In this age of social media and short customer attention spans, product managers who are responsible for niche products are living in both the best of times and the worst of times. On one hand they have fantastic new ways of reaching out to their specific customers while on the other hand all of the old ways of marketing a mainstream product just won’t work for them. What’s a product manager to do?
Point, Aim, Target!
The reason that product managers love to be in charge of a niche product is that it changes the rules of the game. No longer do we have to worry about competing with lots of other bigger, better financed products. Instead, we no longer have to be better than other products, but rather we only have to be better for the group of customers that we want to serve.
Although this may sound like the perfect type of product to offer (who doesn’t like getting rid of their competition?), it’s not easy to do. What the product manager needs to do is to take the time to look at the market that they want to serve very carefully. What they are looking for is a spot where the customers’ needs are not being currently met.
Hopefully you read those words very carefully. What we are not talking about here is identifying a market position where customers are complaining about the options that they already have. The niche product manager needs to go where no product manager has ever gone before.
A great example of this type of niche marketing being done occurred when Toyota brought out their Lexus line of cars. They had identified a market segment of people who had a lot of money to spend on cars but who were looking for a lower price than what was currently available to them. The success of the Lexus brand clearly shows that the Toyota product managers got it right.
Shut Up And Listen To Your Customers
The key to the success of any product is to find a way for the product manager to speak directly to your customers. The problem with products that have been designed for niche markets is that traditional communications programs miss the mark – they are too expensive and they don’t necessarily reach the customers that you want to be talking to.
One of the hardest lessons for product managers to learn about working with a product that is targeted towards a niche market is that it is no longer enough to just listen to your customers. Instead, what you need to start to do is to listen to what your customers are telling others about your product.
Thanks to the online world in which we now find ourselves living in, product managers have the ability to monitor what customers are saying about their product to each other online. This type of information is very valuable.
If a customer is not happy with the product, they will not hesitate to tell others about their displeasure. The sharp product manager who sees this type of discussion occurring needs to step in quickly. Unhappy customers who broadcast their displeasure can quickly have a dramatic impact on a product. Dealing with issues quickly can stem the problem.
What All Of This Means For You
In the future, it’s entirely possible that all products will be niche products. Product managers who are responsible for these types of products need to learn new skills in order for their products to be successful.
Niche products require a product manager to take the time to carefully study the market. What they are looking for is a spot where the customer’s needs are not currently being met. Once this has been identified and a product has been launched, the product manager must carefully monitor what customers are telling each other about the product. It may be necessary to step in and make changes to the product if customers are displeased.
We are rapidly moving away from an era where hundreds of products would compete with each other for the attention of customers. In the future, it won’t be competing other products that occupy a product manager, but rather meeting his customers needs and exceeding their expectations.
Question For You: Do you think a product manager should reach out directly online to a customer that is complaining about his / her product?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
When a product manager finds himself / herself in charge of a product that is targeted towards a niche segment, they have to change how they mange the product. A lot of things that may not matter for a mainstream product matter a great deal when you have a smaller target market. Let’s take a look at what you need to be thinking about…