3b. Other topics for product questions

What else should I mention in a product question?

The product framework gives you a strong foundation to start basically any product question. Always identify the users, their needs, and what existing or hypothetical features of the product help solve those needs.

But, having great product ideas is definitely not all there is to being a product manager. PMs ultimately want the product to succeed, which means they have to deal with all the other functions that are needed to ensure the product launches and lands well.

Thus, it’s also useful to mention some of these other topics in your product interview if you have the chance. Sometimes questions will be fairly narrow, such as “What features would you design to address need X?”. But, if you get a slightly more open-ended question, you’ll definitely want to bring up some of the below topics to show that you’re thinking holistically about how the product exists in the world.

If you touch on one of these topics, generally it’s useful to mention a couple points relevant to the topic (e.g. a couple ideas for marketing, a couple of points of potential concern for legal). It also wouldn’t hurt to express a bit of humility and say you’d ultimately defer to the expertise of the appropriate team.

Marketing

The Marketing and PM functions are fairly close at some companies. In traditional companies, the Marketing function has a role in understanding what the market wants – a responsibility taken over by PMs at tech companies.

As an oversimplification, Marketing at tech companies deals with how a feature or product is launched and how it attracts users. Some questions you may want to touch upon relating to Marketing:

  • Would this feature benefit from any kind of special launch activities? Typical launch marketing includes things like blog posts, social media, and talking to press
  • Do you want to consider paying to acquire users for this specific product or feature? How would you think about the cost vs. benefits of this?
  • How would you position yourself Marketing-wise in the competitive landscape?
  • Sometimes it’s fair to lump in PR with Marketing – does your feature or product have any potentially negative PR implications that you’d want to get ahead of?

Partnerships / Business Development

“Business Development” is a loaded term, at least in the tech world. At some companies it’s a team that does something closer to Sales – getting others to buy the product. Here though, let’s assume that BD has its other common definition – working with third parties to form partnerships. Sometimes these partnerships are for joint marketing purposes; other times they are to develop integrative features using both companies’ technologies. Some topics to think of here:

  • Is your feature / product one that would benefit from integrating with or being integrated with other products?
  • Do you want to form an ecosystem around your product? Do you have the right endpoints for developers to use?
  • Or, do you want to join the ecosystem for another product? Would doing so help you gain more users quickly, or supercharge your product somehow?
  • Are there other companies that address similar target users? Would a joint marketing campaign make sense for both parties?

Sales & Operations

Some products, especially B2B ones, might require a dedicated Sales function. Other products, especially tangible ones, will require an Operations team to oversee the actual creation of the product and logistics around the supply chain. Some topics to think of here:

  • Is your feature or product a hard or easy one to sell to customers? To customers know they have the need you’re trying to address?
  • Is there anything special you need to do to train your Sales force? Do you need to restructure their incentives to adjust for your new product?
  • Do you anticipate any operational difficulties in creating your product?
  • Could operations become a source of competitive advantage for your company?

Legal / Privacy

The features you’re building hopefully won’t be blatantly against the law. But, it may deal with some legal gray areas. One common manifestation of Legal concerns related to privacy, but if you’re discussing a completely new technology, there may not be as many known rules to follow. Some questions here:

  • Are there privacy concerns with your product? Are you using user data in some new or unexpected way?
  • How concerning are any legal concerns you bring up?
  • Are there completely new legal questions your product has to answer? For example, questions around ownership of certain assets or data?
  • Does your product or feature put your company at greater legal risk for something?
  • If you’re working with third party partners for your feature, are there any legal oddities around those relationships?

Policy

Some product areas are sensitive from a Policy standpoint. These areas are some of the most exciting ones today precisely because they’re nascent, perhaps relatively unregulated, and being hotly debated right now. Some questions here:

  • Are there clear laws regulating your product area, or is this a completely new realm for regulators?
  • Should your company try to influence policy? Why?
  • What kinds of policies does your company want to advocate for?
  • Would changing a particular existing regulation make a huge impact on your company? Should you pursue that?
  • What are some policy risks for your product? Can these risks be mitigated?

Internationalization / Localization

Most of the time, you will probably be thinking of target users for a specific market – for better or worse, if you’re interviewing in the US, you’ll probably be thinking about the US market. But, as products grow, they do have to think about whether and how the product should work abroad for users of different languages and cultures. Some topics that may be relevant here:

  • Do other countries’ users have the same needs as the ones you’re addressing?
  • Are there any major cultural differences that may inhibit adoption of your product as-is abroad?
  • Will there be a need to translate a lot of content to foreign languages? This may especially be a challenge when dealing with user-generated content

As a general reminder, you do not need to bring up all these points in every product answer. Instead, you should aim to bring up the most interesting and relevant ones if your question has room for such a discussion. And, if there’s one particular area that’s particularly challenging or risky for your given product, you should definitely address that proactively.