For a product to be successful on the market, it usually takes much more than just implementing a good idea. From a smart conceptual design to development and marketing and through to sales – a clear strategy is needed to keep on top of all the...
For a product to be successful on the market, it usually takes much more than just implementing a good idea. From a smart conceptual design to development and marketing and through to sales – a clear strategy is needed to keep on top of all the relevant processes. This is where the product manager comes in.
The concept of product management was developed in 1927 by consumer goods manufacturer Procter & Gamble, when it launched a personal care range called “Camay”, which completely failed to achieve its revenue expectations and market share targets. Why did it fail? Internal conflicts, different departments setting different priorities, a silo mentality, and the failure to identify customer needs. Consequently, a product manager was assigned, who took care of all the external and internal—and product-related— issues. Once the product manager was brought in, the previously desired success was not long in coming.
Even today, product management is considered to be the interface between product development, marketing, and sales: For example, market analyses, reporting, and the development of product brochures are all functions that are part of the product manager’s job.
What tasks are involved in product management?
The main areas of responsibility vary depending on the industry and company. Product management usually covers three key areas of responsibility:
#1 Product analysis
Here, not only is the current range considered, but the market and the competition are also examined. Generally, the product analysis should always be aligned with the design thinking process, which puts personal feelings aside and uses statistics and data as the basis for decision making.
When conducting the product analysis of your own products, different aspects can be evaluated:
Factors such as materials, dimensions, weight, or number of individual components
Characteristics such as the feel or appeal of the design
Benefits, e.g. USP, added value compared with competitive products
A product analysis also entails a price analysis, in which product managers determine production costs and competitor pricing in order to adapt an appropriate pricing strategy. They even have to take a close look at the production chain. Production analysis enables supply chains or individual production elements to be fully optimized. Examining the product lifecycle reveals where the product currently is within its lifecycle. This provides information with regard to whether future growth is possible or whether the product should soon be taken off the market.
#2 Product design
When developing a new product idea, product managers use the insights gained from the product analysis. They consider information about the market, the target group, and the competition and take this into account during the product development. The product concept includes the following facets:
Product structure: how will the product be assembled?
Product construction: which materials and raw materials will be processed?
Product function: what can the product do?
Versions: in which designs will the product be offered and how will the packaging be designed?
A “product roadmap” should emerge as a result of the conceptual design. It is used as a visual roadmap to precisely implement the product vision, step by step.
#3 Product optimization
But product management doesn’t end here, even if a product idea is successfully implemented. Instead, the market-ready product must be tested prior to market launch, using product testers – and under real-life conditions.
Using the prototypes given to them, the test users determine whether the product delivers the desired benefits, if the product’s design and feel are pleasing, or if any problems arise when using it. If, during the course of the product test, it turns out that there is a need to optimize the product, the company has the chance to modify the product accordingly. Even after market launch, it should always keep an eye on the product: If the targeted success fails to materialize, the product analysis starts all over again.
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