How Product Managers Use Themes to Build Winning Products

How do you make a winning product even better? You never stop pushing for new ideas that will delight and engage your customer. But for every stellar enhancement there are dozens of duds that simply do not contribute to the overall product vision.

Product managers know that one good way to come up with new product ideas is to set and focus on a product theme.

A product theme is a set of product features which are connected to your product goals. If your goal is increase conversion rates by a certain percentage, you might develop a theme around conversion. If your goal is to increase users, you might choose a theme that addresses acquisition.

Setting these themes is helpful when you want to focus on and strategize about new types of features. This approach helps you ensure that your product is moving in the right direction and that your team and company are focused on additions that matter to your business.

Many teams try to do too many things at the same time, which leads to fractured feature sets, diminished performance, and unhappy customers.

By putting everyone on the same page, you can make sure that the team is moving towards the same goals. To get started, strive to identify three core themes.

The next step is for you and your team to brainstorm new ideas. But rather than the freeform set of ideas where people (including yourself) might suggest ideas ranging from minor to outlandish, you can organize the ideation process around your three themes. This ensures that you are spending time on features where your product needs the most work.

Let's say that you choose to pursue themes around acquisition, conversion, and referrals. One week later, the leadership team starts requesting and devising ideas around allowing people to "favorite" different things in the product and hoping that it can be more social. The sales team proposes another idea to translate the product into three languages to help them sign international clients.

In this situation, look back at the key themes: acquisition, conversion, and referrals. Do these new ideas fit into your core themes? If they did, then you would add to them to the ideation list and place them into the respective themes.

However, these ideas do not align with your chosen themes. So, jot them down in your list of future potential features. You can revisit these features once you have a new set of goals and themes for the product. (This list of ideas is called your product backlog.)

Focus is hugely important in the product management role. Everyone tends to want to build everything and devise all sorts of "great" ideas -- but usually without a defined workflow for ideation. This leads to a disjointed product made of halfhearted features that fails to achieve any of your core goals.

Left unchecked, freeform ideation can cause your company to lose focus and fail to achieve goals as well.

Once you have your themes set, you might ask: "How do I come up with ideas which fit my themes?" Take that instinct one step further and ask: "Within our chosen themes, what could we build right now that will achieve my core goals and create the most valuable for our customers?"

These are not easy questions to answer. But if you are able to get into this mindset, it will ensure that you build the best product possible for your customers.

Product managers: How do you come up with new ideas?