How does an idea for a product actually become a product?

It all starts with product management: the process behind how we get the physical and digital products we use every day. It also takes a well-managed, dedicated product development team to take something from idea to launch.

If you’re interested in learning more about product management, read on and follow the story of a product team in action as they create and bring a product to market. 

Maybe becoming part of a product management team is in your future.

What is Product Management?

Product management is the process of overseeing the creation of a product from idea, to launch, to the end of its lifecycle. It could be any number of physical products, from a car to a computer, or it could be a piece of software, from a smartphone app to an entire digital enterprise platform.

Products come to market all the time, but they need a dedicated product management team to make that happen successfully, which includes:

  • Making sure the product fits market demand
  • Ensuring the product brings value to customers
  • Creating prototypes and testing to get to a final product design
  • Following a schedule and budget for product launch
  • Designing and executing a marketing and sales plan
  • Anticipating product and customer support after launch

Why is Product Management Important to a Company?

Companies whose business centers around creating products can be made or broken by how well those products are managed. A great product:

  • Solves customer problems.
  • Establishes a new company.
  • Builds brand awareness and trust.
  • Generates revenue.
  • May create a new product category in the market.
  • Connects customers to a community of like-minded consumers.

Because great product management is such a key part to a product-focused business’s strategy, 91% of companies say they plan to increase their investment in product-led growth. 

This commitment is reflected in the fact that over one third of Fortune 100 Companies now have a Chief Product Officer — a growth rate of 41% since 2020. Product team roles are in high demand, and “product manager” was named one of LinkedIn’s Jobs on the Rise for 2022.

How Product Management Brings an Idea to Life

A product goes through a number of stages in its lifecycle to move from an idea to something in the hands of customers. Let’s follow the story of a product team to see some of the key steps of product management.

1. Initial Product Idea

Let’s say there’s a company in a major city who makes innovative, sustainably-made bike helmets. Bike enthusiasts in the city have been purchasing the helmets, and sales and customer following are increasing.

However, one of the founders wants to solve a problem he sees every day: individuals who use bike shares but don’t wear helmets. He brings it to the leadership team and they decide they want to solve this problem. The solution? A new kind of bike helmet that can be folded up and carried around, so whenever someone rents a bike they have their own helmet handy.

2. Customer Feedback, Market Research, and Early Prototyping

The bike company’s product manager is now tasked with seeing this new helmet through from the initial idea to execution. But instead of simply making the new helmet, they need to understand market demand for it.

The product manager sends their team out into the city to talk to people who use bike shares. Their team also conducts broader target market research and makes an initial plan of what materials will be needed, what the budget may look like, and the product’s timeline. The team also starts designing early prototypes.

However, the product manager’s team discovers from their on-the-street user research that people who rent bikes wouldn’t be interested in a portable, foldable helmet. Typically, renting a bike is an impulse action, or they’re tourists who want to rent a bike for fun. They all agree that helmets are necessary to keep safe, and would use one if one was available, but they wouldn’t carry one around because typically their bike trip isn’t planned.

3. Pivoting

The product manager brings the information back to the leadership team, and they come up with a new plan: outdoor lockers at bike rental sites for renting helmets. This would fill the customers’ desire for a helmet and cater to the impulse nature of bike rental. The team must do what many product teams do in early stages: pivot, or change direction from the original idea to something else.

With this new information, the product manager sends their team out again to conduct customer research. Since they will be making  a locker system now, the product development team also does research on how to manufacture it using their sustainable principles. They also reach out to the rental bike company to see if they’ll let them install these helmet lockers at their locations.

The product team determines that there’s enough customer demand for bike helmet rentals, and the bike rental company also thinks it’s a great idea and would love the partnership. The product has been given the green light!

4. Product Strategy and Roadmap

Now, the product manager works with their team to create a launch strategy. They consider how the locker works, what the rental price point should be, how the lockers will be restocked, how many units are going to be manufactured, who the target customer is, and their budget. They set a launch date in the spring before prime summer use.

The product manager also creates a product roadmap that will lead the team through exactly what is expected of them. This document lays out who will be working on what tasks — like sourcing materials for manufacturing and launching the marketing campaign — and what deadlines need to be met in the product development process.

5. Design, Materials Sourcing, and the Manufacturing Process

After the product designer develops a final design that fits specifications and compliance, they source sustainable materials from vendors and identify who they will partner with for manufacturing the lockers. This is where the majority of the planning and the budget will focus; the product manager needs to make sure that the manufacturing of the lockers stays within forecast.

6. Sales and Marketing Strategy

Next, the product manager meets with the marketing team to discuss how to get the word out about the new helmet rental lockers. They decide that they’ll start promoting the launch a few months in advance, and they plan out a timeline of press releases. They also plan out a full social media campaign around the helmet rental and bike safety in general. They recruit local influencers to help spread the word.

7. Product Launch and Data Tracking

The launch date arrives! The lockers have been completed and installed — on time and within the budget — to bike rental stations around the city. The marketing campaign has been going for a few weeks and generating buzz. On launch day, the product manager arranges for the team to travel around town talking up the new lockers to bike rental customers and getting customer feedback.

The locker’s digital method of payment also tracks how many times each locker is opened throughout the day, allowing the product team to see how much use the lockers are getting, which lockers are being used, and what times the helmets are being rented the most. This will help them track engagement, gain insights into customer use, and inform future changes.

8. Post-Launch to Lifecycle End

The product has launched, but that’s not the end of the product management cycle. The lockers may need maintenance or upgrades. The product marketer will still continue to focus on getting the word out about the program. The product analyst will continue to track the data collected from the lockers. The product team may still need to roll out new iterations or versions of the product.

Finally, something may change in the city, company, or customer demand that prompts the removal of the lockers, at which point the product management lifecycle will end.

Careers in Product Management

There are a number of different roles that help see a product from idea to reality, but they’re all led by a product manager. There are a few different types of specialist product manager roles that exist, depending on the needs of the industry or product, which include the following:

Technical Product Manager

A technical product manager oversees the product lifecycle, and has a similar job role to any other product manager. However, they typically work on more technical products and may have a background in engineering, software development, or computer science. The average annual salary of a technical product manager as of 2023 is $169,676.

Data Product Manager

This product manager role focuses on managing the data in a product — not only the data that informs the creation of the product, but the data collected and generated by the product. This individual has a strong background in data analysis or data science, as well as using data to drive decision-making. The average annual salary of a data product manager as of 2023 is $149,571.

Product Marketing Manager

A product marketing manager is responsible for the marketing of the product, and communicating about the product to potential customers to generate interest and sales. They possess great communication and storytelling skills, and know how to structure effective online and offline campaigns to attract customer attention. The average annual salary of a product marketing manager as of 2023 is $156,090.

Growth Product Manager

A growth product manager shares many of the attributes and job duties of a traditional product manager. However, they are more focused on growth strategies and improving specific business metrics and goals, like building revenue, customer retention, or creating long-term value. This role is more likely to be found in organizations who have adopted product-led growth strategies. The average annual salary of a growth product manager as of 2023 is $144,855.

Your Next Steps in Product Management

If you’re interested in learning more about how a team brings a product to life, “Product Management: From Design to Launch” can give you the product management tools to broaden your knowledge and take your next career move. 

Designed for a range of product owners and aspiring product managers, it will help you better understand product management steps like understanding customer needs, setting a product vision, building a roadmap, creating marketing strategies, and how to work with a multi-functional team toward an end goal. Learn more and enroll today.