Do your stakeholders reply to your updates with a dozen questions? Does it seem like they don’t understand your product or your customer?
Misinformed or under-informed stakeholders can create burdensome challenges within your organization. An investor who doesn’t see progress (even if there is plenty) may want out. A customer success manager who doesn’t see how the product helps a customer may leave the company. An executive who doesn’t see results may replace you.
Strong stakeholder management requires an understanding of what your stakeholders want from you. This is one of the most important elements of your job as a product manager.
In this article, we’ll help you understand who your stakeholders are and what they want from you.
Who Are Your Stakeholders?
Before we talk about what your stakeholders want, you need to know who’s included in that group. Startups define “stakeholders” in a lot of ways.
Generally, your stakeholders are internal people. They have influence over your product due to their professional or financial interest.
So who’s a stakeholder?
- Executive team / company management
- Team leaders (sales, marketing, customer support, customer success, etc.)
- Investors and financial backers
- Mentors and advisers
- Engineers / developers
- Early customers / clients
As you can imagine, your stakeholders come from different backgrounds and have different expectations for your product. They have different levels of knowledge about the customer and product development.
Let’s break down what each group wants to hear from you, the product manager.
Like any stakeholder, your executive team wants to know what you’ve completed. They want to know how those things tie to the company vision. Most importantly, they want to know how those things affect the growth or financial well-being of the company.
Don’t get bogged down by details here. For instance, executives don’t need to know how you optimized your app. Just give them the outcome. “We reduced screen load time by 500 ms which will improve user retention.” That kind of phrasing connects a product update to a business update, which helps the executives see the value of your work.
Then they want to know what comes next. Use your updates as an opportunity to walk them through the next phases of your road map. Explain which initiatives are moving smoothly, which are slow, and which are struggling.
Give a very basic timeline. They’ll want some idea of how long things take, but don’t strap yourself to an unyielding schedule. Again, don’t bury them with specifics. Remind them that the roadmap may change depending on certain variables.
Finally, tell your executives what you need. Their job is to support your product development, so don’t be shy about asking for a resource, a tool, or time.
Team leaders within your organization want to know how your product development will help them improve their performance.
For instance, customer support cares when you make a change that reduces the number of support tickets they have to manage. Marketing wants to know if a new development will affect their messaging. Sales wants to know how your product gives them a competitive advantage.
Invite these teams into the development process as early as possible. Help them understand the customer and the market as well as you do. They’ll need this information as early as possible to do their jobs well. Plus, they’ll accept your updates without complaint and limit their feature requests if they have the same foundation of customer knowledge as you.
When it comes to roadmapping, internal team leaders want to know how upcoming initiatives will benefit them. Each team leader sees the product through their own lens, so they’ll want to know why their priorities aren’t being met first.
Most importantly, team leaders need to understand your product’s story. A list of features and system specs aren’t enough. Explain why you built those features, made those changes, or fixed those bugs first.
Investors and Financial Backers
Your investors are primarily concerned about a fast release of a quality, financially viable product. They want to see a clear line between today and the day they profit from their investment.
That isn’t to say they just want to make a quick buck. They understand that a good product that fits the market takes time. But you’ll make them comfortable by giving some context, similar to how you should update executives.
Update your investors regarding your overall product strategy, new feature releases or changes, and how you plan to zero-in on your customer. They want assurances that you’re spending their money wisely and moving down your roadmap at a reasonable pace.
Keep in mind that your product update isn’t the only one your investors receive. They probably get financial updates and general company news from the executive team. They still want to hear about the product, but you don’t have to send them much.
Mentors and Advisers
Your mentors and advisers don’t need much, but it’s important to make them aware of your product’s development as well. This will help them give you quality advice and guidance.
What do they want from you? They want to know what you’ve learned about your customer and how you’re implementing that information. They want to know about the decisions you made and how they turned out. Be open with them about your overall strategy.
Engineers / Developers
Naturally, your product team should be updated about your product. This is important if your team works remotely or if you have multiple sub-teams on the product team all working on different initiatives.
You don’t have to include specific metrics in your update for engineers. They get plenty of that in your daily standup meeting and one-on-ones. Focus on broad strategic objectives and insights you’ve learned from your customers.
Most importantly, your engineers want to know what you expect from them. Are they meeting your goals? Do you think their work is quality and efficient?
Early customers influence your product by guiding its development, giving you valuable information about their needs along with critical feedback. If you want to build a truly customer-focused product, you have to involve customers every step of the way.
Updating your customers also keeps them around even if your product isn’t perfect for them yet. They may resist the urge to take their business to a competitor if they see that you’re improving your product every month.
Customers aren’t concerned about your hard metrics. They want to know how the product has changed and will change to make their lives easier. Make them aware of what you’ve already developed so they can take advantage of it, then focus on the next benefit you’re creating for them.
Better Updating = Easier for You
Updating your stakeholders would be a lot easier if you only have one type. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for most startups. If you tailor your updates to your stakeholder groups, you’ll communicate better. That means fewer back-and-forth questions, fewer requests, and a smaller burden on your time.
Should you host an update meeting? Almost never. It’s better to send a simple email update about your product rather than hold a meeting for most of your stakeholders. Your executive team is the only exception. They might require a monthly in-person meeting with a basic presentation.
If you feel like updating your stakeholders takes too much time, check out Underway. It’s a useful way to stop spending so much time keeping everyone updated so you can get back to what you really love: Figuring out how to make your product more successful. Start your free trial.