At some point, every good Product Manager falls in love with their product. And after all, to truly realize your product's full potential you often have to be its biggest advocate.
But no matter how passionate you may be about your product, you must be careful not to confuse your product with your business.
Let's take a moment to understand the difference between the two.
Understanding Your Business Model
Put simply, your business, or more specifically your business model, is your means of generating the income you need to make your business successful. At a minimum, your business model describes the problem you're trying to solve, how you will solve it, and why solving it will be beneficial for your company. To understand this better, let's look at an example.
Imagine that you start a business reselling used textbooks to university students. To do this, you plan to purchase used textbooks from students at the end of each semester, store those textbooks over the semester break, and then resell those same textbooks at a 20% markup to a new group of students the following semester.
This approach is the essence of your business model.
Finding Your Product
But astute readers will notice one glaring omission from the model above: despite being a fully complete business model, there's not a single mention of a product. This is because the product that will implement this model is distinct from that model.
Let's consider what kinds of products might enable this model. One product might be a mobile app with a built-in bar code reader. A prospective seller might use that app to scan their textbook's bar code and instantly receive a buyback offer from your store. On the other hand, a prospective buyer might use this same app to scan the bar codes of books needed for their upcoming classes to check the availability and pricing of those books from your store.
But a mobile app is only one possible product that might enable this business model. Another possible product might forego the idea of a mobile app altogether in favor of a simple web app. Prospective sellers might enter their book's ISBN into this app to receive a buyback offer while prospective buyers could easily search your store's online inventory using an author's name or book title.
Each product has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, the mobile app might be stickier for your user base leading to increased user engagement and ultimately higher sales. On the other hand, the web app might be more cost-effective to develop and maintain resulting in lower overall sales but a higher margin on those sales.
But despite their differences, what both of these products have in common is that either will fully enable the business model described earlier. So how do you know which product is the right choice for your business?
The Right Product at the Right Time
The right product for your business model will depend on many factors. For example, understanding how competitive the market is that you're moving into might influence how vital UX is to your product. Or, your business's financial constraints might impact how much capital you're able to expend on your product at the outset. Whatever factors may be in play in your business, those factors will influence which product is the right choice to bring your business model to reality.
But it's also important to realize that the right choice of product for your business is likely to change over time. For instance, a business that's light on cash may choose to initially enter a market using a product that's less compelling, but cheaper to develop. However, in the future, that same business may decide to replace that product with a more robust and feature-rich version once that business's revenue is stable enough to fund the development of that version. However, in either case, the specific product that the business developers is distinct from the actual business model that product enables.
Learning to Love Again
A hallmark of a successful Product Manager is a deep-seated love for their product. However, the product that you love today may not be the right fit for your business tomorrow.
Therefore, as a successful Product Manager, you must learn to love your product, but be careful not to fall in love with your product. Because while products may come and go, your business must be what truly lasts.
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