Product management is both an art and a science. Some college classes may equip you with related tools (e.g. market research, finance), but the most important skills of product management are “learned in the trenches”. This blog outlines some of the lessons I picked up over 20+ years of doing product management. I hope you will find these lessons useful!
A bit of background about my own path to product management. Like many other PMs I started as an engineer. But then came my MBA studies and opened my eyes to a whole new world.
The role of a PM is all too often loosely defined. In many organizations it is a “catch-all” position with no clear responsibilities. Let’s take a look at what a PM role should be.
People arrive at a PM role from multiple directions. Some came from engineering; others from customer support; and there are those who came from sales. Here’s a list of skills a PM should have, or develop over time.
How do you identify “customer needs”, or market trends? Rely on analysts reports? Evaluate requests from sales people? Adopt new ideas that came from engineering? Gathering requirements is one of the most critical PM tasks. Done right – and the product is a success. Done wrong – well, let’s not talk about that.
It is easy to generate a long, detailed list of requirements – often referred to as the “laundry list”. But you can’t have it all. Your development team can squeeze only so many features into the next product release. So how do you choose the ones to focus on?
A PM may perhaps define requirements, but engineers are the ones who implement them. Surprisingly, those engineers have opinions and priorities that sometimes conflict with yours. So how do you “cut a deal” with your engineering partners – the ones who actually build the product?
Success is not guaranteed forever. Here’s an example of a company once successful, who failed to interpret a key customer requirement – and paid a heavy price for it.
Nobody in their right mind likes “politics”. But unfortunately where there are people – there are politics… As a product manager, you should master the “rules of the game” and learn how to steer decisions your way.
There are few decisions a product manager can make that influence profits more than pricing. Let’s discuss approaches to determine the ‘right price’ for your product or service.
How do you price a new product category? Especially when there are no similar products, or any market history to learn from? This is a case where “value-based” pricing strategy came in really handy.
Product managers should help craft the ‘messaging’ for their product, and influence its positioning – i.e. customers’ perception of it.
Choose your words carefully. A single word in the marketing message can influence the success, or failure of your product. Here are two examples where this actually happened.
Naming your company or product is crucial to your <verbal> branding strategy. Treat naming as a process, not a momentary inspiration. Start early and work in earnest to select a proper name.
Whitepapers are powerful marketing collateral. Done properly, they effectively integrate value proposition, competitive positioning and messaging. They may be challenging to write, but are often a must.