A product specialist is responsible for managing a product throughout its life cycle. Many aspects of that life cycle, including technical development, marketing and promotion, as well as staying informed about the product's competitive position are involved. The product specialist might provide training to other employees or vendors as a part of his or her job duties. He or she may also develop business plans related to the development of the product and its growth potential.
In many ways, product specialists are a subject matter experts. They assimilate knowledge regarding a product line's technical specifications and functions. Future product design development may fall within the scope of their job duties. In addition to knowledge about the product itself, overall knowledge of the product category and competing products, including substitutes, is obtained. Training materials might be developed and presented to customers or vendors.
The marketing and promotion of the product line is a vital component of the product specialist's job. He or she has to be able to determine where the product is in its life cycle. If it is in the early stages of introduction or growth, a higher level of promotional efforts will be needed. Distribution strategies might need to be evaluated, developed or altered in order to best service the market's anticipated needs.
Not only does a product specialist look at the short-term development of a product line; he or she also considers its long-term development. When formulating a marketing strategy, consideration might be given to an anticipated decline in sales five years ahead. Potential technical enhancements could be included in the long-term strategy or different suppliers might need to be chosen in order to reduce manufacturing costs.
A product specialist might partner with the company's manufacturing plant manager or production executives in order to forecast production capacity. Data regarding expected sales in terms of units, including adjustments for seasonality or promotional incentives, would be shared in order to ensure inventory levels are adequate. A thorough analysis of the market's needs and purchase behavior patterns would be conducted to obtain this type of data.
Competitor activity is carefully monitored by product specialists. They want to ensure that they are strategically responding to losses in market share and product category trends, and implementing changes to their product strategies accordingly. If a product has reached the end of its life cycle and is in the decline stage, distribution channels may need to be changed in order to target a niche market. When a major competitor introduces a product enhancement, such as new flavoring, the product specialist might propose a counter response if he or she determines the company has adequate resources to do so.