If you want to be a bad product manager, use market research to justify a decision you’ve already made. You’re the product manager, after all, and you know what the product should do and how it should do it. You’ve done your research already. If someone else has research that conflicts with what you’ve found, then it must be a problem with how they conducted the research. Either way, what you’re doing is so new and innovative that there’s no way to do research about it because it’s something people haven’t ever seen before and have no way of evaluating it. And even if the market could, you don’t want to be a robot that just does everything market research tells you to do, do you?
If you want to be a good product manager, use market research to inform your decisions. Part of being a market-focused product manager is listening to what the market has to say, whether you like it or not.
At times, that may mean overturning a decision you’ve made. It could lead to the company squashing a pet project that you’ve been working on for months. There’s potential that you will get a good dose of “I told you so” from other members of the product development team.
Listening to market research that contradicts your ideas or work is painful. No one enjoys spending time and money just to find out that something they thought was great really is far from it. Ultimately, though, you will benefit, your product will benefit, and your organization will benefit.
Unfortunately, not all product managers see it this way. For whatever reason, their attempt to supersede market research findings with their own personal beliefs by misusing market research.
Market research is usually misused in one of four ways:
Good product managers use market research properly and can recognize when they are in danger of potentially committing one of these errors. Market research should not be followed like commandments — it is appropriate to ask questions and dig deeper than what is just presented on the surface. However, there is a difference between giving any research study necessary critical oversight to ensure its validity and conducing a total write-off of the results because they do not support your preconceived notions.
As difficult as it may be to accept some of the findings from research studies, doing so will help product managers build better products and ultimately be better product managers.