When companies want to speed up the introduction of new products, capture market share and grow their business, they rely upon the market based knowledge and commercial expertise of the product manager. Relied upon for being able to multi-task and lead several projects at one time, product managers are the focal point of new business development initiatives. Product managers must be able to immediately identify and capture new business opportunities. They must use market based knowledge and information to spearhead the development of products that customers want and need. They must be leaders and willing to manage all aspects of the product’s life within the company, up to and including its eventual commercialization. As such, they must never allow any single delay to deter the timeline needed for market introduction.
Because product managers are intricately involved in all aspects of managing the product, they must be well versed in supply chain management practices, marketing, budgeting, stage-gate product introduction processes, be able to work alongside engineering & design and must rely upon their strong product branding experience to ensure the product’s introduction is successful. In fact, their ultimate responsibility is to ensure the product immediately resonates with customers. Given the myriad of responsibilities, what are the salary and career aspirations of a product manager? More importantly, what training and education is required, and are there certifications and professional associations that can help increase the credibility & visibility of product managers in the eyes of employers?
Since product managers have a number of responsibilities and are ultimately responsible for the success of new products, they often garner high compensation relative to other corporate positions. According to Payscale.com, compensation for product managers includes base salary, bonus and commission, as well as profit sharing. In a number of instances those bonuses and commissions are based on the product’s successful market introduction. The more successful the product’s introduction, the higher the commission and bonus. Overall, salary expectations for product managers range from $65,000.00 to over $100,000.00 annually. Depending upon the position and responsibilities, product managers can easily secure annual salaries of well over $150,000.00 a year.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
Product managers are called upon to manage all phases of a product’s life. Product managers must manage all four stages of the product’s life including its introduction, its growth, its maturity and its eventual decline stage. As a result, they must be well versed in all aspect of product life-cycle management practices. Each of these stages requires a different market and pricing strategy in order to maximize gross profit and revenue. Often product managers report to directors of new business development or to the marketing and sales departments of a given company. Because so much of their success relies upon market knowledge, they must be well prepared to disseminate market information. In terms of career advancements, product managers have a wide range of opportunities to advance in their careers. They work directly with engineering & development, accounting & finance, marketing & sales and must manage timelines and budgets. This experience affords them the opportunity to move into management and director positions.
Training and Education Requirements
A Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration is the ideal first step to becoming a successful product manager. Most educational institutions providing this type of degree have courses that provide a solid foundation in accounting, marketing, finance, business management and economics. On the job training typically involves working as a junior product manager reporting directly to the senior marketing or product manager. Entry level positions sometimes afford applicants the opportunity to move directly into the product manager’s position. However, given the complexity and scale of responsibilities, most employers decide to bring their new product managers along gradually and indoctrinate them into the company’s own method of product management. A number of product managers may secure a Masters in Business Administration (MBA). This helps to increase the product manager’s visibility with employers and adds credibility to their position.
To meet the demand for the position a number of certifications for product managers have emerged over the years. Here is a summary of their abbreviations, their titles and a brief description of their purpose.
CPM: Certified Product Manager
The CPM is considered the essential first step in certification for a product manager. Training includes using market data, insight into managing budgets, product timelines, an introduction to the stage-gate process and essential information on accounting & finance.
CPMM: Certified Product Marketing Manager
The CPMM is more ideally suited for product managers involved in brand marketing. Training includes being able to perform a supply chain & market SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) analysis, delving deeper into market based information and knowledge, pricing strategies, product life-cycle management approaches and in-depth business case study analysis.
ACPM: Agile Certified Product Manager
For the product manager or director involved in managing multiple time sensitive projects, the ACPM is the perfect certification.
The association that makes the above mentioned certifications possible is the AIPMM, which stands for the Association of International Product Marketing and Management. Aside from the AIPMM, a number of product managers join APICS (American Productivity & Inventory Control Society). Each of these associations provide up to date training and books on the most comprehensive product management practices.
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