Market effects Featured

9:00am EDT March 31, 2003
The job of product managers isn't easy. They are expected to apply strategic concepts to maximize return on their products, but often get drawn in to daily problems like customer service and sales support.

The result is a less effective manager, and a product that's probably not performing the way it should.

Here are three keys to effective product management:

Understand what the product manager's role is. "The company needs a real understanding of what the roles and responsibilities are for the product managers and making sure the people in the organization that interface with them understand that as well," says Greg DiCillo, CEO of Life Cycle Strategies Inc., a firm that focuses on training and consulting on product management issues.

Companies often expect their product managers to assume strategic thinking roles, but then inundate them with the day-to-day management issues that should be handled by someone else.

Maintain a product and market balance. "Most companies look at the market from a product perspective rather than a customer perspective," says DiCillo.

Often times companies will build a product and then throw it out on the market to see how it does. The right way to maximize your return is to spend more time understanding your customers' needs, then developing a product that solves their problems.

"A customer who is price conscience should send up a red flag," says DiCillo. "That maybe means you don't understand what they want. You may not be giving them anything of real value."

Not all customer data and feedback has to come from traditional marketing surveys.

Customer service and sales people are in contact with the customers on a regular basis. Talking to them to get a better feel for what customers are asking for will help focus your products.

Make product management a discipline. "Product management isn't a 'day' thing," says DiCillo. "It's a long-term strategy. What are the markets, who are the customers and where are they at? Be more proactive rather than reactive. Where do we want to be one, three or five years from now and how do we get there?

"If you understand what your customer is doing and what problems need solved, you can get a glimmer of what you and your competitors are providing and where the breakdowns are and use that to create an advantage."

You can then develop products to fill those gaps, which help customers solve their problems and provide them with something of value.

"You have to understand their business better to serve them better," says DiCillo.

Life Cycle Strategies