Strategic Product Management: The Role of a Strategic Product Manager
If you’re wondering what strategic product management is, you’ve come to the right place!
In the article, we’re looking at the responsibilities of strategic product managers and how they can use data effectively to shape product strategy and deliver delightful experiences to users!
Are you ready to dig in? I am!
- Product strategy defines who we are building for, what to build, and how to build it.
- In general, strategic product management focuses on the key decisions that need to be made to ensure long-term product success.
Strategic Product Management Activities and Tips
- Product managers conduct primary and secondary market and customer research to find the target market and identify opportunities that existing products don’t satisfy.
- To define the product vision, product managers need to take their market research results along with the company objectives and use them to outline what they want the product to be like in the future.
- Product differentiation and positioning are important aspects of strategic product management because they allow you to build a product that meets the needs of the right customers in the right market and stand out from the crowd.
- Goals are important aspects of the product strategy. They tell the product management team what they need to achieve.
- Initiatives are projects that lead to the realization of goals.
- Market research, differentiation, and positioning are necessary to prepare for the product launch. Product managers need to plan the timing, how to measure launch success, and how to make sure their first-time user experience is satisfying.
- Collecting and analyzing feedback helps product managers evaluate their products and find ways to improve them.
- Continuous product discovery is necessary to innovate the product and ensure that it stays relevant and keeps delivering value.
- Minimum Viable Experience is crucial for product adoption, especially among the less adventurous adopter categories.
Strategic product management must be based on data.
- Tracking product usage, like engagement with certain features, allows product managers to see which of them generate the most value for customers.
- Each user group may engage with the product differently because of their different objectives. To track their progression towards adoption, you need to segment your users. Userpilot allows you to group sequences of actions needed to adopt the product into custom events that are easy to track.
- Measuring user sentiment with NPS surveys is easy. To capture trends, you need to do it regularly and ideally follow up with qualitative questions. Tagging responses in Userpilot helps you design relevant in-app experiences to improve satisfaction.
What is product strategy?
Product strategy defines how you are planning to realize the product vision.
While product vision focuses on long-term goals, product strategy is more granular and focuses on how to achieve that goal.
It tells your product team what they need to do to build a product that satisfies the needs of a specific group of users, and contributes to the realization of the company objectives.
What is strategic product management?
Strategic product management focuses on those aspects of product development that are key to long-term product success.
This includes inbound activities like defining product vision and product strategy, setting product goals, developing the product roadmap, or planning the product launch.
The outbound strategic product management responsibilities include market research, product discovery, and the development of differentiation and positioning strategies.
While product managers should be focusing on strategic activities, research shows that most of the time is spent on tactical activities like meetings with the sales team or the development team, backlog refinement, or stakeholder management.
Activities for strategic product managers
Now that we know what strategic product management is, let’s explore what exactly product managers need to do.
Conduct market research
Market and customer research are the foundation of strategic product management.
This means collecting and analyzing information about existing products, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the competing brands, and identifying target customer groups.
When it comes to customers, knowing and understanding their needs is essential if you want to satisfy them effectively and provide an experience that would set the product apart from your competitors.
How can product managers access the data they need?
This is normally done through a combination of primary and secondary research. Primary research involves collecting new qualitative and quantitative data while secondary research relies on the information that’s already there.
Meticulous market research allows product managers to spot opportunities for new features and products.
Thanks to their deep understanding of the market and customer needs, they are able to identify gaps that could be filled with a new offering.
They can also pinpoint ways to improve the product through incremental innovation.
Be in charge of the product vision
Shaping and developing the product vision is probably one of the most challenging parts of the role.
Again, based on the market and customer research, strategic product managers need to be able to visualize the future state of the product.
Having such a high-level goal is necessary to give product teams focus and allow them to measure progress effectively.
What makes a good product vision?
It needs to be aligned with the company’s vision and corporate strategy. It needs to be clear and inspire the team, the stakeholders, and the customer. Most importantly, it needs to focus on satisfying customer needs.
Product differentiation strategy
Product differentiation involves identifying and showcasing the product characteristics that distinguish it from the competitors or similar products built by the same company.
Without product differentiation, it’s difficult to achieve customer fit and loyalty, or charge higher prices. That’s because what you’re ultimately building is a parity product that can be easily replaced whenever the wind blows the wrong way.
Once again, intimate knowledge of the market and recent trends is necessary to develop an effective differentiation strategy. To achieve the best effects, you need to look at a range of differentiators like price, features, or quality of the customer experience.
Position the product for success
Product positioning builds upon product differentiation.
In short, it plants the product in the customers’ consciousness.
It communicates to the world who the product is designed for, what pain points it addresses, and how it does it. It also tells the target customers how your product differs from competitors and why they should choose it.
Neglecting product positioning makes it hard to produce consistent product marketing and branding strategies. It can also create unrealistic customer expectations and a value gap. Finally, it may lead to the commoditization of your product.
Shaping the product strategy
Product strategy is driven by the product vision and it defines how it is realized in practice.
The three questions that product managers need to answer at this stage are what you’re building, why you’re building it, and who you’re building it for.
The focus is on identifying the detailed needs of specific user groups and innovative solutions to their problems.
Setting goals and initiatives
Setting goals and establishing initiatives is a big part of product strategy development.
Goals are the specific objectives that you need to achieve. These could be quite general, or very specific and tangible. At the strategy level, the goal setting tends to be more granular than at the vision stage.
When setting goals, the key challenge is to focus on outcomes and not outputs. Your focus is on bringing about positive change in customers’ lives, like increased productivity.
Not sure how to go about goal-setting? Try one of the goal-setting frameworks, like SMART or OKR.
Initiatives are the individual projects that make up the product strategy and allow you to achieve your goals.
Strategic roadmap planning
Roadmap planning is the next step in strategic product management.
With the product strategy in place and goals set, you start looking at individual solutions that you need to develop to achieve the objectives. That’s what makes up a roadmap.
Roadmaps are an incredibly useful tool. First of all, they enhance communication within teams and help you ensure that all your team members are on the same page. They are also great for communicating your objectives and progress to the internal stakeholders.
While internal roadmaps tend to be very detailed, many product managers opt to also publish a public roadmap to improve user experience.
Creating the product launch plan
Whether you’re launching a new product or just a new feature, you need a launch strategy.
All the things that we’ve mentioned so far normally happen as a part of the pre-launch stage. That’s when you get the product ready, and that’s when strategic thinking is particularly important.
During the launch stage, product managers, supported by the marketing and sales teams, develop and execute your go-to-market strategy, while the post-launch stage focuses on user onboarding. That’s how you make sure that users experience the product value.
Other strategic decisions include choosing the right time for the launch and the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will let you measure how well the product launch went.
Collecting and analyzing customer feedback
Feedback collection and analysis are essential for strategic product management.
Customer feedback allows product managers to gain a better understanding of user challenges and find the best ways to overcome them.
User feedback also helps you assess how good your product is at satisfying their user and how to improve it to provide an even better experience.
To get the best results, product managers should gather both quantitative and qualitative feedback. While the first type helps you track trends, the latter provides deeper insights.
How can you collect user feedback? Start with in-app surveys to get feedback from active users. To reach inactive or churned ones, on the other hand, you can use email.
Collecting passive feedback is standard practice as well. Users should have a chance to submit their feedback whenever and wherever they are.
If you come from a project management background, you can see the product launch as the end of your job. However, that’s far from being true. Product discovery never ends.
No matter how good your product is, you should always be on the lookout to make it better. What’s more, markets and customer needs change, and you need to be ready to innovate to stay in the game.
You can use frameworks and tools like the ones developed by Teresa Torres to guide your product discovery. They will help you identify genuine user problems and find solutions to them while ensuring constant alignment with the company strategy and goals.
More than just a minimum viable product
The minimum viable product (MVP) gives users the basic functionality that they need to start experiencing value. This may be enough to attract innovators and early adopters but not for long. In most cases, it won’t be enough to win over the other adopter groups.
To really hook your users, you need to provide them with the minimum viable experience (MVE). The MVE ensures that your users are satisfied enough with their interactions with the product to consider it as a long-term solution.
How do you achieve that?
In short, you need to recognize the difference between different user segments and personalize their experience to deliver value quickly and easily.
This could be done with bespoke onboarding flows and solid customer support.
Strategic product management is built on data
While acting on a gut feeling can prove successful from time to time, it’s a recipe for disaster if you make a habit of it. All strategic product management decisions should be data-driven. Period.
Track product usage to understand what brings value
Product usage tracking helps you figure out which parts of your product deliver the most value.
Tools like Userpilot allow you to tag features and track how users engage with them.
Next, you can cross-reference the data with the results of user surveys and identify how the most satisfied groups engage with the product.
Finally, you can use the insights to guide the less satisfied groups down the path that will help them experience the value more quickly.
Segment customers and track feature adoption
As we mentioned earlier, different user segments have different needs and will use your product differently to achieve their goals. This means different routes to adoption for each of them.
That’s why you need to segment your users based on their objectives and track how they progress toward feature adoption.
Normally, it takes a sequence of such actions before users adopt a feature. Userpilot gives you the option to create custom events that consist of more than one action.
You can then track them all in one place and filter them by user or company.
Analyze user sentiment and act on feedback
To collect user sentiment data, you can should NPS surveys.
These are easy to design and run in products like Userpilot. You simply ask your users how likely they are to recommend the product. Next, use a formula or a calculator to obtain the score, and voila.
Of course, to make the results meaningful, this needs to be done regularly, every 3-4 weeks, to spot any trends.
To get more actionable insights from the NPS surveys, jazz it up with a qualitative question.
Next, you need to act on the data and close the feedback loop. Userpilot allows you to tag the NPS responses so that you can identify trends and design in-app experiences that will address the issues flagged up by the users.
While it’s easy for product managers to get consumed by the everyday running of the product management process, prioritizing strategic product management will contribute more to product success.
If you would like to see how Userpilot can help you collect and analyze data to make strategic decisions, book the demo!