- You website is not just a tool, it is a service, and therefore a product.
- Your prospects make buying decisions based on your website.
- Your customers make repeat-buying decisions based on your website.
- You risk losing future customers because of your website.
You Already Have Product Managers
You focus on a market, and based on the buyer personas and user personas in that market, you decide what products to create and what they will do. If your product doesn’t match your buyer’s perceptions, you won’t sell it. If your product doesn’t match your user’s expectations, you won’t sell them anything else, or sell anything to their friends. As product managers, we do innumerable tasks to assure that we have the right products for our prospects and customers. Why don’t our companies put the same effort into our websites?
Retailers Get it
Retailers get it. They know that their website is the product that allows them to sell other products. Amazon has product managers for its website, as well as other products (like Kindle and Video on Demand). Newegg has product managers too, and their only product is the service of selling other products. Why do many companies not get it?
I’ve worked with several larger clients in the past who viewed their website as a tool, as overhead. A critical tool, yes, but a tool. A mechanism for sales, just like a CRM system or an inventory management tool – it has to work, period. It is all of those things, but it is a lot more. When you sell products online, your website is how your customers see you, and how they see your products. Your website shouldn’t just be a collection of technologies that grew out of engineering, supporting processes that have been “engineered for efficiency.” Your website, assuming online presence is strategic for you (and if you’re reading this, and online isn’t strategic for you, please let me know, I’ll be shocked), should be developed with a strategy in mind.
Even Large Companies Can Change
I was recently working with a larger company who was changing their approach to their website (also known as their “online presence” and “online solutions”), re-aligning parts of their organization to allow them to product-manage their website. There is a ton of work involved in changing how a large organization approaches this. Changing how development of the website is prioritized, funded, managed, and executed. Creating an explicit focus on markets and customers and partners, where before the focus was on features or capabilities. Gaining insights into how competitors are serving those markets, and how the company needs to change – instead of telling the “other” product teams what choices they have for leveraging the tool. Understanding the goals of your users – buyers, customers, prospects, and partners. Incorporating the strategies of your business – the same strategies that drive your other products – into how you approach developing your website.
Here’s a litmus test. When your company introduces a new product, or launches a new campaign, or enters a new market, does the team managing your website ask “what can we do?” Or does that team say “here’s where you put the whitepapers; here’s what we need for product data; put your sku list and pricing rules in that system; your images must be this size.”
This isn’t directed at companies who’s product is their website like software-as-a-service companies. This is focused on the companies who have other products, and treat their website like a tool or an asset.
By treating your website as an asset instead of a product, you create a liability instead of an opportunity.
I’ll be writing more in future articles about elements of product managing your website. Some topics I may address:
- Understand your markets.
- Understand your buyers, customers, and prospects (and partners and internal users).
- Understand your competitors.
- Manage your internal stakeholders and their expectations.
- Understand your distinctive competencies – what makes you better?
- Understand your positioning – are there opportunities for thought leadership?
- Understand technology – are there opportunities for technological advantage?
- Assess your website as an element of a distribution strategy.