Updated: March 28, 2023 - 7 min read
As a new PM standing out is hard. You have little context for what has been tried before and your knowledge of the product is not very deep. The best way to stand out and gain credibility is to use data. Data helps you understand product usage and adoption patterns, it influences product direction and roadmap prioritization. It also improves team effectiveness by helping people know where to focus — cutting down sprints and removing bottlenecks.
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And while this isn’t a one-size-fits all approach, there are data-first tactics you can follow that will help you be heard and guide action. Here are 3 sure fire ways data can help to stand out as a PM.
1. Challenge Your Company’s Metrics
When joining an organization, you are coming into a set of priorities and ways to measure progress on those priorities. Do not assume these directions or measures are set in stone. KPIs change often and companies want to be doing the most valuable thing possible for their business. Start investigating these metrics to better understand the business and your coworkers thought processes.
Why this and not that?
An easy way to dig into the data is to think about similar metrics to the ones chosen and ask why they chose the one they did over a similar one. For instance, why is the company tracking weekly average users instead of monthly average users? While a simple shift in time scale could change how you are viewing your product’s engagement. You will get respect for caring about the metrics and it will be a learning opportunity for you to understand their thought process.
Are all segments correlated?
Check how correlated predictive metrics are across different segments. Oftentimes metrics are very high level which means they could not be accurate for all of the underlying data. We need to segment this data in different ways to see if the predictive metric holds. For example, on average users who buy Chartio create 10 charts before doing so but what if we slice this data by company size or some other demographic information. The number of charts vary between these groups. This helps us better understand how many conversions we will get. You will get respect for bringing clarification to a metric and it could surface customer use cases to build new features around.
How much does this metric vary?
Data is rarely consistent. It might spike, it might trend down and then trend up, it might be impacted by seasonality. For example the amount of sign ups for Chartio is much higher at the end of the quarter than the beginning. Should we expect the trend to continue at the end of a quarter? No. Checking out data over as much time as possible allows you to get a sense of how much it moves. Then you can see if it sustains a higher or lower number than the variance something might have actually impacted the numbers.
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2. Add Value to the Whole Product Experience
As PMs, we tend to get focused on adding features. In many cases, this is not the most useful activity to improve the experience with our product. An easy way to stick out is to connect and support teams that are adjacent to the product itself.
Put yourself in Customer Success’ shoes
While dramatically improving Net Promoter Score with a feature is hard, improving it with customer service is easy. An amazing support experience can change how they view the product. Jump into the support queue to gain empathy for the problems customers are facing.
This will help you come up with product improvements but more importantly, it gives you an opportunity to provide an experience to make up for the issue in your product. Also, sit in on other support people’s meetings to see if they are making frustrated users into happy customers. You as the PM are often in a great position to help coach them to be more effective. And while the data impact is a little bit hard to connect, it will show up in your NPS.
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Close the loop on data for Marketing and Sales
Marketing and sales can lose sight of what happened to a lead after they convert. You as the PM can continue to track user behavior. This allows you to provide insights about who became the most valuable customer which will allow Marketing and Sales to better target at the top of the funnel. You can also work with marketing and sales to impact the trial experience to increase numbers throughout the funnel.
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3. Create Content
Communication is key in helping an organization leverage its data. Being connected to the product puts you close to data points others need to know about. Find ways to share that data to make a more informed company.
Content marketing is a key strategy for SaaS companies. The most impactful content is created when you have data to share that no one else has. This is original, authentic and anecdotal content. As a PM you can surface data and help write these types of posts. For example, at Chartio we know a lot of unique things about how people create dashboards.
Write why features matter
Help translate existing features into benefits for marketing and sales to use to win more business. Do the write-up for new features, writing is hard but writing and not knowing all the details is impossible. So you as the PM are in a better position to at least produce the first draft of feature release posts. Providing screenshots and or gifs can also make the marketing team love you.
Guiding your company towards becoming an informed business
All data is subject to being wrong because of bugs, errors, and tests being run. When you see a promising bump in a metric assume it is a bug and investigate. Once you have proven to yourself to a reasonable degree it is not a bug then you can share the data with others. When you are confident in an analysis share it with the company. This will help build institutional knowledge.
Understanding data, its context and its power to help you and your colleagues get answers to important questions are the first steps toward becoming an informed business. As a PM pioneering these efforts will not only help your company succeed, it will help you gain trust and autonomy in your role.
Meet the Author
Matthew David is a Product Leader that makes data intuitive, working with modeling, analysis, visualization, and producing actionable data insights that make sense. Currently, he’s Product Lead of Chartio, which helps organizations leverage data and is a cloud-based data exploration solution for all to easily connect your data and create powerful dashboards in minutes, without any SQL knowledge.
Updated: March 28, 2023