You're a Product Manager. You know the value of data, and you understand how to use it to make better decisions. But perhaps you're not using that data in the most strategic way possible.
You are the voice of your product, and you need to be able to communicate clearly and confidently. You've got to be able to speak with your team about what's working and what isn't. You need to know how to present your findings in a way that provokes discussion and debate among stakeholders, so they can offer valuable feedback before any big decisions are made.
And most importantly, you need to make sure that customers understand what they're getting out of your product and why they should care (hint: it needs more than just "it's pretty").
All this means one thing:
No more mumbling around the coffee machine!
To be a strategic PM, you have got to start practicing those presentations now so that when it comes time for crunchtime like right now you'll feel confident in front of anyone who's watching or listening. Practice makes perfect!
In this post, we'll discuss how product managers can become more strategic in their day-to-day tasks while still staying focused on the big picture.
Use your product as a strategic foundation
As a product manager, you are the glue that holds your team together.
You are the one who knows the product and its users better than anyone else on the team. You’re also in charge of making sure that everyone else understands what makes your product special and how it can be made even better.
Because of this, there are many things you can do to ensure that your team is moving forward at a strategic pace and not getting bogged down by tactical issues or other problems along the way.
Think about ways to use your product as a strategic foundation for everything you do as a PM:
- How does developing new features for customers help move us closer to our business objectives? If we need more time with stakeholders to get buy-in on our plans, make sure they know why we need it so they don’t feel like they're being dragged along behind us!
- Use your product as a strategic foundation. As the glue that holds the team together, product managers are responsible for helping everyone on the team understand why we're building what we're building and how we plan to make it better. The ability to create a shared understanding and vision for your product is crucial for aligning the team, making hiring decisions, setting priorities, and prioritizing resources.
- Don't just build software build a business. Your job isn't just about building great products; it's also about growing your business by making sure customers get value from them.
Understanding your customers' needs
This is what makes or breaks a company it's about knowing who your users are, their pain points with existing solutions, their hopes, and dreams for something better than what already exists today...and more importantly how those needs align with business goals such as revenue targets or marketing objectives like increasing market share within certain segments over time by delivering value through innovation that leads us all down life paths full of happiness from doing great work every day at companies we love working at because they generate meaningful impact through meaningful innovation!
Know your competition
There are many ways to ensure your product is unique. One is to understand the competition.
Do you know what they offer? Do they offer something different? If they're not offering anything different, then at least know how their strengths and weaknesses compare with yours.
This will help you decide whether or not you need something new to stand out in the market, or if it's better for your business model (and budget) to go after a different target audience altogether.
In order to know your competition and how you can best position yourself against them, you need to be aware of the following:
- The strengths and weaknesses of each competitor.
- Their customers.
- Their market share.
- Their products/services (and their features).
- Their marketing strategy and budget (including advertising, promotion, and public relations).
This information will allow you to understand how they are currently positioned in the marketplace, which will help guide your product positioning decisions later on in the process.
Understand the market with ease
It's not enough to know how you're going to solve the customer's problem. You also need to understand where they are in the buying process when they come to you, what steps they are likely to take next in their journey, and whether there are any barriers that might prevent them from reaching their solution or getting value from your product.
The first step to becoming a more strategic product manager is understanding the market. This can be hard, but it’s worth it. Here are some things you need to know:
- The market size, growth rate, and competitive landscape
- Your competitors' strategies, products, and features
- The customer problem that your company is trying to solve with its product or service
- What needs are not being met in this space? (i.e., what problem does your company solve?)
Get in your customers' heads
To become a more strategic product manager, you need to get into your customers’ heads.
You might think your customers are a bunch of uninformed, unthinking lemmings, but they’re not. They have feelings and thoughts and needs (and emotions, too) just like you do.
And if you want to be a more strategic product manager, then it's time to start thinking like them. Here’s how:
Understand how your customers think:
This step requires understanding what motivates people to buy the products and services you offer. In other words, why would someone use your product instead of another? What problems does the customer want to solve? How are they trying to solve those problems today (if at all)? What are their priorities when it comes time for them to make a purchasing decision?
Understand how your customers use your product
Once you've established who is looking for what types of solutions in the market, it's important that you take into account how those users interact with their devices or software or if they even do at all! For example: Do their preferences change based on where they're located or what device they're using? Are there certain features that are used more often than others while using other products within the same space as yours (e.g., an accounting app vs invoicing system)?
While it sounds like a tall order, it's actually not that difficult to get in your customers' heads.
Communicate and lead with confidence
Your communication style is a reflection of your confidence. If you can communicate clearly and concisely, then you're more likely to be respected and listened to. If not, you run the risk of coming across as a pushover or someone who doesn't know what they're doing.
So how do we go about getting this right?
The first step is learning how to speak in short sentences because, in business (and life), brevity is key! I mean this both literally and figuratively: Don’t waste anyone's time with long-winded explanations or drawn-out stories that have no point or purpose. And if something important comes up when communicating with team members or stakeholders on an upcoming project say, an issue with a supplier providing materials for manufacturing state it directly without sugarcoating so that everyone understands the situation quickly without any confusion later on down the line when trying to explain exactly why something wasn't done correctly before sending out product shipments...
Become more result-oriented, less process-oriented
As a product manager, you're probably more process-oriented than result-oriented. You care about the work that you do and all of the steps it takes to get from here to there.
And that's great!
But maybe a little less time spent on the process would be better for your career and overall happiness as a PM.
To become more strategic, focus on what's important to the company: results.
Let's say you're working on an analytics dashboard for a new feature that helps users find relevant content faster. The way things are now when users click into the dashboard they can see their own experience with this feature over time how many times they've opened it each day over several days or weeks (depending on how much time they spend in front of their computer). They also have access to data about how long other users spend interacting with that same feature across all different platforms (desktop vs mobile).
Now let's say we want people who actually use this new feature in production environments but aren't currently using it yet; those would be good candidates for marketing campaigns targeted at them specifically so we can convince them why using this new functionality is worth their time/effort/money etc.
A Product Manager who leans on data and takes the time to really think strategically can be successful at their job.
As a Product Manager, you're responsible for creating a product that will solve a problem for your customers and make money for the company. You'll need to know everything about the market, including what's already out there and how it's doing. If you don't have that customer insight, it's like trying to drive in the dark without headlights you can't see what's coming next!
As well as knowing your customers' needs, you also need to know what they want from your products. This means understanding their motivations around using different features/benefits of your product or service as well as their overall experience using it (whether through surveys or simply observing their behavior).
This knowledge comes from research, but remember that not all research is created equal.
We hope these tips have helped you understand the importance of strategic thinking and how to become a more strategic product manager.
If you are still feeling lost, don’t worry! It takes time to get used to these concepts and put them into practice we know because we’ve been there too.