B2B Market Research: Product Managers as Stakeholders

In this podcast episode, Cascade Insights CEO Sean Campbell reviews a few key resources for understanding product managers: Cracking the PM Interview: How to Land a Product Manager Job in Technology, a book by Gayle Laakmann McDowell and Jackie Bavaro, and the article “What Distinguishes The Top 1% Of Product Managers From The Top 10%?” by Ian McAllister.

B2B Market Research: Product Managers as StakeholdersListen below:

Sean covers:

  • The heavy responsibilities B2B product managers have to deal with.
  • Why product managers have to pick their battles.
  • A few of the differences between PMs and TPMs.
  • The qualities that make for a standout B2B product manager.

You can listen to the episode or read the associated article below.

Product Managers as Stakeholders

Product managers are a typical stakeholder for market research efforts.

Hence, understanding what they do, what motivates them, and what they’re trying to achieve is critical for driving impact with B2B market research studies.

Make Marketing Happy: Be Prepared for These Questions

And if you’re looking to understand product managers better, the book Cracking the PM Interview: How to Land a Product Manager Job in Technology by Gayle Laakmann McDowell and Jackie Bavaro is an excellent reference for doing just that.

Let’s go through a few of the key points the book makes.

#1 Product managers have the world on their shoulders.

Early on, the book makes the key observation that the product manager is responsible for making sure that a team ships a great product.

Not only do they have to make a product that sells, but they also have to ship a product that enhances rather than hinders the company’s reputation.

#2 PMs and TPMs are Different

In technology companies, the book explains, you are likely to encounter two different types of product managers:

  • Engineering-focused product managers (PMs)
  • Technical product or program managers (TPMs)

Typically, a TPM is more concerned with product requirements than the market problem the product is designed to solve.   In other words, a TPM is generally more focused on “how” to execute than “why.”

TPMs usually have technical backgrounds and tend to be tight with the engineering teams.

By contrast, the PM is more outwardly focused.  PMs typically focus on marketing, buyer personas, program strategy, and other similar tactics.

It’s worth noting that these definitions may vary greatly from one company to the next. But overall, the more inwardly focused goals of the TPM contrast with the more outwardly focused goals of the PM, or the PMM (Product Marketing Manager).

#3 – Product managers have to pick their battles.

The book also highlights the product manager’s biggest challenge: effective prioritization.

This focus on prioritization is necessary because if a software team was to fix every single bug and build every new feature idea, the product would never launch.  PM’s must be able to consider all new requests and bug fixes and then make wise decisions on what to follow through on.

Most PM’s do this by having a really good understanding of what the market wants, where it’s going, what customers want, and even what competitors’ customers want.

#4 – What makes for a standout product manager?

Another gem in the book is a reprint of an article by Ian McAllister entitled “What Distinguishes The Top 1% Of Product Managers From The Top 10%?”

In the article, Ian lays out several key qualities that separate the best of the best product managers. Here are three of the most important factors he mentions.

Thinking big.

A top 1% B2B product manager’s thinking isn’t limited by the resources available to them today or even by the present market environment. Instead, he or she looks at what is going to be disruptive and tries to take advantage of it. That’s why product managers need to do a lot of research — so they can see where the next technology market opportunity is going to be.

Knowing how to sequence projects.

Product managers need to know how to balance quick wins vs. platform wins and offense vs. defense. Again, this is where an understanding of the customers’ key buying criteria is hugely important. What features are those customers going to rave about one year after purchasing the product? Which ones will they rarely if ever use? What features of competing products will they wish were included? B2B research is critical in this area.

Understanding technical trade-offs.

A product manager doesn’t need to have a computer science degree. However, they do need to be able to at least roughly understand the complexity of the features they’re putting on the backlog without always running to the development team to get a cost estimate. It’s important that they still partner with the development team to make sure that they really dial in that estimate.

In sum, product managers are typically hungry for the type of insights market research or competitive intelligence teams can provide.  And that makes them a great stakeholder to have.

This podcast is brought to you by Cascade Insights. Cascade Insights specializes in market research and competitive intelligence for B2B technology companies. Our specialization allows us to deliver detailed insights that generalist firms simply can’t match.

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