Most Important Product Manager Skills to Acquire

What are some of the more important product manager skills to focus on? Especially when hiring a product manager? Or when working to become a competent one yourself?

Product management is a challenging field entailing many complicated sciences. It includes a cocktail of marketing, business logistics and mercantile skills. It’s one of those fields that only certain people are cut out for; and given its high rank, it’s something that even qualified people often must work their way up to, in order to attain such a position.

That said, product manager skills are unfortunately, not widely understood in the sense of what is or isn’t important as a skill. So, I’m going to shed some light on this subject. As I do, I will also outline what the duties of a product manager should be. (Note that I will lean fairly heavily on the e- commerce side of product management here, due to the fact that that’s where the field of product management is headed and is going to bloom in the coming years).

#1 – The Mercantile Front

A product manager actually has to concern themselves with the storefront concept for a physical product. Maybe they don’t have to worry about the mundane daily management of storefronts through which their product or service are sold (i.e. physical location and placement of products), but many product managers I’ve known have had to do a fair deal of traveling, to look at how their products are being placed and sold in various locations across the country. I’ve traveled with a few of them myself, to get a good sense of what they really look for.

In ecommerce, it’s more intimate. The online storefront is very much the direct domain of the product manager. What this all boils down to is that a product manager must understand how a webpage works. PMs are in charge of spotting problems, and facilitating the distribution of the product both in making it visible, and making finding and procuring it possible.

#2 – Understanding Product Lifecycles

This one’s a little more confusing, but I think I can demystify this a bit. A product lifecycle isn’t the shelf life of an object or service. It is not the time before its quality is reduced or it’s unsafe or unworkable to use. Rather it is the period of time in which a product in its current state (be it packaging, branding or formula) remains viable and publically accepted. A product lifecycle dies when people lose interest in it, more or less. A lifecycle most often ends when the product is outdated.

Rebranding and repackaging or changing the public identity of the product is part of restarting this cycle. One of the most important product management skills is understanding when the time is right to address this. Doing it too soon is wasteful, while too late is inefficient.

#3 – Understanding Demographic Overlap

This is one that marketing specialists can tell you all about; Product managers must utilize the above two skills in a carefully timed waltz with demographic overlap. Understanding a core demographic is one thing, but understanding overlapping demographics, or extended demographics, is the key to a product or service expanding; and gaining business.

Overlapping audiences can be similar demographics to the target, or they can be totally unrelated but of similar mindsets or interests.  They can also be demographics that link to the targets through shared interests. Nonetheless, understanding these, and using this understanding in your ‘mercantile and lifecycle intuition’ is vital.

These are the most important product management skills to acquire. It takes a special mindset to successfully learn and implement these product management skills, and they’re far from all there is to it. Are you ready to jump into this field?

Mark Silver
Mark is the Lead Author & Editor of Spectechular Blog. Mark established the Spectechular blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Product Management.
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