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10 Product Management Best Practices for SaaS Companies

Product management might seem like a tangled mess of a job, but some best practices might help you figure out what to do. In this article, we’ll discuss 10 best practices for SaaS companies to ace product management. 

But first, what is product management? 

Product management refers to the process of optimizing the entire lifecycle of a product. This includes product ideation and development, introduction to the market, growing consumer demand, staying ahead of the competition, and avoiding product decline.

Product management is a complicated process; to pull it off, product managers must wear various hats. They need to communicate with the engineering team to help develop viable products, collaborate with the marketing and sales teams to position the product right and instigate its growth, and keep close ties with the executives and product owners to get the necessary buy-in. 

Here are 10 tips and best practices to help you do Saas product management right. 

1. Prioritize market research 

Market research is one of the most important initial steps of product development. Nowadays, many companies fall into the build trap: they prioritize releasing newer features instead of refining/optimizing the existing ones. 

Many companies ship features that are not fully developed. They also fail to align their products with what the market needs. This misalignment results in a significant challenge, that is, companies fail to address the actual problem that their consumers face. They also fail to stand out from their competitors. 

To avoid such issues, your team must conduct thorough market research before starting a project. Taking this proactive step will help you understand customer requirements and pain points, and will also help you stay informed about industry trends. 

You can also leverage existing market research to perform competitor analysis and generate product-specific insights. Doing so will enable you to understand whether your product can sustain itself in the long run and is a good market fit. 

Alternatively, you can conduct your go-to market research to help define your target audience and ensure your product meets your audience’s needs. You can do a product-market fit survey to check if your target audience actually needs your product. You can follow it up with additional questions to specify what they like or don’t like about the product. Such insights enable you to leverage market preferences to create a unique selling proposition (USP). 

According to this CB Insights report, 42% of companies fail because there is no market need for their product. That’s why performing market research is so important since it allows you to navigate product-fit issues and avoid common product pitfalls.  

2. Come up with a great product vision 

A company needs to have a strong product vision to develop a strong product. That’s why product managers should craft a strong product vision while keeping market demand and the company’s long-term goals in mind.  

A strong product vision is also important for aligning your teams on a singular goal and keeping them on track. A good product vision statement doesn’t just guide your team; it also lets them know how their contribution would fit into the full product strategy. 

A clear product vision would enable your team to tackle issues collaboratively and create a shared understanding of the project. What’s more, sharing your product vision on your websites and social media will enable you to amplify its reach and impact.

The founders of Slack understood that the platforms in the market had many issues. That’s why they made it a part of the product vision to tackle those challenges and create a product that makes work-life simple, pleasant, and productive. That’s how they created a stable and new platform that addresses user pain points and meets their evolving needs. 

As a product manager, it’s important for you to differentiate your product’s vision statement from your organization’s mission statement. Even though both are used to define the organization’s purpose, vision statements are long-term, whereas mission statements are short-term in nature. 

A powerful product vision doesn’t just inspire your employees; it also attracts investors to your company. That is why you need to ensure that your vision statement is simple to understand and uses common language words to convey organizational purpose. It should also not have spelling or grammatical mistakes. 

This is important since complex vision statements with a lot of trending buzzwords are often ineffective in conveying company principles and often dilute their purpose. 

3. Design an efficient product roadmap 

Roadmapping is an essential step of product management since it enables different team members to understand how the project would proceed. It also lets them see their contribution to the project and enables stakeholders to track its progress. 

A good roadmap provides a high-level panoramic view of the project’s goals and initiatives, along with information about the resource list and duration of the project. From a product management perspective, it serves as an architectural blueprint that lists the different project details, such as mission and immediate project priorities. 

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Your roadmap should also contain strategic components related to the project, such as objectives, milestones, and deliverables. Furthermore, you should include relevant data points such as task timelines and project risks (technical debt, etc.). 

Many intuitive road mapping tools in the market allow different team members to access and edit the roadmap as required. These simple tools facilitate collaboration using advanced features such as automatic email replies and preprogrammed reminders to team members. 

4. Keep the product team aligned with the product roadmap 

After creating your desired roadmap, the next important step is to ensure your team is aligned on your roadmap. This is also important for managing product direction, as 30% of product managers say they use the roadmap to communicate product strategy.

Firstly, your roadmap should be easily readable and comprehensible. Accessibility is also equally vital to foster a collective understanding of your roadmap. 

There are different ways of streamlining communication. You can open different channels of communication between the product and management teams. If there are any significant changes in product vision, it should be communicated immediately to the team.

Likewise, the team should communicate challenges and risks quickly so that the roadmap can be adequately adjusted. Also, encourage interpersonal and inter-departmental communication to ensure that information is passed quickly between the team.

Furthermore, you should hold frequent roadmap discussion calls so that all necessary stakeholders can view the project’s progress and get task-specific updates from your team. These calls can also collect project feedback and discuss project requirement changes. Lastly, teams can use these calls to align on North Star metrics for the project, which can be added to the roadmap.

5. Do frequent product testing

Frequent product testing helps identify potential issues with the product. It enables you to proactively catch weaknesses in the product and resolve them in the early stages. 

Product teams should implement a robust testing strategy throughout the product development lifecycle. This means implementing different product testing methodologies, such as integration testing, unit testing, acceptance testing, etc, during the development stage. 

From a management perspective, ensuring your testing team understands the testing parameters and assessment criteria is important. They should also be encouraged to share real-time data from their tests to generate authentic insights. You should ensure that your data collection strategy is on point. i.e., all testers and engineers should have a way to log data and bugs in the system. 

During testing, it’s important to avoid making assumptions about your features and gather data objectively. You must also track different software testing metrics to paint a holistic picture of your product.

Furthermore, you should use test automation tools to streamline the testing process and ensure your quality standards are met before preparing a build. Test automation improves build quality and reduces bugs. According to the World Quality Report, 53.4 % of surveyors believe that test automation provides better test coverage, and 52.7% of respondents believe that test automation leads to fewer defects in the final build. 

6. Collect frequent user feedback. 

Collecting real-time user feedback is very useful for businesses since it mitigates several long-term expenses. For example, according to this report, fixing a UX issue is 100 times more expensive during deployment than during development. 

Before collecting user feedback, it’s important to understand the data collection objective clearly. That enables you to focus your research on a specific question, set your goals, and choose the most optimum method of collecting data. 

There are different methods of gathering feedback from real-time users. You can conduct focus groups and feedback surveys/pools to understand your users’ perspectives and pain points. Some businesses also use pop-up surveys to collect data. These can be automated to ensure that all customers who visit a company’s website/app receive the survey. 

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You can also create a customer portal for users to direct their product-related queries. These portals are great for identifying bugs and issues in the build. Furthermore, you can create designated feedback forms and community feedback pages to collect customer-specific insights. 

Beta testing is a testing approach that allows businesses to collect end-user feedback by having real users test the product before launch. Businesses perform beta testing to uncover bugs and issues that might elude technical testing. Feedback to your beta can help you make informed decisions about the future of your product. 

Lastly, some companies create a customer-facing team that enables users to talk to a member of your team. These teams are useful for quickly identifying product issues. This is especially helpful with agile development, in which real-time user feedback is incorporated into the product’s next iteration.  

7. Track the right KPIs

Effective KPI tracking is critical for analyzing a product’s progression and performance. While you can track various metrics, it’s important to avoid the trap of collecting data for its own sake. 

Unnecessary data collection leads to additional storage and transformation costs and diverts your attention from the main information. You need to set quantifiable metrics for your product and use them to evaluate your product performance. 

The first step in this process is defining the KPIs that align with your business goals and creating a strategy to track them. It’s imperative to regularly analyze these metrics to identify trends and their impact on the product. 

From a financial and sales operations perspective, it’s necessary to analyze KPIs such as ROI, recurring revenue, revenue by month, Customer acquisition cost (CAC), customer lifetime value (CLV), and order value. 

For gauging product engagement, you can track metrics such as product adoption rate, number of active users, product stickiness, and feature usage rate. 

You can also create custom dashboards to understand user KPIs and delve into features that users like. This would also enable you to calculate the product engagement rate. Dashboards are very useful for data consolidation and management.

To verify product popularity, you can check metrics such as churn rate and the number of sessions per user. Additionally, you can access user satisfaction through KPIs such as NPS and CSAT scores to identify product success. 

Read more: 6 Steps to Craft a Top-notch User Adoption Strategy

8. Align promotion strategies with product vision

While writing your messaging, you need to ensure that your messaging aligns with the product vision and is consistent across all your marketing channels. This enables you to reinforce your brand’s value proposition to your target audience and craft a unique brand identity. 

This, in turn, also allows you to create a cohesive and unified brand image that is consistent across platforms. 50% of people are more likely to buy from a brand whose logo they easily recognize.  

While working on product marketing, marketers often create buyer’s personas. Product managers should ensure that these persons accurately reflect user expectations while using your product. 

Learn more: Product Marketing vs. Product Management: Demystifying the Roles

Special emphasis should be given to highlighting features/product releases that directly address customer’s pain points. Your messaging should convey how your product solves customer issues and how it’s better than the SaaS ideas/products available on the market. 

For example, if your product is an event ticketing platform and a common pain point amongst your customers is the risk of ticket loss or damage amongst event attendees, your messaging might center around your platform’s ability for customers to use digital tickets or QR codes for events.

Integrating the marketing department into product development is one of the easiest ways for aligning marketing and product teams on the same page. Marketing teams understand customers and can provide feedback regarding the likes and dislikes of their target audience. As a product manager, you can leverage this information to understand customer challenges and needs. Furthermore, marketing teams can also help shape the product roadmap using their hands-on experience with consumers. 

Lastly, you should not be afraid to adjust your product vision to suit the customer’s requirements (gathered by the marketing team). This builds trust between the user and the brand and helps develop meaningful customer relationships. 

9. Foster cross-functional Ccollaboration

Cross-functional collaboration leads to faster product development and enables different teams to leverage existing knowledge/expertise to create efficient products. It also enhances product quality, improves innovation, and lets people think objectively about the issues. 

A Deloitte report shows 83% of digitally maturing companies used cross-functional teams. The report also shows that digitally maturing companies give more autonomy to cross-functional teams and consider them a unit. They also provide a better environment for their success. 

While creating cross-functional teams, product managers should choose highly open-minded and collaborative team members. This ensures that every team member has a voice, but no one steps on each other’s toes. Managers should also provide such team members with appropriate training to ensure they can work collaboratively and creatively. 

Furthermore, a cross-functional team should always have an experienced leader who understands product vision and development. They should know how to take proactive steps to fix product direction and should be able to set clear team directives and objectives for their team members. 

Lastly, your organization should use resource management tools or Slack/Teams to streamline collaboration and improve information sharing. Your team members can also use these tools to share files. Moreover, team-wide documents that need to be shared can be added to the shared folder. 

Lastly, managers should reward successful collaboration between teams to incentivize team members. Collective team rewards can also be used to reinforce the sense of community in the team. 

10. User-centric design 

User-centric design (UCD) focuses on product users. It ensures that users face as little friction while using the product as possible. This approach is also very helpful for improving usability, increasing ROI, and ensuring that the end product is easy to adopt. 

To build user-centric design, product teams should understand UCD principles and know how to tailor them for their product. They should use existing workflows and design patterns to develop a UX that’s easy to follow. Designers should use research-backed design flows as much as possible. While innovative UX designs may be enticing, balancing creativity with practicality is crucial.

Since user-centric designs are created specifically for end-users, collecting user feedback quickly is a necessary design step. Doing this also ensures that design changes are incorporated quickly into the next iteration. Designers should also perform frequent A/B tests on UX to find the most optimized layout. 

Lastly, UCD design shouldn’t start with predetermined assumptions. You need real users to validate your design and fine-tune your product according to user requirements. Sometimes, you might also have to collect user data to identify and diagnose common UI/UX challenges (pages not loading correctly, pages loading slowly, etc.).

Read more: The Email Design Evolution: How to Create Engaging and Responsive Emails Using the Latest Design Trends

Finally: 

Trying to come up with top practices for SaaS product managers is difficult. Product managers are involved in many processes in a SaaS company. That said, the best practices recommended in this article cover all aspects of a product manager’s job. We tried to offer tips for product discovery and ideation, product planning and development, and product testing and launching. 

It’s important to remember that the prerequisite for doing any of these processes right is having a receptive ear and an analytical mind. Product managers do their jobs through other people. Hence, it’s extremely important to be open to insights from others (users, team members, or stakeholders) and have the necessary critical and analytical skills to make the right choices.

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