be driven by clear data that allows you to differentiate between things that need to be done now, things that can wait, and things that should be dropped. We’ll talk about this in one of the following sections, but before that, let’s deal with another crucial component of product management.
Organize your team on the same page
As a product manager, you’re a meeting point for the development team, marketing team, and upper management. Being on the same page takes a literal meaning with high-quality productivity tools such as Nifty, which allows you to:
- Collaborate with different departments and team members
- Communicate with your team
- Create tasks
- Branch tasks into short term, medium-term and long term work
- Track progress
- Oversee the team
- Manage all the files in one place
- Communicate with stakeholders
We mentioned that product managers have to deal with some tough decisions involving prioritizing between short-term, medium-term, and long-term tasks and goals. Using a good collaboration tool with a clearly outlined roadmap is one way to keep tabs both on the “business as usual” and “creative vision” aspects of the product. This also prevents product managers from falling into a trap of excessive micro-managing.
If there is one more piece of advice for every product manager looking to achieve great team collaboration — it’s transparency. But in 2020, transparency doesn’t only have to be about the internal organization. Being transparent with your customers is a great way to assure that you’re accountable with them, yourself, and your business goal.
Our suggestion? Introduce your users to your product roadmap! It’s not only about being clear — it’s also about giving people a taste of what’s about to come and making them part of your journey.
Set Product Management Performance Goals
Finally, let’s focus on the clear-cut goals that will guide your decisions and plans.
1. Get creative with the product lifecycle framework
As the insights about user engagement drive your decisions and priorities, your goals also need to be measured against your stakeholders’ expectations and budget. Many product managers may feel compelled to simply build the product lifecycle based on some pre-established frameworks.
However, our suggestion is to avoid sticking blindly to frameworks that have been around for decades and don’t really reflect the reality of the SaaS industry. Sure, every product goes through four stages — introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. But what does this mean in terms of a SaaS product?
Roughly, SaaS product lifecycle can be divided into six distinct stages with specific goals:
- Identifying market opportunity — analyzing the industry, defining the target market, segmenting the customers
- Product design
- Building the product — gathering early adopters and devising a launching strategy
- Launch (growth) — media outreach, sales, minimizing the friction, lead generation, and onboarding optimization
- Sell (maturity) — customer retention, up-selling, cross-selling, maximizing value
- End of life (decline) — building product and customer bridges, focusing on customer satisfaction
As you’re managing your product’s lifecycle, each step should be driven and supported by data.
2. Develop a product KPI dashboard
Developing a comprehensive KPI list may be a daunting and time-consuming task in the beginning, but it’s a task that pays off tenfold. A solid KPI dashboard allows you to turn a mush of data into actionable insights and directions. Some of these metrics should find a way to every good product manager’s dashboard.
- Average Session Duration — the average time spent on your website.
- Session Duration/Cohort — cohort analysis focuses on the visitors who share a specific characteristic, for example, users who signed up for a free trial, users who visited your site via affiliate links, etc.
- Conversion rate — the number of users who subscribe for your product divided by the total number of visitors.
- Dwell time — the length of time a user spends looking at your page they accessed from a SERP page, before clicking back to the SERP results.
- Onboarding Engagement — tracking how users engage with your articles, guides, tutorials, emails, and other content you create to optimize the onboarding experience. We will discuss this process in greater detail in the following section.
- Feature Adoption — tracking how much users utilize various existing and new features of your product.
- Customer retention rate — the current number of subscribers and the percentage retained when the contract period (week, month, year) ends.
- Customer churn rate — the percentage of customers lost when the contract period ends.
- NPS (Net promoter score) — enables you to measure customer loyalty and satisfaction by determining how likely the user is to recommend your product.
Onboarding engagement is one of the metrics that is particularly important for product managers, so let’s dive deeper into this specific goal.
3. Welcome the customers in grand style
In the SaaS industry, engaging users is both the end and the mean. On one hand, you want to sell your product — but at the same time, by selling this product, you get to learn from users. Then, you can leverage this knowledge to fine-tune and improve your product development.
First, you have to track and analyze how many daily, weekly, and monthly users you have. How important each of these metrics depends on the nature of your product. If you’re building a period tracking app, it would be useless to expect that users are going to open it every day. If you’re creating a calorie counting app, you definitely want users to open it multiple times a day.
Using surveys, quizzes, and chatbots is a great way to gather feedback from users. They don’t necessarily have to be an interview about the product. They can help you gather more information about your user’s habits, interests, needs, motivation to use your software, and other things that can help you build a fully personalized onboarding experience. Onboarding experience can be a series of emails with articles or videos explaining how to get the best of your product. They can also contain offers with incentives for users who decide to stick around.
But this is not where the product manager’s investigative work ends. With the help of analytics tools, t’s easy to track where subscribers come from, how they interact with your website, and how they engage with your product and content during the onboarding experience. This allows you to identify power users — the ones who are heavily engaged and ready to subscribe long term.
Some of the tools that can help you (read: product manager) understand user engagement include Google Analytics, OptinMonster, Typeform, and Hotjar.
4. Use Agile or Scrum to implement new features
It is now a rule of thumb that SaaS products start off their life with several core features and gradually build up towards more robust versions. There are two main frameworks for implementing new features — Agile and Scrum.
With Agile, the development team starts with a core version and gradually works on small modules. Each of these modules is usually a sprint task that takes no longer than a month. After each sprint, the results are evaluated and tested, with customers’ feedback used to fix the existing bugs and define the next module.
Scrum, on the other hand, gives a lot more freedom to the product owner or product manager. In this case, you create a product backlog, prioritizing some of the backlogs. As the sprint is planned, the team decides which backlog will be implemented. This is also a sprint task that takes no longer than one month, with a daily assessment of progress. At the end of the sprint, the feature should be fully ready for implementation.
Based on your product, stakeholders, and team, you can opt for one of these two feature implementation frameworks. Finally, you can also go with the traditional development method and incorporate all the features at once. This is usually recommended if there is a high degree of certainty that a specific set of features is sought by a target market.
5. Work on new integrations with 3rd party apps
Another specific characteristic of SaaS products is that no product is an island. To survive and truly thrive, software needs to dig into adjacent markets and niches and pair up with complementary products. Your job as a product manager is to find these opportunities, study these potential business partners, and present the offer to the stakeholders and the partners.
It is recommended to build integrations with the most popular products in their respective fields. For example, software that builds surveys and forms has to be integrated with MailChimp, a well-established email marketing platform. Another source of guidance is the users’ feedback.
A good product manager perfectly understands the product, the industry, the customers, and the development team. This may be a lot of things to juggle at the same time, but that’s the thrill of the job. Ultimately, you don’t have to juggle on your own — Nifty collaboration tool is there to lend a helping hand.
With a plethora of features built for agile development, product teams, and marketing & communications, Nifty will help you along every step of the way to a perfect product. Whether you need to consult on the latest features, track the product roadmap, or delegate tasks, Nifty makes sure every idea, tool, document, and team member are just a click away.
Ready to get started? Sign up for a free trial today! 🚀