Annoying isn’t it when you receive questions like the ones below and you have no idea what they are about?
Hey Alex, what’s your opinion about the takeover of company X by Y? What are we going to do about the recent market introduction of product Z by our main competitor? Can you share your opinion about the recent webinar on XYZ?
Having a solid understanding of what is happening in the market is one of the first steps in the product management framework.
Only when you really know what is happening in the market and when you have a good feeling for what your customers, competitors and other stakeholders are up to will you be able to develop a strong product proposition. How exactly do you achieve this?
Free up time to do market research
Free up some time every week in your calendar to update yourself. Every industry has its own super gurus, governing bodies, news sites, interest groups and influencers. Find out who they are and subscribe yourself to their newsletter or feed and make sure your mailbox gets loaded every week with updates. I also use google alerts to get a daily notification with news items on the topics that are of my interest.
Read a bit every day, or save up your most relevant items for a fixed moment every week. I save up my items until Friday, and every Friday morning I spend 1,5 hours to read up on things. Sharing is caring, so I also share my most relevant findings with the team on a Slack group or a Teams channel.
Talk to your customers, it really does not hurt.
A lot of time is spent on internal stuff. You are often so busy with team meetings, reporting, managing deadlines and deliverables that you forget to talk to your customers. Isn’t it a bit of a waste of time also talking to customers? The people in your team you know, and they know you. Customers are scary. Sometimes customers don’t even know yet that they need your product, your thinking is far more advanced right…. No of course not stupid. You can design the best possible products in the world, but if you are not talking to customers you will never know if your products will succeed. Methods like Lean Startup and Design Thinking are all about engaging with customers to better understand their need.
So you better carve out some time in your agenda on a weekly basis to engage with the ultimate beneficial customer. Discuss your MVP with them, understand what they are up to, and test your product concepts. It’s a revelation, really.
Build a network of internal SMEs (Subject Matter Experts).
Every domain or industry has its gurus. The same applies to your company, there certainly are people who are experts in their field, and they can help you build better products. How to find them? In most cases you don’t actually need to search for them as it’s’ obvious who they are, as they typically surface easily. In other cases browse the local social streams, or check LinkedIN.
Make sure that these gurus join your working groups, or schedule some time with them for an occasional social chat. When you have developed a bond, you will soon be in the know.
Sharing is caring
Start sharing the information you’ve obtained. Send your stakeholders a note every now and then with information relevant to them. If you just obtained a new report make sure to share it with the gurus in the company. You will soon recognize that the information flow will start to become two-directional. As long as you keep sharing information with others, the information will also start to flow towards you. It’s magic.
Participate in webinars and events
Webinars and events are the best places to meet people in real live. They help you to expand your network and maintain relationships. Pre-covid I used to attend live events, really. Meeting the same people over and over across the world helps you to build a bond. You have a drink, go to dinner, get to know them and what moves them.
Conferences also help you to gain knowledge, but really, that’s not most of the value. If you want to expand your brain, go listen to a webinar.
Even with these digital sessions you can network and expand your reach. Send speakers a note following the session or connect with them on LinkedIN. Next time you need to talk to someone on a specific subject, you know where to go to.
I’ve worked in product management most of my professional life. I enjoy all aspects of the product management role, except for anything related to administration. Coming up with new ideas, building great products, and working towards adoption and satisfied users drives me. Always looking forward!