Product management responsibilities look completely different if you view them through the lens of the customer. For solution providers though, products are the basis for all things revenue and that can cloud the true objective of a product management function and how it operates.

Success in product management and product marketing is first and foremost about understanding what your target customers want to accomplish and why it’s a priority. Then and only then are products relevant.

Here’s one line of thinking to put it into perspective.

  1. Market Dynamics – Market dynamics ultimately drive organizations from the top down. Take healthcare for example. Some of the top trends influencing healthcare organizations are an aging population, nursing shortages, declining insurance payments and growing numbers of uninsured patients. The key point is that these market dynamics drive every facet of the customers’ business strategy and subsequent execution.
  2. Target Customer Strategy – These macro level market dynamics ultimately shape the overall strategy and spending priorities for your target customer organizations because they create both issues and opportunities. For example, increasing numbers of uninsured patients may drive a strategic initiative to offer high volume, low cost, low margin health services and/or it may postpone capital purchases due to declining payments. The strategic direction of any company targeting healthcare should align with these influencing factors collectively. Products aren’t relevant just yet.
  3. Operational Impact of the Strategy – Following the healthcare example above, market-minded product management and product marketing professionals should determine the operational impact of the strategy. What are the goals and objectives being imposed on department heads because of the strategy and their subsequent spending priorities? How can products or services support this agenda? This big picture perspective not only drives new product innovation, it can vastly improve the relevance quotient of all marketing and sales efforts to boost revenue of existing products.
  4. People & Processes – How are the work routines of people at all levels changing as a result of the operational priorities mandated by the strategy? What problems do people now have that didn’t matter before? Why are these problems occurring? Which problems if solved make the biggest impact or contribution to the overall strategy? Answers to these questions are mandatory for those leading the product charter as they become driving forces behind all products, features, marketing and sales initiatives.
  5. Products – Finally products are relevant. It’s much easier at this point to determine the products and features required to support the customer on a broad scale. More importantly, product leaders should compare the strategic relevance of their products to each market segment and invest more heavily in products for those segments where strategic initiatives and spending priorities are better aligned to the things they do well.

The bottom line – product management and product marketing aren’t as much about products as they are about the factors influencing the products. Market-leading organizations spend as much or more time understanding things that influence products as they do designing and building the products themselves. It’s how innovative or ground breaking products are born. Any company can do it if they align their thought process to that of their target customers first, and think about products last.

If your product management and product marketing teams are too focused on products and features, sign them up for Product Management University or enroll them in Product Management University On-Demand where they’ll learn a no-nonsense approach to understanding how to make customers successful and deliver profitable growth in the process.