Market research: How involved should the PMM be?

Get in the driver’s seat

The role of the Product Marketing Manager (PMM) is to be a driver of market research. We know the products, the features, messaging, and the positioning better than anyone in the company. The experienced PMM has engineering partners on his team who have communicated the design, components, uniqueness, issues/potential weaknesses, direction and competitive positioning to him from an engineering perspective. The experienced PMM also works closely with sales and talks with customers to get some sense of how customers view current products and competitive offerings, as well as how they see their needs changing over time. From these data, the PMM either works with the market research team to design the project(s) or does it himself.                          

PMMs can’t look away

Many PMMs don’t want to get involved in the details of market research for a variety of reasons. Some of the reasons are: afraid of looking ignorant, believe they need to be statisticians to understand it, don’t think it’s their job, and believes that the researcher knows what the PMM wants to know. The PMM doesn’t have to be a statistician. He needs to take the time with the researcher to understand the methodology behind the project to collect the data. If you are purchasing market data from a 3rd party, the methodology tells you what market you are looking at and if you are looking at the right market(s) and customer(s) for your product/service. I spent some time working for a research company.  It was a good opportunity to get a sense of what they have to deal with trying to work with Product Groups.  From the perspective of the market researcher, they don’t expect you to have expertise in this area.  They also know that you have a million other things going at the same time.  Take the time to write down what you would like to do, why you would like to do it, how the data will be used afterward and the decisions to be made from the data.  These are important questions to have answered before you engage the researcher.  If you have trouble articulating your ideas, they will be more than happy to spend the time.  Both you and your researcher have one thing in common–the success of your program.  If you are able to make the right decisions from the research, then everyone wins.

Be accountable

Keep in mind that even though you might not have conducted the research yourself, you might still be held accountable for the research results. Every company is different. As the Product Lead, the PMM is expected to know everything that has to do with his product (line) and defend his decisions. Since research is used to provide the back-drop for informed decisions to be made, what is being measured and how it’s being measured can have profound affects on the success of a product line.

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