What is a product strategist, and why is this role important?

What is a product strategist, and why is this role important?

It’s no secret that the digital age has transformed how businesses operate. But many people don’t realize how integral a product strategist is for success in this rapidly changing landscape.

So, what exactly is a product strategist, you ask? In this article, we’ll talk a little more about this vital role and share what a typical day looks like for someone in this job. Read on to find out more!

What is a product strategist?

Simply put, product strategists are the masterminds behind a company’s digital product development and innovation.

A product strategist must have a deep understanding of both the market and the customer. Using this information, they identify opportunities and develop plans to create products that fulfill the demand.

‘Plans’ is the operative word here: product strategists examine the landscape and develop long-term strategic plans for future products. Product managers, on the other hand, oversee the product development stage.

Think of the relationship as being like a rally racecar team. The product manager is in the driver’s seat, and the product strategist is the co-driver giving directions and navigating them safely and efficiently to the finish line.

In other words, the product strategist is in charge of a company’s product roadmap.

Why is a product strategist important?

  • They ensure your products meet customer needs and solve problems. Without this level of quality control/guidance, the chances of your team developing a product that’s a flop are pretty high.
  • They can provide fresh perspectives on product development and offer new ideas. Innovative thinking is particularly beneficial in a crowded, fast-moving market.
  • They can streamline the product development process and make it more efficient.
  • They can help you to create a competitive advantage by developing products that are unique and differentiated from competitors.

What does a product strategist do?

While the role specifics vary, here are some of the broader job requirements:

  • They develop a deep understanding of the market: to develop products that meet customer needs and market demands, product strategists need a deep understanding of both. They conduct market research and analysis to identify opportunities and trends. They also talk to customers to get feedback on existing products and to understand their needs.
  • They create product concepts: product strategists work with the product development team to create prototypes and mockups. They also develop user stories and define product requirements.
  • They oversee product development: product strategists work with development teams and product managers to ensure the product is built according to the product roadmap. They also provide feedback and direction during the development process.
  • They protect the product development process: product strategists make sure teams follow the stages of the product development process to the letter and try to keep the workflow moving forward. They also make sure teams don’t focus too heavily on features at the expense of user needs. A product strategist may offer guidance when the team isn’t working in an Agile manner.

Common daily responsibilities

To achieve the above, they’ll often find themselves working on the following tasks:

  • Designing and adjusting solutions
  • Developing product hypotheses
  • Analyzing the market to find new opportunities
  • Identifying risks
  • Validating product ideas
  • Running product and process experiments
  • Analyzing user feedback
  • Recommending metrics to validate product development
  • Research and analysis
  • Planning

What does a typical day look like for a product strategist?

A typical day for a product strategist might involve meeting with the product development team to discuss progress on current projects. They may also communicate strategies to various stakeholders or collect customer feedback on existing products.

On a longer-term basis, they’ll work closely with the product development team to ensure they follow the product roadmap. They also research trends online, through market research firms, or by talking to customers directly. Over time, they analyze all this data and feedback to improve future product iterations or designs.

Additionally, the product strategist role may involve a fair amount of writing. This could include writing product specifications or requirements, presentations, or blog posts.

And finally, the product strategist’s day will include plenty of management. People, processes — if it comes under product development, it’s the strategist’s job to monitor it. This includes keeping projects on track, ensuring everyone has the right resources, and overseeing the product roadmap.

Product strategist: essential tools of the trade

There are a few key tools every product strategist needs. These include tools for market research, customer feedback, data analysis, and project management.

  • Project management software: this software helps product strategists keep track of the product development process and ensure projects stay on track. Not only does it give you a big-picture view, but it also does some of the heavy lifting via features like automatic notifications and assisted scheduling.
  • Customer feedback tools: these tools help product strategists gather data from customers about their experiences with products. The product strategist can then use data to improve future products. Hotjar and UserTesting are two popular options in the web developer world.
  • Data analysis tools: these tools help product strategists analyze customer feedback and market data to identify trends and opportunities. Google Analytics and Apache Spark are two such examples.

What does a typical product strategist earn?

According to Comparably, the average product strategist in the US is earning $86,845 per year in 2022.

product strategist salary graphImage Source

What qualifications do you need to become a product strategist?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. However, most product strategists have a background in business, marketing, design, or a related field. Many also have experience working in product development or management.

In terms of formal education, a bachelor’s degree is often the minimum requirement for entry-level positions. However, many employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree or higher.

What does a typical career path look like for a product strategist?

The career path for a product strategist can vary depending on their experience level and education. However, most product strategists begin their careers as entry-level employees in product development or management.

As they gain experience, they may move into more senior positions, such as director of product strategy or vice president of product development. In some cases, product strategists may also start their own consulting firms.

What are some common challenges product strategists face?

No job is easy. Here are 10 challenges product strategists face:

  1. Managing multiple stakeholders with different objectives
  2. Getting buy-in for your product vision from senior management
  3. Developing a deep understanding of your target market
  4. Creating a product roadmap that balances short-term and long-term objectives
  5. Prioritizing features and functions that will have the biggest impact on the business
  6. Conducting market research and user testing to validate your product hypotheses
  7. Managing the product development process from start to finish
  8. Launching and iterating on your product in response to customer feedback
  9. Analyzing data to measure the success of your product
  10. Reporting on your findings to senior management in a way they can understand and value

Key skills you need to become a product strategist

You’ll need a few crucial skills to be a successful product strategist.

First, you need to be able to think strategically about product development. This means being able to see what’s lacking in your product and the market and make improvements efficiently to satisfy customers and organizational stakeholders.

Second, you need to be able to manage the product development process. This includes being able to track progress, coordinate teams, and manage resources.

Third, you need to be able to analyze data. This data can come from customer feedback, market research, or other sources. You need to be able to identify trends and opportunities in this data.

Fourth, you need to be able to communicate effectively. This includes being able to present your ideas to others as well as listen and incorporate feedback.

It also means being able to use collaboration tools, including email, chat apps, virtual whiteboards, video conferencing, and project management software, like Backlog. The more tools you’re comfortable using, the easier it’ll be to guide the team, whether they’re working in one office or in different countries.

Final thoughts

A career in product strategy can be challenging, but massively rewarding. You get to work on a product from the ground up, see how it enriches people’s lives, and make a real impact on the success of a company. You also get to have one of the most exciting and vital careers — one that’s in high demand as companies work to get their digital capabilities up to scratch. So, if you’re handy with numbers, comfortable with leadership, persuasive with words, and a whiz at doing research, this could be the career for you!

Georgina Guthrie Georgina is a displaced Brit currently working in France as a freelance copywriter. Before moving to sunnier climates, she worked as a B2B agency writer in Bristol, England, which is also where she was born. In her spare time, she enjoys old films and cooking (badly).