‘Getting to great means knowing who you are, what you stand for and why…then communicating your brand across everything you do visually, verbally and behaviourally’.
Dan Ratner, CEO of uberbrand, a leading Australian brand agency, provided the above insight at ProductCamp Sydney in 2013, when we were discussing the importance of Brand to drive product success. He was referring to the company and product’s brand but this insight can apply to Product Managers managing their own personal brands.
In Part 1 of this series, we shared 8 reasons why it is important for Product Managers to manage their personal brand. This article, Part 2, stresses the consequences of not managing your personal brand, and the 6 steps to creating your own brand, to ensure that you can align your stellar professional performance with people’s positive perceptions of you.
Whilst developing your personal brand may not seem an urgent matter, amongst product launch activities and dealing with customer problems, there are much wider ramifications for Product Managers who do not consciously build their personal brand within their organisation.
Many Product Managers I’ve worked with are great at what their do – they are smart, professional, committed, understand both their market and their organisation’s goals – on the surface, they appear to be performing their roles as one would expect.
However there is a fundamental problem that keeps cropping up – some of these Product Managers’ biggest gripe is that no matter how hard they try, they don’t command the high levels of respect from their senior stakeholders that one would expect them to have.
From time to time, we come across the unfortunate scenario where diligent Product Management Teams are poorly misunderstood by their peers as there is confusion over what their role is and how they can add strategic value. This is both an individual and team issue, as the lack of stakeholder support hampers their ability to getting products out to market faster, and it potentially jeopardises their prospects to be promoted internally.
One of the sad underlying issues of Product Management is that its role and true strategic value is not always well understood by other parts of the organisation, including the Chief Executive level. So if an individual is identified as being part of a functional group that is perceived poorly, even those stellar performing Product Managers who may be quietly exceeding their Product KPIs, still appear to have poor personal brands. When it comes down to it, it’s not that these Product Managers are lacking in the attributes, skills and experience. They may well be creating exceptional customer experiences that are also commercial viable. Their brand challenge stems from not realising that the crucial element to their personal success is the alignment of the delivery of their job outcomes against other people’s perception. It is important to clearly set expectations of what their role as a Product Manager is on the outset, and ultimately perform against the promise that have intrinsically made.
Here’s a step by step guide as to how you may build your personal brand as a Product Manager:
Step 1 – Paint a Self-Portrait of Who You Are
The obvious starting point to building your personal brand strategy is to understand your personal makeup of what makes you a good Product Manager. Consider what your personal brand attributes may be, including your abilities, past achievements, traits as a Product Manager, industry experience, values, as well as other things that drive your passions and interests outside of work.
Step 2 – Peel Back The Layers Of Paint On Your Self-Portrait: What Drives You?
The next thing to understand is what you stand for and why? It is more than understanding your role in your organisation. It goes beyond activities you carry out on a daily basis. It is about the motivational reasons that drive what you do. Ask yourself if it is about creating customer experiences that your customers LOVE. Is it about loving technology and focusing on building the best technical features in your product?
Step 3 – Do a Gallery Walkthrough of Your Product Management Peers’ Portraits
As we all know, developing a brand is also about understanding the competitive environment. Visualise all the Product Professionals you know and identify what makes you outstanding amongst the crowd, and also what could make you even more attractive in the eyes of your manager and stakeholders.
Step 4 – How Do You Want To Be Seen By Your Network?
Identify the gaps between what you are known for now, and how you want to be perceived in the near term and further down the track. Consider your Product Management Career Plan.
There may be actual, or just perceived experience/skills gaps that need to be filled. You may well have the attributes, experience or skills, but do you have anything to show that others can visible see and acknowledge you for?
Step 5 – Who Is Your Target Market?
Consider who is your target audience for communicating your personal brand to. Are they people within your existing company or perhaps in a different industry that you would like to enter? Are they in Product Management? Are there gaps between what you currently have to offer and what those in your target audience admire? Research what they value.
People within your network and just outside are the ones who have the power to direct and amplify your message to your key stakeholders. Map out who already supports you in your network and also scope out your secondary network. These are people who are once or twice removed from you in your network, who could be readily turned into your supporters and advocates if they learned more about your contributions and achievements.
Step 6 – Schedule Your Personal Brand Activities
Like any Communications Plan, the frequency of your brand activities is also important in building your personal brand in the eyes of your target audience. Try to schedule activities to build your brand throughout the year. You may schedule in specific networking events, set deadlines as to when you will publish that next blog or when you will deliver a presentation, so that there is a regular flow of booked activity with outcomes that ultimately help amplify your personal brand.
Step 7 – Revisit Your Brand Plan On A Regular Basis
As you progress with your Brand Plan, gauge your work and industry environment, as well as your career aspirations. As the environment will continue to change its landscape with new methodologies, skills requirements and expectations of your role, you need to ensure that you stay relevant and on track with how you are perceived by your network.
Along with building great products that both your customers and stakeholders love, make it a priority this year, to build your personal brand. If you are going to put the hard work into building great products, put that little extra work into ensuring that you are known and acknowledged for all your great product work and industry knowledge.
We were inspired by our friends at Unashamedly Creative who put together an A to Z of Freelancing. With a bit of fun and imagination the Brainmates team have compiled our A-Z of Product Management. Please add your own suggestions in the comments.
The new way in which we should run all aspects of our business in order to keep up with the velocity of change.
Is considered any actions taken to advance our products in and out of our companies.
How we present ourselves and behave with our stakeholders.
The art and science of “visualising, articulating and solving” all sorts of business and customer problems.
Software tool for creating mock-ups, wireframes and prototypes.
Helps us build better Roadmaps.
Entities that we create value for.
Amber liquid used to entice developers.
A secret place to discover and find knowledge and information. Not to be confused with blogs.
Great place to store files and be a part of the cloud’.
Is an intrinsic part of our products.
For whom we have to craft authentic, appealing market messages.
An awesome team of Product Managers in Sydney that can help Product Teams in times of need through consulting, coaching, facilitation and training.
The most important group to understand and satisfy if we want to grow our revenues.
What we need to bring to bear when we’re engaging with stakeholders.
An opportunity to spy on the opposition’s business and products and call it analysis.
A way to find new customer problems.
Must be made every day if we want to speed ahead.
Opportunities to make new products and find new revenue streams.
A well-known process used to design and develop products and services customers can’t live without.
The capacity to feel what customers are experiencing and consequently, design products and services that enhance those experiences.
The stuff you can’t get from a book.
Bucket loads required to drive product changes.
Helps us collect and notetake across the interwebs.
We’d do well to understand how social, cognitive and emotional factors affect buying decisions.
Ability to conjure up a good story from a bunch of numbers.
Must be had in our job. Or, god forbid! we may have to find a new one.
Good old fashion product analytics coupled with marketing techniques to increase sales – now packaged in a fancy new term.
Must be established for ourselves, our teams, our products and our businesses.
Often stated, never tested.
A market or product “supposition” should be created and “further investigate” before forming the Business Case.
Rise and repeat, rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat till we move closer to Product Market Fit.
Is just Product Management done well!
The holy grail of bug tracking and product backlog software used by many Product Teams.
Managing multiple products, projects and issues on a day to day basis with a smile.
|Jobs To Be Done
An Innovation technique that can be applied to uncover what jobs customers employ products to do.
|K||Kano Model Analysis
A tool to help us determine which features customers must have and which features simply excite and delight!
An agile software development technique that makes visible any bottlenecks in the development workflow.
A movement to get us in the habit of learning, testing and iterating our products and services.
A place to find our next job.
The unsexy of Product Management but a very necessary evil.
An activity we should NEVER stop.
Leadership is influence (John C Maxwell) – especially for Product Managers.
A site that helps us to find many of the Product Management events where we live, work and play.
An email marketing tool to get us communicating with our community easily.
Not just competitors but the ecosystem and interactions of suppliers, customers, influencers, manufacturers, and governments the product operates in.
A “powerful” (that’s what it says on the website) tool to map out our thoughts visually.
Something that should be carried out every day to assess what our customers think about our new and current products.
|Minimum Viable Product
A term used by hipster Product Managers. The minimum product ‘construct’ and capability required to test a market assumption.
|Minimum Marketable Product
Another term used by hipster Product Managers. The product with the smallest feature set that still solves the customer’s problem better than the competing alternatives
Meeting and conversing with likeminded people so that we may get to know one another with the possibility of helping each other in the future.
|Net Present Value
A calculation found in many of our Business Cases which (apparently) helps businesses figure out how much the future cash flow of an investment made today is worth in today’s terms.
Opportunity is always dressed as customer problems.
A job we shouldn’t do on top of all our other Product Manager responsibilities.
A solution that solves a customer problem.
A global, annual event to hangout with likeminded people and hear from some passionate Product peeps!
More fun than Powerpoint.
Represents the exchange of value between 2 parties.
A person that embodies the essence of our target market.
|Profit and Loss
Demonstrates the product’s financial performance over time.
An often misunderstood function in a business.
We’d like to leave it to the pros!
|Product Market Fit
Product + product + product + product
Something we should practice often with our stakeholders, customers and anyone willing to talk to us.
Product Managers in seek of answers.
Much needed when working on a product no one in the company loves.
|Return on Investment
Rewards for our efforts.
A communication tool which sells the how and the when of our product strategy.
A place to find and share rich information about products and services, theories and practices, opinions and commentary.
Nothing to do with football but we do like to huddle daily.
A super tool to help us grab images and videos and present it as our own.
Very important people to impress.
What EVERY single person wants more of and what EVERY single person complains about.
A blueprint to navigate the course of the product’s life.
A place for a little industry gossip in 140 characters.
A great tool to help us manage our tasks.
A tool to extract feedback from our customers.
Must be designed from the ground up without missing a beat!
Helps us express 1000 words in a pretty little diagram.
Our very being. It’s what we offer, do and create.
Buy them a drink! They may be your next employer.
|W||Win Back Analysis
An opportunity to learn from our mistakes.
A culmination of our product thoughts.
Red, white or pink liquid required to release tension after a long day.
What we use to see through excuses.
|Y||You Send It
For those HUGE files we send and receive.
The number of customers we would have if we don’t solve their problems.
During the busy working life of the Product Manager, there is little mind space or time to create a clever plan to flaunt one’s Personal Brand in professional networks for the benefit of one’s career.
We outline 8 good reasons why you should be using this time to devise a Personal Brand Plan. For those who want to progress their Product Management career at a dynamic pace, a Personal Brand plan will position yourself in the eyes of your colleagues, industry peers, as well as influencers over the course of your career – those who may hold the keys to future Product Management opportunities.
1. Product Management is a high profile job
Whether you like being in the limelight or not, it is your job to be the advocate for your product. Product Management is a high profile profession that interfaces with many parts of the organisation internally and externally. If you don’t have a Personal Brand Plan as to how you are perceived by your stakeholders then you may experience difficulties when it comes to successfully getting their commitment and support to deliver your products and services.
2. Dealings with the best Product Manager
Product Managers are expected to be armed with a wealth of Product Management skills, experience and knowledge on a broad range of areas. Instill confidence in your colleagues and stakeholders that they are working with the best Product Manager in the organisation by openly sharing your accomplishments.
In fact, set the bar as high as you can by giving them reason to believe that you are the best Product Manager in your field or geography, based on what you have done in the past as well as the progress you are making with current projects.
3. Demonstrate your current value NOW builds your brand value for the future
When it comes to your longer term career planning, your future employer is going to judge you by your body of work. They will be interested in seeing your impact on the performance of your products, product pitches you have delivered, strategy plans that you developed and executed, any internal or external articles that you have written or contributed to, as well as any other related artefacts.
If you haven’t already, start collating and creating artefacts relating to your career highlights for your portfolio, such as product performance metrics that you are proud of, published work, project outputs such as ‘sanitised’ Customer Journey Maps, Personas, Business Cases.
It goes without saying that you will have to edit these documents accordingly to strip out confidential information. These artefacts will not only serve as evidence of past achievements but also make it easier for you to refer to the highlights in your body of work.
4. Recalling your career highlights
Future employers will also call on people you work with over the years to for their opinion of your, your work style and your deliverables, so it’s always good to have published information about your achievements that your immediate network can easily refer to. Linkedin is a great place to demonstrate your achievements, as well as link to supporting crucial artefacts that are evidence of your success.
5. A long Product Management career
Your Product Management career is likely to have more longevity than your current Product’s Lifecycle. In the same way that you should develop your Product Brand Plan, you should also take your personal brand plan development with equal zest. Whilst a product has a lifecycle of 2-10 years, (depending on the product category), for most of us in the Product Management profession now, your career has greater longevity and given the limited time that we have to invest in building our personal brand, it is something that you want to plan for, or least consider going into 2014 so that we start right.
6. Networks are not built overnight
With your future career aspirations in mind, don’t wait until you are actually out of work before you start to network and update your online profile. It will look really obvious to those who you are trying to build rapport with that the sole reason why you are seeking their time is to get a job immediately. People generally are happy to provide career and industry advice, but your value to them is increased if you are in a job and can reciprocate, whether it be non-confidential and up-to-date insights about your industry or an introduction to members of your close network.
7. Avoid complacency
An out of date online profile suggests complacency if you are a Product Manager. Sporadic updates online show give the impression that you don’t care about your personal brand, outside your immediate job. It suggests that you live and work in a very narrow world – which is a negative trait in the world of Product Management. We are all expected to be knowledgeable and be able to succinctly articulate our knowledge in a way that our colleagues and stakeholders in the most effective manner.
8. Employers are looking for Product Managers with holistic profiles
The reality is that employers, suppliers and customers want to deal with extraordinary human beings contributing to society in ways other than their job, and will be interested in how you are making your contribution outside your job as a Product Manager. Any volunteer work, contributions to fundraisers (other than donations) and other community activities, reflect where your social conscience lies.
Whether you are about to make the leap into the job market this year, or will change jobs later on, it is important that you are continually crafting your personal brand in the eyes of your immediate stakeholders, as well as the benefit of future bosses and colleagues, that is if you know what your future dream job(s) are.
This is your year to shine in your Product Management role. To find out how you build your Personal Brand in Product Management, in the eyes of those who count in your job and/or career in Product Management, see Part 2 of this series of ‘Building Your Personal Brand in Product Management’.
Product Managers love a checklist.
Checklists help Product Managers plan, sort out the urgent from the important, reach milestones, communicate and share their activities. Lifeoptimizer advises that checklists save our brain power for more creative pursuits, saves time and helps us delegate more easily. Importantly, checklists provide us with that feel good, warm glow that comes from ticking items off a list.
What’s on your checklist? Have you thought of everything to add to your checklist to get you off to a flying start this year?
As the New Year begins, inevitably we take stock of where we are with our current job and how we want to develop ourselves professionally in order to fulfil our career and life aspirations. You may have already started developing or updating your Product Roadmap, but what about your Career Roadmap?
Developing your Product Management Career Plan is not too dissimilar from developing a Product Roadmap. You need to chart your course with Professional goals and objectives, and of course every Product Manager loves a good ol’ Ideation Session!