Market Authority

In my recent post, the Essential Pieces of Strategic Product Leaders, I shared what I thought was the five essential components. 

In one of the comments I received, Saeed Khan asked; “Given that most people don’t have all 5 areas covered sufficiently, how would you recommend people progress — i.e. which should they focus on first, second, third etc. until they can have coverage in all areas?”

Thinking about this question, I recommend product management start with Market Authority. Why?

Market Authority is the foundation of sustainable product vision and all the moving parts that follow. While I placed Product Vision first in my post, I stated, “Product management has a great influence on product vision. Driving strategy as a leader begins with knowing your markets.” 

In Brian Clark’s, “Authority Rulestutorial for online marketing he shares, “When you’re looking to influence people and build a powerful business online, authority is the way to go.”

How does market authority build strategic value within product management? I believe the answer starts with a question, “Do you know?” 

Do You Know Your…

Markets – mean different things to different people. If you ask sales, it’s where they sell and often to whom. If you ask executives, you may hear total addressable market (revenue opportunities). When product management thinks of markets, we should think in broader and often more intimate terms.  Product management has to know market trends, what segments exist, their size (including growth, decline and impact) and guide the overall definition of the market(s) for their organization.

Products – are what product managers know best. However, their knowledge can be immersed in technology and not much more. At a minimum a market authority knows; their organizations platforms, deployment strategies, enabling technologies, limitations, operational infrastructure and architecture (important for SaaS products) and services. With a strong understanding of how these apply to your products, begin looking at other internal sources that could drive new  products or be sources of revenue. When you’ve added these, look at established partners and industry technologies.   

Competitive Landscape is an exciting aspect of market authority. Not too many years ago, gathering reliable information took months to find, gather and review. Sources of data were guarded in every sales presentation, conference and trade show. Now access to customers, non-customers, competitors, analysts insights, publications, product evaluations, and online reviews and posts of all kinds are online and accessible 24 hours a day.

To sustain real market authority you need two things. First, an active plan on how and what you need, and second to get of the office frequently and engage with the sources of information. In the past two years, I’ve heard some creative ways of getting out of the office. Everything from regional road trips (yes, you’re driving) to having a partner sponsor your research are a few of the ways product management connects.    

Buyers and Users – while many organizations spend a massive amount of time and effort understanding and implementing the right sales process,  possessing an understanding of who is buying and using your products, and how the buying process happens is another aspect of market authority. Using information you’ve gathered in on-site interviews and visits provide insights into the habits, behaviors challenges and actions. Using this information you will be able to speak on behalf of buyers and users with sales, development, user design, marketing and executives.   

Connections may seem like a given, but market authority is built on internal, external, third-party and personal connections. It  may lead to new markets, partnerships, competitive information, product opportunities, and changes in the market and those inside your organization. As a market authority do you actively utilize, grow and extend your connections? 

Building Market Authority

To build market authority and extend value to the organization, I suggest the following:

  1. Regularly review your current market authority, your strengths, gaps and what is necessary for you to expand your capabilities.
  2. Create a capabilities list or SWOT and prioritize how you will fill the gaps. 
  3. Look for internal leaders or others who you recognize have the experience and knowledge in those areas. Look for areas where product management congregates. Product camps and associations are ideal places to connect with people who’ve built skills and experience in the areas you want to address.
  4. Focus on one new area to work on each quarter. If you are contributing to product management, discuss the goals and ideas with your management. If they’re willing, create a few measurements from the goals you’ve set.
  5. Get busy! The more market authority you add to your personal portfolio, the more value you’ll bring to your organization and role.

I’d encourage everyone to review these ideas as we head into a new year. I welcome your comments, ideas and experiences as we foster the growth and success of product management.

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  • Michael Ray Hopkin  On December 20, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Jim, great post. Becoming the market authority is important, but not always easy. Product managers always have long to-do lists and never enough time to do all the work. Spending time understanding the market can easily fall to the bottom.

    Thank you for providing practical steps to keep this at the forefront. Getting to work on these steps will help every product manager become the market authority. The benefit to company leaders will be — as you say — “to extend value to the organization.”



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