So it’s been more than a year since I finished my postgrad and it’s almost a year since I started working as product manager for my current employer. What has changed since then? A lot.
First off, I want to start by describing what my job is all about since I’ve found that a number of my coleagues just go ‘huh?’ when I tell them my job is. Even worse, some equate it to project management. I can’t blame them though, I think it’s not the best choice of words for a job description but that’s what most industries are using these days so there you go.
Product Management = Marketing
Yes. That’s basically it. Why would anyone invent another term for Marketing? There’s a short and long version of the explanation and if you’ve been following this blog in the past, I’m sure you’d have guessed by now that I’m going for the long version.
Marketing is summarized by the four P’s: Product, Pricing, Promotion, Place. The first term, product, refers to the product’s design and how it’s supposed to fulfill the target market’s needs and wants better than the competition, The second term, pricing, is all about the pricing strategy of the company which has a lot of implications on not only how it effectively competes with the industry, but also on how the customer perceives the product. The third term, promotion, is not just about promotional discounts and other promos (this is the unfortunate drawback of trying to shoehorn a long definition into four letters), rather it refers to how the company communicates the product to market. This includes, but is not limited to, advertisements, events, websites, and proverbial mugs and t-shirt campaign style. The last term, place, is not just about the physical location where you sell the product–It’s more about the channels that you use to reach your customer. Basically, there are two major channels that a company uses: direct and indirect. Direct is where you sell directly to customers like Apple through iTunes or their Apple Store. Indirect is when you sell through dealers and re-sellers.
Unfortunately for us these days, when folks say “Marketing” what usually comes to mind is just the second half of the four P’s: promotion and place. When people say Marketing, they usually are thinking about the proverbial mugs and t-shirt campaign. People think about how to craft the message and build up the hype to increase product sales without changing a thing about the product itself. Nothing bad in that inherently, but if that’s all that Marketing does, then the company is doomed.
And this is how Product Management was born. Product Management is an attempt to bring back the first half of the four P’s to the company especially the first one. It’s about remembering to listen to the market and factoring their inputs into the product’s design. It’s not about technologies and putting in the most cutting edge features. Rather, product management is about optimizing the product so that it serves the market well and provides the right profits for the company.
I’ll talk some more about what I learned in 2008. I’ll try to update this blog once a week. In the meantime, here’s a great downloadable from Pragmatic Marketing: The Strategic Role of Product Management.