Let’s explore ten of the best product management books. Each one provides a unique perspective on how to make better products and services for your customers.
I recommend reading through the entire list once to get familiar with each of the books. That way you can choose one or two that are most relevant to you today. And then, when you’re ready, you can return to the list in the future to select another.
1. Sprint by Jake Knapp
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when creating a new product or service. Often there are complex issues that can kill momentum. And this can make it difficult to move forward in a productive and effective way.
This book covers Google Ventures’ unique five day sprint process. It can help you address critical questions through rapid prototyping and testing with customers. And this can help when it comes to solving a big problem, breaking out of a rut, or making quick progress.
2. Start At The End by Matt Wallaert
Too many products fail to create a real impact in the world today. Even those that sell well often end up buried in a desk drawer or stuffed in a closet somewhere. And that can have a negative impact when it comes to customer reviews, word-of-mouth referrals, and future sales.
This book is about how to build products that create real change. As the title suggests, the process starts by getting clear on how you want customers to use the product. From there, the book offers tips on how to design it to be more likely to create that outcome.
3. The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick
It’s critical to talk with potential customers early and often. It’s a great way to refine the core idea and confirm you’re moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, it’s all to easy to make the mistake of seeking early validation rather than genuine feedback.
This book explains how to properly talk with customers to get honest and useful information. That way you can avoid blind encouragement and uncover real insights about what customers value. It’s one of the most important things you can do early on in the product development process.
4. Inspired by Marty Cagan
A lot has changed in how technology-related products are created. Especially at industry giants like Amazon, Facebook, and Google. It’s helpful to be up to speed with the evolving demands in product management, especially if you’re in the tech space.
This book is about how to create tech products that customers love. It’s a detailed resource that tackles critical topics, including: putting together the right team, determining the right product, scaling the organization, and creating an effective product culture. All of which make it one of the best product management books to pickup.
5. Contagious by Jonah Berger
One of the most important factors for long-term product success is word-of-mouth referral. Even a small increase in the rate at which customers recommend your product to others can have a big impact over time. And it can multiply the benefits of other marketing strategies.
This book helps to explain why certain products, services, and ideas catch on. It breaks down the six principles of contagiousness, including: social currency, triggers, emotion, public observability, practical value, and stories. And it includes many examples of how businesses have used each one to boost word-of-mouth referral.
6. Hooked by Nir Eyal
Another key ingredient for product success is driving repeat usage over time. This is especially important for subscription models, but it also applies to simple one-time purchases. That’s because increased engagement can effect user reviews, word-of-mouth referrals, and brand loyalty.
Some companies turn to expensive marketing campaigns and promotions to make this happen. And that can certainly work if the product has a lucrative business model. But it isn’t always a financially viable option.
This book introduces a very different approach. It’s all about helping customers build automatic habits around engaging with your product. That way they continue to use it without having to be prompted by campaigns or promotions.
7. Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday
Most products today make an initial splash, achieve limited success, and then quickly fade into obscurity. Then the product team that created it moves on to something new. And customers shift their attention to other things.
Meanwhile, there are other products that not only stand the test of time, but perform even better as time passes. Books like Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, movies like The Shawshank Redemption, and physical products like Fender’s Stratocaster guitar.
This book is all about how to create these kinds of timeless, or perennial, products. It explores related topics, including: the creative process, positioning, marketing, word-of-mouth referral, and much more. All with the goal of creating products that last.
8. Crossing The Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore
Some customers go well out of their way to buy brand new, cutting-edge solutions. Others quickly reject such options in favor of tried and true, proven solutions. Both groups have very different priorities in terms of what it is that they value.
Unfortunately, many businesses fail in their attempt to appeal to mainstream customers. They find initial success with early adopters, but are unable to “cross the chasm” over to the far more lucrative pragmatist mainstream buyers.
This book is about how to properly market and sell disruptive products to mainstream customers. So, if you are selling a product that requires users to change their behavior in some way, I strongly recommend you read this one.
9. Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne
Many product teams fall into the trap of focusing on what rival businesses are doing. As a result, they often try to appeal to the same customers, with the same core product, and the same general strategy.
They might add a few unique features, but the value proposition ends up being largely identical. And this leads to direct competition which often destroys margins and limits long-term profitability. All of which makes it that much harder to invest in future iterations.
This book is about how to escape the bloody red ocean of competition. It explains how to create and capture new demand, break the value/cost trade-off, and redefine market boundaries to create a leap in value for buyers.
10. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
It’s all too easy to invest heavily into product development before truly validating the core idea. We’re often so excited to start building something that we fail to identify and test the underlying assumptions that are almost always present.
This book is about identifying such assumptions and finding ways to validate them early in the process. While it was written for startups, many of the insights, tools, and tactics apply equally to product teams within larger organizations. It’s an incredibly popular book and one that every product manager should consider reading.