Finding the Right Product Manager

By Pragmatic Marketing May 26, 2010

Which job would you rather have? Product Manager? Or Product Whisperer?

In our seminars we teach product managers and marketers the power of the buyer and user persona—a profile of that ideal customer. A persona includes a short biography, skill-set, technical literacy, and so on.

The effective marketer also uses the language of that persona in all customer communication. Instead of talking about flexibility, most customers respond better to designed for your business. While some personas desire scalability (or is it scaleability?), many personas prefer the only system designed for over one million transactions. For that matter, real-time—which means something different to developers than to marketers—might better be described as find out in time to make the right decision.

Personas have a style of learning and speaking—and it’s rarely vendor gobbledygook. But industry gobbledygook isn’t only found in product literature.

Consider the typical product manager job description:

As a candidate for this position, you must be experienced in product planning as well as project planning and management; you should be a self-starter and be result-oriented; you should be a person who has better skills on communication, customer-facing and problem-resolving.

That’s why it's such a pleasure to read a job posting written in the language of product managers… or at least the snarky type of product manager this company is apparently looking for.

Job Title: Product Whisperer

Job Type: Full-time

Team: Product Management

That's right. We changed the name of what we're looking for on this one from "Product Manager" to "Product Whisperer". We think it's a better description of what and who we need.

You gotta be a lotta things in this role. Among the things you'll do as our Product Whisperer:

  • Own it, Sparky. Be responsible for the entire Product Management cycle of one of our products. You've got to own it, no excuses.
  • Know what's going on from a new technology perspective and how it impacts your product. We're looking for someone who likes to tinker with new technology and dream about how it can be used in our products. If you don't like to tinker and try new things from a tech standpoint, this gig probably isn't a fit for you.
  • Be an expert in the industry your product serves. Granted, we haven't told you which product it is yet, so you'll probably need a history of becoming an expert in an industry through curiosity, drive and experimentation, right? Right.
  • Serve as the voice of the customer in decisions made regarding future products - what do they want and need? You tell us.
  • Control your product roadmap and scope based on a detailed understanding of needs, requirements and uh, yeah, resources. That's the forced choice/technical project management part of the role. Sounds fun, right? Help us figure out which two of three things we want - good, fast or cheap (and we always want good). You're welcome.
  • You've got to be able to talk to the geeks. You'll work with an engineering counterpart to define product release requirements, and work with marketing communications to define the go-to-market strategy, helping them understand the product positioning, key benefits, and target customer. That means you need to speak two languages in addition to your own.
  • Preach it! We'd like you to be an evangelist for your product. Not like Jimmy Swaggert preaching, but more like Seth Godin preaching. Over time, we'd like people to think about you when they think about your product. That's how visible and active we'd like you to be.

What You'll Be Responsible For...

We just told you above... But if you'd like some more official sounding corporate speak, these bullets are for you:

  • Communicate product strategy, plans and roadmaps.
  • Specify market requirements for current and future products by conducting market research supported by on-going visits to customers and non-customers.
  • Validate target markets through customer interviews and market research.
  • Conduct competitive analysis to determine product features and pricing. Translate customer feedback and market trends into clearly defined phased releases.
  • Develop and implement a company-wide go-to-market plan, working with all departments to execute.
  • Perform ongoing analysis and propose necessary actions to ensure continued marketability of the product line.
  • Work with product marketing to define initiatives to create demand within key market verticals and horizontal markets including print media, trade shows, direct marketing, web marketing, and product trainings.
  • Provide input to marketing staff to ensure they are able to generate high quality sales aids such as product guides, press releases and web content.

It feels great to peel off a couple of "go-to-markets", "key market verticals" and "clearly defined phased releases", doesn't it? Make that three languages you need to speak in addition to your own. First person to use "validate" and "marketability" in a meeting gets the last Diet Mountain Dew from our fridge.

What You Must Have...

    • Sheepskin. Preferably with "Bachelor's Degree" printed on it. From a college or university.
    • 2-5 years of technology marketing, product management or creative experience in the tech biz.
    • Knowledgeable in technology space. Like style, we'll know it when we see it.
    • A desire to tinker all the time while still getting the day job done.
    • Excellent communications skills. It's hard to preach if no one can understand what you're saying or writing, right?
    • Ability to travel domestically to customer and non-customer sites (about 6 trips per year). We were going to say "internationally" to make this job sound cooler, but we aren't global. Yet.
    • Experience with Pragmatic Marketing’s framework is a plus. If you don't have that, the ability to Google it and learn quickly (two weeks?) would be great as well.

Want to connect to the right persona? Talk clearly, using the language of your reader… not the language of your execs, sales people, or developers. The product management lesson here is that you need to communicate in the language of your buyer: in this case, to get the right talent, HR professionals should write in the language of product management.

I mean really, does anyone appreciate corporate-speak? 

[Thanks to Kris Dunn, Vice President of People at DAXKO in Birmingham, AL for allowing us to use this job description]

Categories: Leadership Roles & Activities
Pragmatic Marketing

Pragmatic Marketing

Pragmatic Marketing, Inc. has continuously delivered thought leadership in technology product management and marketing since it was founded in 1993. Today, we provide training and present at industry events around the world, conduct the industry’s largest annual survey and produce respected publications that are read by more than 100,000 product management and marketing professionals. Our thought-leadership portfolio includes the Pragmatic Marketing Framework, eBooks, blogs, webinars, podcasts, newsletters, The Pragmatic Marketer magazine and the bestseller “Tuned In.”

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