The Product Value Triangle®

The Product Value Triangle®: Why Good PMs (Even Tech Ones) Cannot Shy Away from Monetization & Communication

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One of the questions I hear most frequently is, “What should Product Managers do?” or “What is a part of a PM’s job/role?” or even “What are some must-have skills to become or grow as a PM?” Well, while the exact role may vary among different companies, there are some elements (or areas) that are key and common to every good PM. In this article, I propose a simple framework to look at these areas and provide concrete skills, activities, and deliverables for each one of them. We will also explore how all these activities revolve around the same key element: Product Value.

Product Manager’s responsibilities

Product Management (PM) is a multifaceted role within any organization, often involving a delicate balance of various responsibilities. There are different types of Product Managers, some leaning towards the business side, while others are more tech-oriented. Also, the definition of and the share of the different shades within the PM role depend on the company, the industry, and, of course, the person.

However, regardless of their specific focus, all PMs must deal with a critical aspect of their role: ensuring Product Value. In this article, we will explore the concept of the “Product Value Triangle®” and why understanding and embracing all its components, including pricing and monetization, is essential for every PM.

The fundamental responsibility remains the same: delivering value to customers and the business. Whether you’re a business-oriented PM or a tech-oriented one, understanding and embracing the Product Value Triangle® in its entirety is essential.

To be clear, while all the aspects of the Triangle are fundamental, here we stress the importance of pricing and monetization, as this is the part that most often gets neglected and overlooked.

Pricing and monetization, often seen as a business-focused domain, are integral parts of this triangle and cannot be ignored. By mastering – or at least understanding –  all aspects, PMs can better guide their products to success and contribute significantly to their organizations’ growth.

The Product Value Triangle®:

The Product Value Triangle® is a conceptual framework consisting of three core elements, each of which plays a pivotal role in shaping a product’s overall value.

These elements can be seen as different areas of competence for a PM and their team, and they are used iteratively. 

Value Discovery:

This is the initial stage in understanding what value means for your product and your target audience. It involves researching and identifying customer needs, pain points, and market trends. As a PM, your ability to uncover these insights is crucial in defining the direction your product should take. Without a clear understanding of the value your product brings to customers, it becomes challenging to create a compelling offering. Of course, discovering what users want doesn’t mean implementing all of it. Defining your product vision and positioning are key to selecting what is “in target” and what is not.

That’s why Value Discovery encompasses the ability of the PM to discover the external need, but equally to discover and crystallize the internal/company stand on the product. The same market opportunity and customer need may find different solutions in different products: being clear on “your way” to address it, aligns the whole work of the product teams down the way.

Some activities that are key in this area and that a good PM should be proficient in, or at least understand:

  • Conduct customer interviews and surveys to gather insights into their pain points and needs.
  • Analyze market research and competitive analysis to identify gaps and opportunities.
  • Create user personas to better understand your target audience.
  • Analyze customer support and feedback data to identify common issues and feature requests.
  • Collaborate with sales and customer success teams to gather customer insights from frontline interactions.
  • Set, define, and agree on hypotheses. 
  • Take a stand on the product’s vision and on your unique way to address the market need.

Value Creation:

With a clear vision of what your customers value and what makes sense for your business, the next step is to create it. This is where the product development process comes into play. Your role as a PM extends beyond just overseeing this process; it involves making strategic decisions about what features to prioritize, how to design the user experience, and how to differentiate your product from competitors. Probably most importantly, making strategic decisions on what features NOT to prioritize, and what are areas on which you DON’T want to play. 

Creating value is at the heart of the product management role, and it requires both technical and business acumen. This doesn’t mean that the PM should make all these calls alone. On the contrary, having clearly defined the product vision, its positioning, and success metrics is key to enabling the whole team to create value without the PM being the bottleneck.

Some activities that are key in this area and that a good PM should be proficient in, or at least understand:

  • Develop a product roadmap and provide clear guidance to the teams to prioritize features and enhancements.
  • Define user stories and acceptance criteria to guide the development team.
  • Remember that “create value” is not only about creating features or code. Value creation includes the way you set up processes, operational excellence, etc. At the end of the day, the product is not only what you develop in code but also the full experience of your customers.
  • Even more, there are products that don’t contain code at all (physical goods, services, …) and the same reflections apply. So, don’t limit the notion of value creation to that of technical code development.

Value Monetization:

Creating value is essential, but monetizing that value is equally crucial for the sustainability of your product and the success of your company. Monetization involves determining the pricing strategy, packaging options, and revenue models that will allow your product to thrive in the market. While this aspect may seem more closely related to business-oriented PMs, even tech-focused PMs must understand how their product generates revenue and contributes to the company’s financial goals. 

It’s also possible that your product is not immediately monetized (for instance, an internal product, or a product that will be offered for free to push another product). The same reasoning applies, even in these cases! Defining the role within the larger monetization scheme is still pivotal, even if no price tag will be applied directly to your product.

Moreover, the interconnection of these topics and the fact that this process is iterative are additional reasons for Product managers not to be shy about Pricing and Monetization. Pricing and Monetization are “features in themselves,” an integral part of the product, and they, in turn, influence the Value Communicated and the value perceived.

Some activities that are key in this area and that a good PM should be proficient in, or at least understand:

  • Define your pricing strategy. Do you want to compete on price, or do you want to go value-based? Will your product be given for free to push something else?
  • Analyze pricing models of competitors in your industry.
  • Conduct pricing experiments to determine optimal price points and packaging options.
  • Develop tiered pricing structures that cater to different customer segments.
  • Explore subscription-based revenue models, one-time purchases, or freemium models.
  • Integrate your assumptions into financial models and projections.

Value Communication:

In addition to the three core elements of the Product Value Triangle®, there’s a fourth side that connects them all: “Value Communication.” 

Value communication bridges the gap between the creation of value and its realization in the market: it involves effectively conveying the value of your product to both internal and external stakeholders. It includes creating compelling marketing materials, providing sales teams with the tools they need to sell the product, and ensuring that everyone in the organization understands the unique value proposition of the product. 

But, most importantly, it includes ensuring that the product carries this communication by itself – in every feature, in each interaction it has with your customers. 

  • Go to Market: is your product the first messenger of your product and helping you “spread the word”? (think “referrals” and user →  Team →  company activation)
  • Is your product helping your customers save money? How visible is this to your customers? 
  • How integrated is the communication within your product? Or are you counting on users to download specific material?

So, once more, there are Marketing professionals who can help you with specific topics of your product communication but, as PM, you can’t just ignore or manage product communication as a silo you don’t care about. 

Some activities that are key in this area and that a good PM should be proficient in, or at least understand:

  • Go to market and growth strategies. How your product will help you sell… more of your product!
  • Pricing: Again, your price is one of the most important features that you will communicate! It shows your positioning and communicates your value!
  • Develop clear and compelling product messaging that highlights key value propositions.
  • Internal communication: Train internal teams, including customer support and sales, on the product’s value proposition and messaging.
  • Value perception: Listen to the way your customer perceives the value you want to communicate. 

The Interconnected Nature of the Product Value Triangle®:

These four elements of the Product Value Triangle® are not isolated; they are intricately interconnected. Your ability to discover value influences your choices when creating value, and both these aspects directly impact your monetization strategy. Similarly, effective value communication can enhance the perception of value and drive demand for your product.

The Connectors:

The connectors between one area and another are based on different elements, both internal and external.

  • Discovery to Creation:
    • Outside-In: As a PM, you will collect insights from the market and the users.
    • Inside-out: You will define a Product Vision, which is the lens through which these insights will be addressed by your product and will guide you and your team in your choices.
  • Creation to Monetization:
    • Outside-In: You are attentive to how much value your customers place on your product (willingness to pay).
    • Inside-out: You will create a positioning that is set to capture this value in a specific way.
  • Monetization to Discovery:
    • Outside-In: You observe your customers and users adopting, using, and interacting with your products.
    • Internal: You will measure how much this aligns with your hypotheses and contributes to the goals you set.
  • Value to Value Communication:
    • Outside-In: You collect, listen, and analyze customer and market feedback and perception. 
    • Inside-out: You communicate the Value of your product through a value proposition and positioning. Note that the usage of the product itself shall be a means to communicate your value externally.

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