Product management is the business structure that supports and manages all the activities related to developing, marketing and selling a product/service.
What is Product Management?
Product Management is the general business practice within a company that supports and manages all the activities related to planning, developing, marketing, and launching a product. The Product Management role usually falls within the product development department.
The role of Product Management is to create a valuable product for the targeted customer audience. This customer value ultimately produces measurable benefits that increase revenue and improve profit margins.
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3 examples of Product Management
Product Management is a complex series of tasks and activities but the process can be broken down into two different (but complementary) areas: product development and product marketing. These two areas must work together in order to maximize sales revenues and profit margins and, consequently, market share.
To understand how these parts all work together, here are three examples of product management:
- Distinguishing how the new product is different from existing products
- Defining selling points: How the product will be advertised? Who is the target audience?
- Conducting customer interviews and user testing
- Using customer feedback to improve existing feature functionality or determine new features
- Feature prioritization and road mapping
- Defining and tracking success metrics
Addressing competitor gaps
- Performing market assessments
- Identifying how competitors are excelling and addressing those gaps
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What does a Product Manager do?
A product manager’s goal is to deliver value to the customer. When this is done successfully, customers purchase the product or service, which generates revenue for the business. Product management professionals play a strategic role in determining the necessary actions for achieving these goals. The Product Manager is typically responsible for:
- Coordinating the multiple teams that execute product management tasks, such as keeping close track of the market conditions to guide the definition of new features to be developed as well as overseeing the production of said product.
- Identifying product or development updates to cater to new and existing customers’ needs.
- Working with design and development teams to prioritize efforts toward developing new features that’ll cater to a user’s direct needs.
- Helping the company stay ahead of its competition and provide the best customer value within the product’s industry or sector.
- Communicating directly with marketing and customer success teams to coordinate marketing efforts for new features, in addition to tracking user feedback and requests for existing and new product features.
In addition to the examples above, product managers are also responsible for:
- customer research
- product forecasting
- product strategy
- product road mapping
- product pricing
Even though the product manager’s attention must be divided among all stages of the product lifecycle, it’s normally focused mainly on new product development (NPD). The market is always evolving and so too are customers’ perception of value.
More often than not, these professionals adopt a hands-on approach to promote and improve collaboration among many other roles. The product manager role is often interdisciplinary and focused on bridging the gap and coordinating many different roles, such as development, design, marketing, customer success, etc.
Product Management and other related concepts
To manage all functions within Product Management, it’s essential to define what to prioritize, how to communicate with other teams, and standardize the process.
Product Management vs. Product Development
Product Development consists of the following steps:
- Marketing a new product or service
The ultimate goal when developing a new product is pretty clear: maintain and/or increase your company’s results by constantly satisfying your customer’s ever-changing demands.
It’s extremely important to clearly define your target market and your personas in order to identify the customer base characteristics as well as define the paths to follow when improving your products/services.
Knowing who you want to please and sell to is critical for defining your development strategy. That’s why it’s so important to conduct both quantitative and qualitative research all through the new product development process – from the concept to the launch.
Product Management vs. Product Marketing
Product Marketing can be defined as the intersection of Product, Sales, and Marketing. It’s basically the role of communicating the product, features, benefits, etc. to all the company’s stakeholders.
The main responsibility of the Product Marketing department is to have a deep knowledge of the product they are positioning and messaging. That’s why Product Marketing and Product Development are complementary departments and must have efficient communication.
Summing up, a product marketer needs to know the answer to five simple questions:
- How does the product fit into the target audience’s needs?
- How do the current customers feel about other products?
- How does the product stand out from the competitors?
- What unique features does the product have?
- What is the main problem(s) that the product solves?
These answers to these questions won’t always be clear or obvious, but with the right communication and support between and from Product, Marketing, and Sales, this role gets easier.
Product Management best practices and tips
There are actions that every product manager must do and most are developed through experience, good role models, and mentoring. To become a successful Product Manager and excel in the field of Product Management, here are some tips and best practices to consider:
Learn to separate people from the problem
Product managers have to collaborate with a team of professionals from different fields who may possess different temperaments. During negotiations, emotions can run high with each colleague feeling their interests are most important.
Miscommunication and perception problems also throw a spanner in the works leading to issues getting clouded and, ultimately, negotiations can fall apart. Being kind to people and tough on the issues makes it possible for the team to be more cooperative and willing to persevere toward the outcome.
A principled negotiation workshop teaches productive conversational skills that allow colleagues to listen to and understand the other side of a viewpoint without blaming or judging. Listening validates the other team member’s problems or aspirations and demonstrates that you are invested in coming up with a satisfactory solution.
Listen to your team
As a Product Manager, prioritizing feedback from members of your team is important. Not only will more junior members feel heard, but this culture of listening also helps makes the team less resistant to solutions. That’s because it makes it clear that good ideas can come from everyone, no matter their seniority.
Learn to negotiate
A negotiation training course helps a product manager understand the importance of exploring solutions. Often, one side will have a critical option that is not as significant to the other. For instance, a designer might want more time to work on the product’s aesthetics while the engineer prefers to start working on the product immediately. Ultimately, the whole team is affected.
However, by taking some time to brainstorm and come up with creative options for each side, both teams can settle on the best outcome that is favorable to everyone on the team. Focus broadly on generating ideas rather than judging them during the brainstorming phase.
Product managers also negotiate quarterly roadmaps, annual strategies, and other product management contracts. Principled negotiation training helps many product managers master the complexities of negotiations, which should result in faster, more cohesive, and lower conflict collaborations.A product manager who has mastered principled negotiation is likely to be more successful as a result of a deeper understanding of behavioral fundamentals that are the basis of most negotiations. Principled negotiation helps product managers meet both sides’ interests and achieve outcomes in a civil process.
Focus on the details, but remember the end goal
A product manager can help the team by scheduling morning sessions when everyone is fresh. Find out the position each side has taken and the interests driving the position and break down the solutions into smaller, reasonable, and easily achievable components. With the end goal in mind, you’ve now created a plan that is more manageable and achievable.
Objective diplomacy is in the job description
It’s essential to have both sides agree on the ideal outcome. A product manager who has gone through a negotiation course can use objective criteria to choose a starting position that is fair to both sides. Robust, accurate specifications can reduce opposition by presenting valid information that the team can agree to do. A product manager can use objective criteria by ensuring the goals are clear, and results are published. Remember to be flexible and open to changing goals as new developments emerge, and further information is presented.