Is your popularity killing you? As a product manager, a great deal of your value resides in your customer, market and product knowledge, and so people should be seeking you out. But if you find yourself fielding a lot of time-consuming and repetitive information requests, consider the Product Info Binder. This humble tool has the power to change your life by letting you focus more on the product strategy and less on repetitive data retrieval. If you don’t already have one for your product, we propose a simple four-step process to getting the information out of your head and into the hands that need it:
1. Think About Who Needs It, and Why
Start by making a list of the people who call you most frequently for information about your product, and what they request. Here’s a starting list of likely Product Info Binder recipients: Sales reps, Inside Sales, Channel Partners (Marketing, Sales and Technical), your internal Customer Support and Operations people, Marketing, and possibly Finance and Accounting too. Consider talking with a representative from each group and clarifying the usage scenarios for the binder. (Sounds like product requirements, doesn’t it? Trust us, it will be time well spent!)
2. Create it
How do you know what to include in a Product Info Binder? Your conversations with stakeholder will give you some solid ideas. Beyond that, for internal audiences, the most likely answer on any content you’re questioning is “include it”. For external audiences, you’ll need to remove some sensitive information (you’ll know what, but if in doubt, work with your manager on the external binder checklist). Most likely you already have 80% or more of the information you’ll need to create a product info binder. Use this high-level checklist to help you start pulling the pieces together:
- Product feature/functionality info
- Pricing information, including any discounting programs
- Marketing information, including samples of advertising and PR materials
- Channel partner information
- Internal messaging content and guidelines
2. Publish it
The most efficient way to publish a Product Info Binder is in soft copy from a central location on your corporate intranet for internal audiences, and extranet for external consumers; this allows you to maintain version control over updates, and provide one address for people to locate the information they need. We’ve also seen Product Managers create a hard copy version, especially when introducing this tool for the first time. Salespeople may appreciate a customer-ready binder that they can carry with them, especially if it has all the information they need in one place. The caveat: you will spend more time sending updates and making sure that people have the right version of the material.
Before you make the announcement about this great new tool, show it a few likely users and get their input – does it have the information they most need? Is it well organized, so they can find the information themselves? (Sounds like a beta, doesn’t it?)
3. Evangelize it
When your Product Info Binder is ready, consider announcing it in an engaging way, like a brown bag lunch where you provide the cookies, or at your next product team meeting. Your product team members can help you get the word out about where the Product Info Binder is located, and what information it contains. Give your product team members kudos if they helped you pull the information together and/or did an early review of the content.
Over time you’ll also need to remind people where it is, so consider putting the location in your email signature, work voicemail message and even on the outside wall of your cube, or on your office door! After awhile, you should see a pleasant reduction in the repetitive, time-consuming information requests so you can focus on the work that really moves your product forward.
Want More Help?
For a more detailed checklist and guidelines on creating a Product Info Binder, share your ideas on the ideal Product Management compensation in our 30-second May 2010 Input survey and you can request your own copy of “Pivotal PM’s Guide to the Product Info Binder!”