The best product marketers I know balance their time between the past, present and future. All three are critical to effective product management and long-term relevance with an ever-evolving market.
Most product marketers focus the vast majority of their time on the past and present. And by ignoring or short-changing the future, they lose all ability to proactively drive the long-term direction, leadership and strength of their products.
By the “past”, I’m referring to fixing and improving what already exists. Products get launched with bugs, so you have to go and fix them. Features become irrelevant unless they’re updated. Legacy products and versions need to be supported.
Maintaining long-term client relationships often pivots on your ability to proactively manage the past.
By the “present”, I’m referring to new features that address real-time, current-market opportunities. Adding an iPad app as soon as that platform is launched. Creating mobile features that make it easier for clients to use your product on the road.
These are new products, new features and improvements/additions that are done relatively quickly without a lot of required foresight and planning.
Again, most product managers get sucked into spending most of their time on the past and present. And that’s time well spent if it’s supporting customer-driven priorities. But too often, focusing on the past and present means you’re mostly reactive, not planning ahead, not staying strategic, and mostly playing catch up or, at best, treading water.
By the “future” of course I’m referring to product planning. Having a long-term vision for where the market is going and how your overall product plan will adjust and evolve to take advantage.
This takes a lot of work, a lot of research, and a lot of time. Some organizations are big enough or resources well enough to separate this role out to a dedicated product planner. But for most organizations, the same people (or individuals) are tasked concurrently with managing the past, present and future.
Step one for overworked product marketers is to know they’ll ultimately be held responsible for all three of these. Step two is to discuss this framework with your manager and figure out how to ensure time is adequately spent on all three.
But I’m betting that identifying where your deficiencies and weaknesses are (especially the long-term risk to market position and product strength by neglecting focus on the future) will help get the alignment and support you need.