Think back to a meeting you were in with 10 or 12 people, maybe more. There was one person in that meeting that, whenever they spoke, everyone latched on to their comments like a magnet to steel. That person was credible, confident and spoke with remarkable conviction.

People with this level of knowledge and confidence have a certain presence. We trust them. We learn from them. We’re willing to follow their lead. They can make us better at whatever we do.

That brings us to the subject of influence among product management and product marketing teams. For as long as I’ve been in the profession, the lack of influence has consistently been one of the top frustrations. I still hear it routinely from my clients today.

The diagnosis is simple. Those who possess more market knowledge wield far more influence than those who don’t. And that market knowledge is the key to leading from a position of strength.

Imagine This

What if product management and product marketing were more knowledgeable on the market collectively than all other disciplines combined? What would change? Here’s a small sampling.

  • Product vision and strategic investment priorities (crafted and presented by product management) would get everyone pumped, including senior executives. And those priorities wouldn’t change unless the market suddenly shifted.
  • The sales pipeline would be stuffed with high-quality leads because product marketing has crafted a phenomenal value story for your top market segments and uses it to uncover prospects with the greatest need.
  • Ideas for new products would go through a simple 15-minute screening to determine their market value relative to everything else.
  • Sales opportunities that could “open up a whole new market” would go through the same 15-minute screening to determine their merit relative to current priorities.

There’s an old saying that knowledge is power. In the case of product management and product marketing, market knowledge translates into tremendous influence. That influence is the key to strong leadership. It’s what senior executives had in mind when they formed the product management and product marketing functions.

Go out to LinkedIn Jobs or Glassdoor and read a dozen job descriptions for product management or product marketing roles. The words vision, leadership, market knowledge and influence are tattooed all over them.

Market Knowledge Defined

One quick side note. It’s important to define market knowledge in this context. It’s much bigger than the market for a product. Market knowledge is three things that span your entire portfolio.

  1. Customer industry dynamics and how they shape the strategies and priorities of your target customers from the top down.
  2. Market dynamics, best practices and emerging technologies in your own product category, e.g. SaaS moving to the cloud, freemiums, etc.
  3. Competitive landscape. Beyond product comparisons, it’s also big-picture things like competitor market strategies, portfolio footprint, etc.

One last thing. Product management and product marketing teams will still solicit input from sales, marketing, services, etc. Those data points remain a critical part of a well-rounded market view.

If product management and product marketing are going to get ahead of the curve and end their frustrations when it comes to leadership and influence, strong market knowledge is the lynchpin, and there have to be market owner roles to lead those efforts.

Want to learn more about this subject? Request a consultation with John Mansour.