By John Mansour
When you’re a one product company, a product strategy is invaluable because the product and the company are one and the same. But when you have 5 or 20 or 50 products, individual product strategies may not be the best approach for driving the organization’s growth.
Here are five reasons B2B companies should stop creating product strategies and an alternative that’s more conducive to growth and better execution across product teams, marketing and sales.
1. The more product strategies you have the less strategic they are to the organization
When the magnitude of problems and solutions are limited to each product, it results in products that are incrementally better over time but it doesn’t make for an organization that’s routinely solving high-impact needs that are strategic to its target customers. And if it doesn’t have strategic value to your target customers, it’s probably not strategic to your organization.
2. Product strategies are too easy to change
If product strategies were that strategic they wouldn’t be constantly changing in favor of the next great idea. It’s one more proof point that illustrates the limited market value of most product strategies.
3. Executives hate product strategies
Multiply the number of products in your stable by the number of market opportunities for each. Now put your senior executive hat on and try to rally the organization around a cohesive set of priorities and resource allocations that can be executed through to fruition. It’s not happening because there are just too many new and better opportunities every day for every product that constantly reshuffle the deck, making execution and resource allocation difficult for everyone.
4. Product strategies give control of priorities to engineering
When every product manager is competing for the same resources in the interest of advancing individual product strategies, it creates a highly fragmented product management function, and that puts product development/engineering in a stronger position to sit back and cherry-pick the more desirable projects (for engineers) while justifying reasons they can’t tackle the less desirable ones.
5. Product strategies make marketing and sales more difficult.
When every product is managed in a silo, value propositions are narrow and tactical because they’re bound by each product. Result – marketing messages aren’t compelling and sales cycles turn into feature wars that confuse buyers into non-decisions.
A Better Alternative in Three Simple Steps
Put all your products into a single box for the moment and forget about them. Consider the top strategic initiatives and spending priorities of your target customers and determine where your relevance is highest.
Create a single portfolio strategy that describes your strategic product initiatives in context of the strategic goals of your target customers. Describe them in a similar manner to the following example.
“Our number one priority is to help local governments improve traffic enforcement laws and generate more citation revenue without adding resources. The top three scenarios required to meet those objectives are….”
Evaluate your box of products as a whole. Products and features required to deliver the high-value solutions become the highest priorities and command resources accordingly. Products that aren’t get remaining resources for incremental improvements.
Congratulations! You’ve just created a strategy that has a much strategic value to your target customers as it does to your organization.
When you align your strategic initiatives with those of their target customers, it drives a level of focus through the organization that improves execution and resource utilization across the board as follows:
- Your strategic product initiatives are truly strategic to the organization because the strategic value they deliver to your target customers has been validated.
- Your strategic product initiatives are far less likely to change on a whim because their market value is far above and beyond product-specific ideas and everyone knows it.
- Executives love product initiatives of this caliber because growth implications are more obvious and resource decisions are much easier.
- The role of product development and engineering is focused on how the solutions will be built instead of which solutions will be built, as it should be.
- Marketing and sales have far more compelling value propositions because they speak to more critical needs.
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