How Product Managers Should Go About Doing Business Research

by drjim on March 31, 2014

Product managers need to do business research to understand their market

Product managers need to do business research to understand their market
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In order for your product to be successful, you are going to have to have to have a good understanding of your market. I wish that I could tell you that there was some sort of pill or potion that you could take that would magically provide you with the information that you need. Sorry, such a quick solution does not currently exist. Instead, you’re going to have to do some business research on your market. Do you know how to go about doing that?

Business Research: The Process

The good news about doing business research is that the best way to go about doing it is as part of a process that if mastered, can go on your product manager resume. The purpose of the process is to provide you with a way to make sure that you are able to both collect and process all of the information that you’re going to need in order to become a market expert.

The first step in the process of doing business research is to collect the basic data that you’ll need. This is done using a combination of data from both primary sources (from customers) and secondary sources (from other sources). Ideally you want to get as much information from your customers as possible; however, getting information about your market from other sources will also provide you with value.

The next step is to transform the data that you’ve collected into useful information. Generally speaking, you’ll start out with a lot of data and you’ll process it and end up with a smaller amount of information. Often times generating information can be as simple as organizing the data that you already have.

Given that you now have information on your market, you now need to reach agreement with other people in your company as to what the information means. This is an opportunity to work in other pieces of information about your market that may have been collected by other parts of the company.

Information by itself will be of little use to you. You need to understand how that information can be used to predict what will happen in your market going forward. That’s where a model of the market comes in. You’ll want to take the information that you have, plug it into your model and then take a look at the predictions that the model produces.

The final step in your business research process is for you to make decisions based on what your market model tells you. You must keep in mind that your decisions will then impact the model so you’ll have to go back and add your decisions to the model in order to keep it up-to-date.

The #1 Business Research Challenge

Great, you’ve got an assignment: do some business research and you’ve got a process. As a product manager you should be all taken care of, right? Well, it turns out that this is not the case. There is one step in the process that always seems to take more time than it should.

This would be the part where you get agreement from the rest of your company as to what the information that you’ve been able to create from your collected data actually means. You would think that you’d be dealing with a collection of facts that everyone could agree on, but more often than not this is not the case. Getting this type of agreement was never part of your product manager job description.

What happens is your information may indicate that a new company is becoming a serious competitor. However, the people in your sales organization may not agree with you. This is the kind of thing that can lead to very long discussions and disagreements. How these issues get resolved is critical because this is the information that is eventually going to be used to make product decisions.

What All Of This Means For You

Before you create a product development definition, design a marketing plan, or even start to think about what is going to have to go into your product’s launch plan, first you need to understand your market. The best way to go about doing this is to do some business research.

Business research is simply a process by which you discover how your market operates. The business research process consists of collecting data about your market segment, transforming that data into actionable information, getting internal agreement about what the information means, using tools to process the information, and then making the decisions that will impact your product. Getting agreement on just what facts relate to your product may turn out to be the most difficult part of the process.

Within most companies the product manager is the one person that anyone who has a question about the product or the market can come to. In order to be able to answer all of the questions that you’ll be asked, make sure that you’ve done the business research that is needed to have the right answers to their questions.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that business research is something that a product manager has to be doing all the time?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

What do your customers think about your product? Do they like it better than your competition’s product? Did you do a good job when you created your product development definition? Would it be helpful to you to know more about your competition’s product? I’m willing to bet that the answer to this question is “yes”. Now the big questions is just exactly how can a product manager go about getting the competitive intelligence about a competitor that you need?

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