Strategic and Tactical Product Management Have Nothing to do With Your Job!

Click the thumbs-up button now if you fancy yourself as the strategist, and click the thumbs-down button if you want to be labeled as the order-taking tactician.

The results are in, and it’s a shutout; thumbs-up is routing thumbs-down!

I’m not certain where the concept originated, but there’s this notion that strategic and tactical refer to the activities performed by product managers and product marketing managers – and your role is either one or the other. How would that work on a product by product basis, especially considering that in B2B, most individual products don’t pack enough punch on their own to have a strategic impact for your organization or the target customer’s?

Early in my career I worked for a company that had strategic marketing and tactical marketing with VP roles over each team. The tactical marketing team consisted of lead generation, product marketing and sales enablement. Their contributions were highly visible. On the other hand, no one could figure out what the strategic marketing team did, and they were subsequently dissolved within a year.

I routinely get asked about strategic and tactical product management roles from our clients, as in “I understand the concept but I don’t really understand how to operationalize it.”

If you think about strategic and tactical in reference to the business of your customers, and not your product management function, it’s much more practical and actually delivers real benefits.

  • Strategic refers to the strategic initiatives and business goals that are critical to the growth and profitability of organizations in your target markets, and the biggest obstacles that make those goals challenging to meet.
  • Tactical refers to the target customer’s business operations and day-to-day activities in the trenches (tactics) that have the biggest impact on their strategic goals.

Here’s the rub: The strategies and tactics of your target customers have nothing to do with your company or its products. Your existence doesn’t change what customer organizations need to accomplish, but your entire product management discipline needs to know their strategies and tactics to effectively steer your portfolio strategy, product plans, marketing initiatives and sales enablement activities.

The real question isn’t “Which roles are strategic and which roles are tactical?” It’s “How do I structure my product management discipline in a way that keeps everyone constantly abreast of our target customer strategies and tactics?”

When you consistently have that holistic understanding of your target customer’s business from top to bottom, your entire team can unite behind a common set of customer goals and work together to deliver integrated multi-product solutions that have far more strategic value (for you and the customer) than any single product because they address the customer’s operational tactics that have the biggest impact on their strategy.

If your product managers struggle to “be more strategic,” there’s a good reason. In B2B, the day-to-day ownership of individual products is tactical, period, because the impact of any single product to your customers is tactical. In other words, it’s all but impossible to have a strategic impact as the owner of a product because a single product is rarely strategic to a customer.

Strategic impact is a result, not a job – and for your product management team to have a strategic impact on the business of your customers they must work together as a single cohesive unit and unite behind a common set of customer goals that are strategic to their business. When you eliminate the silos, it shifts everyone’s focus from trying to make each product great, which is tactical at best, to delivering integrated multi-product solutions that have a significant impact on the strategic goals of your target customers, from the C-suite all the way down to the activities in the trenches.

Learn how to deliver solutions with strategic value to the executive buyer with tactical products that have mass appeal to users.