Leading The Product – my first virtual conference

Eadaoin Doherty

Eadaoin Doherty

Product. Pilates. Soy chai lattes.

Last week I attended the Leading the Product (Digital) Conference.  It’s the first time they’ve run a virtual event and I must say, I was very impressed!  

The day was based around the ‘7 P’s of Product’: Problem, Purpose, Position, Performance, Price, Promotion and Practice. This set a great base for covering a host of topics ranging from strategy to delivery.

Here are my key takeaways for each of the 7 P’s:


Key takeaway: Customer feedback can lead you in many different directions, so it’s essential to have a clear company and product strategy to guide you.

We kicked off discussing the importance of understanding your company strategy before making decisions about which problems to solve. Speaking to customers is a vital part of product development, but a strong company and product strategy is needed to guide you towards the most important problems to solve for your customers and your company.



Key takeaway:  Teams need to feel like they are changing the world, one product release at a time.

This talk was hosted by Covidence, a company Cogent has worked with for many years. Inspiring your team should be a key goal for any product manager. Teams need to understand company and product goals, but also the purpose behind achieving them. 


A great way to help define your purpose with your team is to workshop these 2 questions;

  1. Why is what your customer does important?
  2. How do you help them do this better, quicker or cheaper?

Purpose brings passion, so keeping purpose at the core of decisions is crucial.



Key takeaway: Fight a fight you can win through positioning.

Correct positioning of your product helps customers understand the product better. It also helps customers understand what their alternatives are.  Positioning means understanding the market and who your competitors might be. There are three types of competitors to consider:


  1. The Hordes – nearly every product has hordes of similar products it must compete against. To win against the hordes you need to find the best fit customers for your product.  Understand what your customer would do if your product didn’t exist, and be better than that alternative.  You must understand and clearly articulate how you are adding value. Your best customers will care a lot about the value you are delivering. 


  1. The Giants – the ‘big deal’ competitors that have hundreds or thousands of customers.  You won’t always win against the giants, so pick your battles and ‘let them win, just not on your turf’.  Use their strength against them – find the customers that don’t need the massive, feature rich product, and help them understand that your simpler product is better for them.


  1. The Ghost – this is when indecision or inaction by the customer beats them choosing your product (which can be around 30% of the time). Help them to reach a decision by understanding their strategy, determining how you can support them and then mapping your capabilities against what they need. 


Key takeaway: product managers should have the financial and performance metrics of their product at their fingertips

Access to timely data on the performance metrics of your product is a key part of any product manager’s role – or at least it should be. Dashboards and reports can help product managers to access this information independently.

The ‘Product Team Report Card’ is a way to monitor the performance of teams interacting with product managers. It helps highlight the support product managers need from other parts of the company, and encourages them to only take on tasks that should sit with them. 



It was great to see two talks on pricing as this is often an area where product managers don’t have much input.  

Key takeaway 1: Getting your value metric right is a vital part of understanding how to price your product.

SaaS companies, on average, review their subscription pricing every 3 years but a review every 6 months is recommended. This may not mean changing the dollar figure, but looking at value and adjusting features for customer pricing tiers. Establishing a pricing committee, which includes the product manager, that reviews pricing regularly is a good way to make sure this happens.

Key takeaway 2:  Radically transparent pricing builds trust with customers, leading to loyalty.  

Transparent pricing leads to customer loyalty.  Product managers can add value as part of the pricing process as they are closest to the customers and understand what they value.  They can help identify that value metric that leads to a good pricing structure.



Key takeaway: Increasing personalisation, the ability to share the product and a feeling of connection, leads to product led growth.

Placing products on a matrix of Commitment vs Reach can indicate how a product is being promoted.  By increasing the users’ feeling of commitment to a product, and making the product easy to share, will push it up and to the right on the matrix, moving it towards a product led growth strategy.

Klass Raaijmakers from Stan talks about promotion



Key takeaway 1: Run a hiring retro 6-12 months after each new hire.

Hiring product managers should use a cycle similar to the build-measure-learn cycle we are all familiar with:

  1. Write role descriptions that are realistic and speak to the people you want to find. Having long ‘must have’ lists and using phrases like ‘born to lead’ are not attractive to most potential hires.  Also, soft skills are not a ‘nice to have’ for product managers, they are just as important as product process skills.


  1. Interviews need to dig into the soft skills more than the product process skills of product managers. Only 11% of product manager hires fail due to lack of product capability, it is nearly always due to a lack of soft skills.


  1. Do a hiring retro 6-12 months after every hire. Check with the person you hired so see if the role has met their expectations and ask about their experience with your recruitment process. Get the hirers to consider whether or not they hired the right person.  Then learn and adjust the process as needed. 


Key takeaway 2: Team autonomy is important, but ease of collaboration across teams is vital too.

This presentation was about why the Spotify model failed for them and others who tried it.  The key areas of failure were seen to be:

– Matrix management resulted in no single person leading the engineering team.  The developers were managed by their chapter lead eg front end devs, back end devs etc.  Which meant when a tech decision needed, there was no ultimate decision maker and therefore no person ultimately responsible for the outcomes.  It also meant the product manager didn’t have a tech peer, they had multiple, which proved complex.

– It fixated on team autonomy which meant that decisions were not being made for the good of the company, but for the good of the team.  

– Every team was so autonomous that they worked differently, which made collaboration difficult. 

– The legend of the Spotify model was so strong, that to question the model was to question the company, so it became taboo to disagree with the model. Spotify actually no longer uses the model.

The conference ran incredibly smoothly for a virtual event with presenters all over the world.  Well done to the LTP team!

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