If you’re waiting for someone to crown your product management team the kings and queens of strategic direction, you better get a nice comfy chair with all the reclining, heating and massaging accoutrements because you’re in for a long wait!

Strategic direction is all about influence, and influence is all about earning the trust and credibility of your colleagues across the organization from top to bottom. Convince them you know the market better than everyone else and you’ll earn your way into the driver’s seat until someone else proves they know it better.

Here’s the thing about product management though. Everyone (OK, most everyone) expects you to be the market experts and lead accordingly. Unfortunately, most product management teams have exponentially more product expertise than market expertise, and that won’t get you anywhere fast.

Here are three hurdles your product management team will have to overcome it it’s going to lead the charge on strategic direction. The Playbook:

Product Management Strategic Direction: 3 Hurdles

1. Your Definition of “the Market” is One-Dimensional

Understanding the market doesn’t mean understanding the market for your products. It means understanding the market, period.

It doesn’t matter whether you segment vertically (retail, healthcare, banking, etc.) or horizontally (IT, Sales, finance, HR, etc.). Knowing the market means understanding the dynamics in your target markets and how those dynamics are driving the priorities of your target customers from the top down and across the various departments and job roles in an organization.

Once you become proficient at understanding the market through the lens of your customers, you’ll be untouchable in terms of your influence on strategic direction.

2. You’re Not Structured to be the Market Experts

Look at your product management organization right now and count the number of (non-admin/support) roles that DO NOT have day-to-day product responsibility. Exactly! Zero or very few.

If product management is going to be market experts, it needs one or more roles that are completely divorced from your products and fully entrenched in your markets. Just like product owners are product experts, market owners are market experts.

It’s the market owner’s job to paint a complete picture of the dynamics, impact, priorities, trends, best practices, etc. (from the customer’s perspective) in each of your target markets and bring that information into the organization so that every part of your organization sees the markets through a common lens, the lens of the customer.

Input from sales and other customer facing teams is a part of creating a well-rounded view of the market.

That market information becomes the platform for all product, marketing, sales and customer success decisions and priorities. Product management owns that platform.

That’s right. How does it feel to be sitting in the driver’s seat now?

3. It’s a Team Effort

Don’t confuse leadership and influence with a dictatorship. That’s not the point at all. Strong leadership and influence from product management starts with superior market knowledge.

With the market knowledge as the backdrop, product management creates a vision for how your organization is going to make its target customers successful in ways they haven’t even thought of yet while also driving revenue growth, market share and wallet share.

This is the part that gets everyone energized, and that’s what good product leaders do. Get people energized with a practical vision that can be executed across the portfolio.

Just because leadership, vision and strategy are part of your product management job description, doesn’t mean people trust you to do those things. You still have to earn that trust.

Demonstrating your knowledge of the market is the first and most important piece of the equation. Proving you can execute the strategy seals the deal.

Give it a whirl. It’s one of the most fun parts of product management no one is doing!

Want your team to learn how to do it for your markets and your portfolio? Contact us about a personalized workshop where you’ll learn how for your products, your markets and your business model, or enroll in Product Management University On-Demand and learn at your convenience. Certification included.

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