At enterprise-level companies, a product team is responsible for understanding the entire product landscape; from the initial development to the final launch to the end-user. In an early-stage startup, however, this is not always the case. In this article, we’ll break down why product management is important for early-stage startups and how it can help a new company excel within a new or existing market. 

As a new company, you’re in the earliest phases of business development, where you’re working with budget constraints, and limited personnel to carry out different job tasks.  You might be thinking that the company’s visionary should be managing the product. However, remember the need for a product manager goes beyond the initial product concept and release. Having someone who can guide the visionary process through the initial release development, early updates and future planning is vital for setting up your flagship product for success. So, for early-stage startups, it’s a lot more necessary than it may seem. 

Consider this: if you don’t know how to build the product, or have access to someone who does, how can you successfully get your product, and business, off the ground? An article by Sarath CP, from ProductCoalition says this is the main reason why startups need product management strategies is they’re “responsible for defining the product strategy, developing a roadmap, and setting up a product vision in the market that meets both company goals and user needs.” 

Let’s look at a few major reasons why early-stage startups should include a product management role in their foundation. 

Product Development & Prioritizing Tasks

Product managers have first-hand experience in the development phases, prioritizing tasks, and understanding the data-driven metrics that will help lead your product to a successful launch. The early stages of business require multiple tasks to juggle, and finding the right way to prioritize can prove to be difficult for an entrepreneur wearing various hats. A product management role will ease any struggle and give you someone with the right expertise and tools to prioritize product tasks. 

Product Strategy & Roadmapping

How do you bring the vision to life, and set your product up for a triumphant entrance and future in the market? Start with a product manager who can develop the product strategy and knows how to go through all of the lifecycle phases. They will use all the tools in their belt to get the product roadmap up and running so the company has a guide to help them get the product off the ground. ProductPlan’s Victoria Fitoussi explains why making the right roadmapping decisions will set your product up for a successful launch. 

A good roadmap is important because it is a way of communicating where your product is in the development phase, where it’s going, and how you’re going to reach your goals. According to Sarath at  ProductCoalition, “By doing roadmapping, you will get an idea where you are weak, and at what point, your products and services are stronger than your rivals. More importantly, knowing where you’ll differentiate with your competitors helps guide where your focus should be when positioning yourself against your competition.”

Understanding Competition

Competition is a fact of life in business. Your product (and business in general) needs to not only create value for the consumer but shine amongst a sea of competitors. And for an early-stage startup, standing out from the competition is essential. In some circumstances, however, you may be creating a new market for your product, and understanding potential competition that will enter is essential to maintain your lead and stay ahead. So, why is knowing who your competitors are important? 

Understanding your competition is more than paying attention to their place within the market. You’ll want to understand factors like their mission, product offerings, and pricing differences like paid-for features v.s free offerings, and how their products are meeting consumer needs. Having a product manager who knows how to research and map the competitive landscape will help define your product-market fit better in the market. 

Consumer Research 

While your competitors are at one end of the product spectrum, your potential consumers are on the other; and understanding both is critical. A product is essentially a solution to a problem or consumer need. Product management strategies can help you understand the consumers within your market, and what exactly they’re looking for. Things like industry reports, surveys’ and focus groups are great tools for product managers to establish useful consumer metrics that will properly align your product strategy and end-goals. For early-stage startups as opposed to established enterprise companies, knowing the consumer market takes time.

In our next article, we’ll take a high-level look into the differences between startups with a solid product management process and without, and what the different outcomes are.

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