Last week we looked at a few of the ways Product Managers can build a solid business case for their next product or product feature. In this post, we take a deeper look at one of the most important components of that document – market analysis. Doing the proper legwork at this stage can help prevent customer dissatisfaction, high cost of sales and – the worst offense – rolling out a product or feature that customers simply don’t want.

1. Define your target market

A clear and thorough understanding of your target market is a necessary first step in providing consumers with the right product at the right time. Your Marketing Department will also thank you for setting them up for success! Useful strategies include appropriately segmenting the target consumer base and creating detailed buyer personas. Keep in mind that at every stage of this exploratory process, one of the most valuable uses of your time will be speaking with the individuals that fit the target market. While data analysis plays an important role in finding “big picture” trends, no amount of number crunching can replace the real-world insights gathered from surveys, interviews and casual conversations.

2. Stay up-to-date on industry trends

Consumer preferences and behaviors are not static – in fact, they are changing ever more rapidly as new technologies shape how we interact with the world. Many Product Managers work in this realm of software products, so it becomes vital not only to understand industry trends, but to anticipate consumer behavior based on industry knowledge. Staying in the loop through newsletters, industry-specific publications, and conferences and events allows Product Managers to become the subject matter experts they need to be in order to match consumer needs as they shift and change.

3. Make new mistakes rather than old ones

Nowhere is the saying “don’t reinvent the wheel” more on point than in the competitive world of product development. Even with new products that address a real need in a real way, the likelihood is high that another company has looked into or even adopted something similar. This should in no way deter Product Managers from entering that market. It should, however, serve as fertile ground for researching what works and what tanks.