MBA in Product Management Syllabus
Written by Sameer Kamat
In a previous post we had a quick overview about what you’d do as a manager in a product management job. Here’s the post – Product Manager Job Description. For many of the juicy roles in the field an MBA in product management can make a big difference. Unlike a regular general management program, a specialised MBA in product management allows you to focus on topics and choose electives that are directly relevant for product management jobs.
In this post we focus on what the best MBA programs in product management offer and how it can help you become a better product manager in any industry.
MBA in Product Management Syllabus
Here’s a sampling of the product management MBA syllabus that you will most likely see in many of the top courses.
New Product Development
Folks working in the software industry might be familiar with the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC). This is a specialised implementation of the broader discipline of product development. Every product goes through a typical life cycle – ideation, product design, engineering, testing, launch.
However this is only one part of the process. There’s a parallel track that has to support this and it happens in the area of marketing. There’s no point in creating a wonderful product that no one is going to use. That brings us to the new course that you’ll come across if you take up an MBA in product management.
Advanced Marketing Planning
This again is a bunch of activities that involves understanding what the market really wants. Is the new product filling a gap in the market or is it generating a new demand? For instance, when Gmail came out, it was not the first free email product. But if offered something that the existing free email services didn’t offer.
While the engineering team at Google fine-tuned the technology behind Gmail, there was also a marketing team planning on how to market the product before and after it was launched.
Every single product has a consumer. So it’s only natural that you know what the consumer wants before spending millions of dollars on the product. What prompts the consumer to choose one product over another. Is it the aesthetics, or the function, or the brand, or a combination of these and other aspects. These inputs can go a long way in ensuring that the new product development is happening in a synchronised and well-directed manner.
This is the analytical part of the process. Not everyone in the product management team needs to be a pro at everything. If you are good at gathering, analysing and presenting data in a way that can provide invaluable insights to the rest of the product management teams, you can be a crucial contributor.
Marketing Hi-Tech Products
This is where things start moving into the niche zone. You can’t market an iPhone like a Gucci bag. Or maybe you can. Most high-tech products rely a detailed feature listing comparing 3 other competing products in a bid to prove how they are better than the options available in the market.
Others focus on the image or an emotion to send the message across. This is where the dependency on Consumer behaviour comes back into picture. Depending on your target buyer, you could tweak your marketing strategy.
Blackberry was initially positioned as a high-end phone for the professional. All the marketing initiatives projected a serious, no-nonsense image. Then they re-positioned themselves (to gain a bigger market share) and there was re-branding exercise where they tried to show that it wasn’t just meant for the serious professional.
In most cases, pricing (how much the consumer pays) isn’t purely a function of the cost (how much the company spent on bringing it to market). Pricing plays a big role in positioning the product.
I can’t find the article where I read this. But apparently the same condom manufacturer supplies to Nirodh (the government brand) as well as to several premium brands. The quality is the same but difference in pricing is huge. Of course, the premium brands spend more on advertising and marketing, but they still make big margins on the same product.
[After reading this, please don’t rush to the pharmacy to collect various brands. The pharmacist will have a tough time digesting the argument that you are buying condoms for intellectual stimulation.]
The biggest premium is not on the idea, the technology, the engineering or the final product either. It’s on the brand. That’s why even when the product isn’t exactly ground-breaking (think Pepsi, Coke) companies still go berserk in trying to get their brands into the mindspace of consumer. Brands communicate much more than individual products.
With brands, you aren’t simply building a product. You are building a personality. And that cannot happen overnight. Apple has a personality. So does BMW. And Iron Man (the franchise, not the individual).
MBA Crystal Ball has one too. And hopefully it is distinct from the products/services it sells, its (allegedly highly charismatic and, um, supremely modest) founder, the ideas that you read here in the individual posts and the mba consulting reviews.
Selling a deodorant is different from selling a mango drink. But if you look at the advertisements on TV nowadays, till the tag line and the brand are finally displayed you’d think they are both selling population control (or growth) products.
That’s the problem when the entrepreneurial marketing process takes a back seat. Promoters start assuming that the void that was left during the marketing strategy discussions will be filled by the model’s orgasmic expressions.
In a public get-together nobody wants their family members (specially those over eighty) to act like this after you offer them a harmless drink, right?
Whether it’s a low priced commodity item (like soap) or a high priced, high involvement product (e.g. a car or a financial product like insurance), there’s a fair amount of entrepreneurial selling that’s needed in both cases.
Supply Chain Management
Though supply chain management / SCM is a completely different world in itself, as a product management professional, you need to be cognizant (no, not the company) about how it fits into the process. This is the delivery network that ensures that the excellent work done by your design team, the engineers, the marketing guys are all culminating in the right manner.
There are some excellent Supply Chain Management courses that you can look at if this is your area of interest.
Best MBA in Product Management
While reading this post or during the subsequent research, if you went ‘Ah, I see myself doing that. I need to get myself a product management certification’, then you need to do some more research on the bschools that offer an MBA in product management.
Here are a few names to get you started.
Harvard Business School (HBS), Stanford, MIT Sloan, Haas Berkeley, NYU Stern, UCLA Anderson, Carnegie Mellon Tepper (CMU), McCombs
Check out the details on their respective websites to see if there’s something in there that you find interesting. As always, talk to real folks who work in the area of product management. Doesn’t matter whether they have an MBA in product management or not. Find out what they do on a day-to-day basis.
Good luck in your endeavour to get into the exciting field of product management. Who knows you might save the rest of us some day from the bad products and bad promotions that we are getting subjected to every single day.
I don’t really mind if the mango drink spills outside Ms Kaif’s mouth. With the right training and encouragement, that can be improved. But after marriage, for technical reasons, I cannot use deodorants that’ll have hot chicks falling all over me.
So my request to you is to please get into the right product management job quickly and give me an alternate, safer product to use.