How product managers can empower teams to create a winning product strategy
We hear a lot about strategy and that product managers need to create a product strategy. In practice, what does that mean and how does a product strategy help you be more successful?
Helping us explore that topic is Sean Kim. He is the President and Chief Product Officer at Kajabi, a web platform that helps creators and entrepreneurs turn their knowledge into income. Previously, Sean was head of product at TikTok, where he set the strategic direction and led product teams. Prior to TikTok, he was the global head of product at Amazon Prime. You can see from his intersection of product and business leadership experiences that he is the perfect person to help us better understand creating product strategy.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:31] What is strategy?
I always start with the customer problem. Once I’ve identified the biggest problem I can solve for them, I think about the potential solution to solve the problem and reduce friction. Then I think about how we can offer the solution. We create a step-by-step approach to validate the solution through a minimum viable product and then start building the customer experience.
Strategy includes thinking about what your competitors are doing and the risks involved in your solution.
Product strategy is 100% focused on the customer.
[7:23] Is there a link between product strategy and organizational strategy?
It’s critical to know what your North Star metric is—where you point all your product teams. Then look downstream to identify the core metrics that are helping you drive to the North Star metric. Then find the input actions that drive the core metrics. Align your teams around these actions.
[10:57] What’s an example of creating a product strategy?
When I was at Amazon, our North Star metric was paid Prime members. We needed to ensure our customers realized the value of membership. We focused on the Prime membership cancellation experience. We launched a new cancellation experience that helped customers realize the benefits they would lose if they cancelled. Even though Prime is a well-known brand, most customers didn’t realize there are over 30 benefits beyond two-day shipping and videos.
After our successful tests, we had to scale globally. We enabled machine learning to test everything—the cancellation experience, copy, call to action, colors, etc. The machine learning tested all combinations of the content in the cancellation experience and determined the best one to show people globally.
We had to debate whether we would offer discounts for the membership. That’s a slippery slope. We’re trying to empower PMs or marketers globally to make decisions. We established tenets for how to make decisions to help scale the business and improve the product globally.
[17:27] What’s something that’s gone wrong for you related to product strategy?
I tell my teams not everything is going to work, but you have to swing big. You have to take risks, and some will fail. Failure is just one step closer to success. It’s an amazing learning opportunity to know what’s not working. From there we can potentially build even better products.
When I was at TikTok, I worked on the Learn tab. TikTok has two tabs on the homepage—Following and For You. We launched a third tab called Learn because a lot of people who had stopped using TikTok said the content was not useful. We set out to onboard more useful content and create a dedicated place where people could find it. We thought we could potentially launch other tabs that offer dedicated content. It seems like a simple enough concept, but it’s actually a ton of work across a lot of different teams. There was a lot we had to think through. Once we launched, we saw only a small percentage of people visited the Learn tab. Most people stayed on the For You feed. Users say they want specific categories, but their actions say otherwise. We saw the more time people spend outside the For You feed, the worse the core metrics are. Watching Learn content isn’t very fun. Users want a variety of content. Determining what should be classified as learning content was incredibly hard.
The Learn tab wasn’t a successful product, but we learned a lot from that experience. Learning videos are much longer than entertaining videos on average, which means users watched fewer total videos on the platform, but the longer videos didn’t negatively impact certain metrics we care about. This opened the door to testing longer videos on TikTok, which now has 10-minute videos. We learned users do want useful content, so we continued to invest in educational content, but we included it in the For You feed.
[23:50] What’s the value of empowering teams, and how have you drawn the best out of teams?
Make sure you’re focused on the customer 100%. Understand what motivates them and figure out the big problems you can solve for them. Talk to customers on a regular basis. I talk to customers at least once or twice a week.
You don’t need all the data to make a decision. Get what you can, make a decision, and move on. If it doesn’t work out, you’ll have more data to improve the next product.
Stay curious. Keep learning.
As a PM, think like a CEO. You have to be versatile and have a solid understanding of the different functions of the business. Contribute to all the conversations that are happening because all the different teams are essential to the success of your product and business.
You have to take risks and be okay with making mistakes. Expect to fail. It’s going to be okay. Failures are one step closer to a better product. Give your team freedom to experiment and fail. Share the failures you’ve made.
Action Guide: Put the information Sean shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Learn more about Kajabi
“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” – shared by Steve Jobs
Thank you for taking the journey to product mastery and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.