Category: Positioning

Product Management and the Consolidation Curve

by Rivi Aspler

When I saw the following image in in the latest Forrester Wave™: B2C Commerce Suites, I realized both the intensity as well as the inevitability of the consolidation phenomenon in the industry.


I also came across the article The Consolidation Curve,  by Graeme K. Deans, Fritz Kroeger and Stefan Zeisel, which describes the four stages of industry and market consolidation. Just like product maturity phases, markets have their own maturity cycle and phases, and it’s important for product managers to understand the dynamics of markets as they mature.

Stages of Market Maturity

Stage 1 – Opening

“The first stage generally begins with a single start-up or with a monopoly just emerging from a newly deregulated or privatized industry. But this 100% industry concentration quickly drops off. Soon, the combined market share of the three largest companies drops to between 30% and 10%, as competitors quickly arise to create the frontier of industry consolidation.”

If you are a product manager that is trying to introduce a new product to the market, you in for a tough fight. Innovation is indeed disruptive, and people don’t like disruptions. You are probably investing as much time into the definition of the new product as to the proving its advantages over the existing substitutes.

Stage 2 – Scale

“This stage is all about building scale. Major players begin to emerge, buying up competitors and forming empires. The top three players in a stage 2 industry will own 15% to 45% of their market, as the industry consolidates rapidly.”

If you are a product manager that is working in a scaling market, you face the harsh competition of the veterans and the new players that are starting to catch up.  It’s time to make sure that your competitive advantage is clear. This advantage will determine if your company will be bought or left behind as a follower after the big ones ….

Stage 3- Focus

“After the ferocious consolidation of stage 2, stage 3 companies focus on expanding their core business and continuing to aggressively outgrow the competition. The top three industry players will now control between 35% and 70%of the market. By this time, there are still generally five to 12 major players.”

If you are a product manager who is working in a market that is in the process of focusing, you are probably not working as hard as you did before :-) (compared to the opening and scaling stages). You are still required to make sure that your value proposition is well perceived by the market and that your competitive advantage is indeed stable (don’t rest!), but now, sales people are the ones that are front and center, trying to get as much as possible market share.

Stage 4 – Balance and Alliance stage

“Here the titans of industry reign, from tobacco to soft drinks to defense. The industry concentration rate plateaus and can even dip a bit as, at this stage, the top three companies claim as much as 70% to 90% of the market. Large companies may form alliances with their peers because growth is now more challenging. Companies don’t move through stage 4; they stay in it.”

If you are a product manager who is working in a stage 4 market, you are probably a bit bored… incremental additions to the product will do just fine…. Until that new start-up arrives, knocking at your door, that will open up the market once again.


Tweet this: Product Management and the Consolidation Curve  #prodmgmt #productmanagement 

About the Author

Rivi-colorRivi is a product manager with over 15 years of product life-cycle management experience, at enterprise sized companies (SAP), as well as with small to medium-sized companies. Practicing product management for years, Rivi now feels she has amassed thoughts and experiences that are worth sharing.

Is Your Website the Window to Your Product Management Soul?

by John Mansour

eyes-soulYou’re familiar with the old saying, “The eyes are the window to the soul.” I’ve put a new spin on it to say, “Your website is the window to your product management soul.”

That’s right: The way your website presents products and services is a leading indicator of your organization’s approach to product management.

One of the things I enjoy most about training and consulting is the people I meet, all of whom face a myriad of different situations. That’s what makes my job so much fun and so incredibly rewarding.

But one of the most interesting byproducts of my profession is that I also notice some fascinating trends, one in particular that’s universal and not unique to an industry, a country or a type of product or service.

Over the years, I’ve noticed a strong correlation between the manner in which products are positioned on the company’s website and the structure of their product management function.

I bring this up to get you thinking about the correlation between the structure of your product management/product marketing function and the way in which your company communicates value messages to the market. To what extent should the two mirror one another in a B2B organization?

For instance, many companies dedicate real estate on their website to position their technology, even when it’s invisible and irrelevant to the end customer.  That’s usually a sign that there is a product manager for the technology platform – a good thing in all cases. But positioning your technology should be done only when it enhances your value proposition (from the buyer’s point of view).

Know your customer

In B2B, the most basic premise of a strong product management discipline is understanding who your target customers are, what they do, why they do it, how they do it, what they’re ultimately trying to accomplish (at all levels of the organization), and where their biggest obstacles exist.

If you subscribe to that philosophy, then it would seem beneficial to structure some aspects of product management (in addition to those who own the products) to mirror the business of your target customers — whether by vertical industry, horizontal business functions or some combination of both.

Think about it. If some portion of your product management/product marketing function were structured by industry and/or business function, how much sharper would your positioning be?

You’d lead with industry issues in healthcare, banking, transportation, etc.

  • You’d articulate the resulting operational challenges in finance, HR, IT, etc.
  • Finally, you’d position your products and services in a manner that clearly articulates their value relative to those operational and/or industry issues.

Consider the following:

  • If you offer fleet management solutions, you have value to any company that has a fleet of vehicles. However, in a transportation company, the fleet is “the business” whereas in a public university, the fleet of service vehicles is more of a support function, albeit an important one.

If product management is gathering business requirements for each segment, by default, the positioning on your website would reflect how your solutions meet the unique needs of managing a fleet in a transportation company versus those in a public university.

Position for value

The moral of the story is this:

If your product management team gathers market and customer requirements on a product-by-product basis only, your value messages come out the marketing side of the organization the exact same way: as product value propositions only.

Don’t get me wrong — every product needs value propositions. But the missed opportunity is the lack of positioning for higher-value business solutions comprised of multiple products in your portfolio. If you’re not managing products in a way that’s conducive to identifying needs in that manner and building those higher-value solutions accordingly, there’s a good chance you’re not positioning them either.

I’ve heard the comment many times from marketing VPs and CEOs that, “The way we’re organized should be invisible to the market.”

The implication is that your organization is structured to best run the company, which may not be the best way to market your products and services.

I see it a bit differently. The best way to run a company is to determine key functions where it’s most advantageous to mirror the business of your target customers, and structure those functions accordingly. Is there any reason product management and product marketing wouldn’t be at the top of that list?

Read the related article – Clear Business Requirements IN, Powerful Value Propositions OUT.

Tweet this: Is Your Website the Window to Your Product Management Soul? #prodmgmt  #productmanagement #messaging

About the Author

mansour-colour-small2John Mansour is a 20-year veteran in high technology product management, marketing and sales, and the Founder of Proficientz, Inc., a training and consulting firm that specializes in B2B product management & marketing.

The Maturity of your Market Dictates the Type of Product that You Need

By Rivi Aspler

A few months ago, I linked the type of product manager that you want to hire, to the product life cycle stage that your product is at, saying that an engineering oriented product manager would be a better fit for a product that is at its first life cycle stages and that a marketing oriented product manager would be a better fit for the more mature product.


Taking it one step further, it is important to define the type of product that would be a better fit, for each market-stage.

This may seem like a non-issue, but trying to break into a mature market with a new product, you will be faced with companies and products that have been there for years. Trying to take market share from these veterans, you will have to bring something new., i.e. key differentiators.

The old saying that no one gets fired for choosing IBM, is maybe a cliché, but clichés are such, usually because they are true….


Immature markets, on the other hand, or early adopters, for that matter, are either still fragmented, or are  disappointed to one degree or another with their current products. They would be willing to consider a young product or an unknown vendor, if you had managed to prove that your product holds enough key differentiators.

Product management wise (and this is where it gets interesting), if you are building a product for a mature market and if your budget is limited, you have to make difficult choices. You will not have the money to build that mature product that the veterans already have as well as add those key differentiators that are an absolute necessity.

As a Product Manager, you will have to compromise on the completeness of the product in order to invest in differentiation. This means that you must consciously neglect all the bits and bytes that make your product feature-perfect. If you are a perfectionist, this may be painful for you.

Once you have your foot in the door, meaning you have earned enough industry attention and enough early-stage customers (i.e. perceived equity) – only then can you go back and fill the product-holes that you consciously left un-attended.

Good luck in building the product that your company really needs,


Tweet this: The Maturity of your Market Dictates the Type of Product that You Need #prodmgmt #innovation

Rivi is a product manager with over 15 years of product life-cycle management experience, at enterprise sized companies (SAP), as well as with small to medium-sized companies. Practicing product management for years, Rivi now feels she has amassed thoughts and experiences that are worth sharing.

When Did Apple Become a Market Laggard?

by Saeed Khan

apple logoIn case you were sleeping yesterday, let me fill you in on the big technology announcement from Apple. Live from Cupertino California, and streamed (rather problematically) on the web, Apple had a number of big splashy product announcements. These included:

  • Upgrades to the 7 year old IPhone
  • A new (expensive) Apple Watch that can tell the time (amongst other things)
  • A mobile payment service call Apple Pay
  • Some updates to iOS
  • A free U2 album on  iTunes

With the exception of Apple Pay, it was for the most part an unimpressive show, though I have to give Apple credit for generated buzz for what were essentially a number of “me-too” product announcements.

The star of the show?

Most of the focus was on the new iPhones. The iPhone improvements were mostly related to faster processors, better cameras and most obviously bigger screens. But all that did was invite the inevitable comparisons with phones from Samsung and HTC which already had faster processors, better cameras and bigger screens.


Yet another smart watch?

The long awaited Apple Watch was also announced.

apple watch mosaic

Yes, it does look good, has a number of wrist-band styles, and measures your heartbeat with built-in sensors etc., but in the end, it’s a watch with a STARTING price of $349! Oh, yeah, and even though it is a new product, the inevitable comparisons are being made with existing watches from Samsung, Motorola and others that have similar capabilities and are less expensive.



Apple Pay has potential

Apple Pay seems like a differentiator to me….Even though there are other mobile payment systems like Square and Paypal, Google Wallet etc. the fact is that the client UI looks great, and on the back end Apple has partnered with Visa and Amex, so they are not a direct competitor in the way Square would be.

I’m not a mobile payment expert, but if I have an iPhone and it’s DEAD EASY to use Apple Pay, then as a consumer, that may be the way I start paying. Alas, I don’t have an iPhone, but lots of other people do and Apple’s cut of the payments made on all those iPhones could add up to a LOT of recurring revenue.

U2 on stage again? WTF?

I was (and still am) a U2 fan. I remember going to see them during the Joshua Tree tour with Los Lobos and Little Steven as warm up acts. Bono, arm in a sling because he had injured it in a fall during a concert a week or so earlier, belted out songs with a then, still vibrant voice. It was a cold October evening and my friends and I all shivered endlessly in our nose-bleed seats in the open air Exhibition stadium by Lake Ontario, regretting not wearing warmer clothing, but still enjoying the music and the show on the stage.

There were lots of “kids” — 14 years old or thereabouts– with their parents, probably attending their first concert. Apparently my wife – a big U2 fan herself – was also at the concert with her friends, though in much better seats than me. We didn’t know each other then, and wouldn’t meet each other for another 6 years. It was October 3, 1987, I was in my early 20s and U2 was the biggest band in the

But U2 today is NOT the U2 of the 80s or 90s. So when U2 came on stage at the Apple launch and announced that their latest album would be free for download from iTunes, it seemed a decade or two too late. It’s almost like announcing a new version of Angry Birds is now available free for  download on the Apple App Store. Yeah…so what. It seemed a bit like Apple grasping for some old glory.  Apple did release a U2 branded iPod back in 2004 with Steve Jobs on stage with U2.

I’ll definitely check out the album (hey it’s free)…maybe there’s some good music there. Maybe U2 has a whole lot of fans that still see them the way I did back in ’87.

I may be completely wrong — Apple’s stock is up today over yesterday — and if so, it wouldn’t be the first time I was mistaken. :-)

What do you think? Is Apple losing it’s shine and becoming a follower vs. a leader?


Tweet this: When did #Apple become a laggard? #prodmgmt #prodmktg #iphone #u2

About the Author

Saeed Khan is a founder and Managing Editor of On Product Management, and has worked for the last 20 years in high-technology companies building and managing market leading products. He also speaks regularly at events on the topic of product management and product leadership. You can contact him via Twitter @saeedwkhan or via the Contact Us page on this blog.

Design Your Product for the Case Study You Want to Read

by Matt Volpi

case-studyNo matter how hard we try, the product development process drags us away from customers and into a more theoretical bubble. One can easily begin focusing on lists of features and generalities and not how a specific customer is going to interact with and benefit from your solution.

But each customer is unique and their journey will hopefully be positive and the basis for a case study; a tool for communicating your product’s benefits to even more potential customers. Keeping these case studies-to-be in mind is a great way to make sure you remain customer-centric, even when you are cooped up in a meeting room with a white board and a bunch of engineers.

Since every good case study has a narrative, let’s map that to the definition, design and implementation process:

The Problem

Every case study starts with the problem the customer is trying to solve. While these problems may fall into several broad categories, each customer has a very specific problem. Since you are trying to ensure that this unique customer problem is addressed, make it something specific and – ideally – based on actual data from your sales organization or a customer interview you have conducted yourself.

For example, it is easy to say:

 “Our product will help sales people make sure they are contacting their prospects on a regular basis through various channels because customers wants to know what is working and be able to measure it.”

But this is a very vague goal and you could meet it in a variety of ways. Instead, you need to get specific:

“Company X has 17 sales people in the field and a four-person inside sales organization supporting them. Field personnel communicate with their prospects by calling them or sending them emails. Inside sales follows up on lead generation activities by emailing and calling prospects to try and schedule demos for their field team. A three-person marketing team is generating content, running webinars, performing SEO and utilizing social media and email marketing. The company wants to know, in aggregate, how often each prospect is being reached via each channel, and on each successful transaction how many times they were contacted via each channel and have a visual timeline from first contact to order.”

Of course, a company’s specific problems are often even more nuanced, but this amount of specificity creates a real scenario to work against.


How did Company X find out about your awesome solution for measuring prospect communication? You might dismiss this as the realm of marketing or sales, but as the owner of the solution it is your problem too.

every good case study
What the product actually includes can heavily influence how it is discovered. For example, does your product generate statistics that your company can aggregate and share over social media in quick sound bites, such as “the average enterprise software deal doesn’t close until the sixth time a prospect is touched”? Do you have out-of-the-box integration with CRM tools to enable joint marketing efforts?

What made Company X select your product? Was it a specific feature, the price point, something that a competitor lacked, the absence of risk by making it a monthly SaaS versus an annual license? It won’t be the same for every customer, so think about what is going to speak to a customer with this profile and it might influence how you implement or package it.


Someone had to pay for your product, and it is not always the end-user. Figuring out who this is can drive you to shape your product to be sure it is meeting the actual buyer’s ROI and not just satisfying the end user. It could be as simple as a weekly or monthly report that shows the increase in conversions since the solution was implemented, but keeping the funding source’s motivations in mind is key to winning repeat business.

It is also critical to understand how your customer wants to pay for it (rent vs. buy, seat license vs. enterprise license, etc.) and to make sure that is one of the options.


What did Company X have to do to get your system up and running? What challenges did they have to overcome? Go through the entire scenario from configuration and integration to training and support. This exercise can keep some of those unwanted a-ha moments from happening after you have already shipped your product.


Since you have already created a very well-defined problem scenario, you should be able to create a product that is addressing that problem in a measurable and significant way. You want to be able to write something like:

“Company X can now select any prospect/customer and see a time-stamped sequence of communications from anyone at the company. They can also see visual reports that indicate which combinations of communication channels and frequency are most effective by customer type. There are also reports that show each staff member’s individual activities in aggregate and per prospect/customer.”

This narrative can inform your QA efforts and ensure that test scripts are more customer-focused.

Rinse and Repeat

Now that you know everything about Company X’s story, you need to start thinking about Company Y. They’re a different company with a different problem that your product also needs to address, perhaps they have channel partners that need to be accounted for or a CEO who doesn’t think they should be spending money on outbound marketing or they use a specific CRM solution that requires integration.

Keeping a few of these specific case studies in mind throughout the process is key to leveraging the value of the exercise and keeping the entire team aware of the subtle yet critical differences your product will face in the market. While you don’t want to build a solution that is tailor-made for Company X, you have to make sure it is meeting their needs and actually works for real-world customers and not just “the Customer.”


Tweet this: Design your product for the case study you want to read #prodmgmt #prodmktg

About the author

volpi_headshot_bw_finalMatt helps start-ups and established companies with product strategy, marketing execution and market research, with a focus on innovative solutions development and sales enablement. He has 20 years experience in product management and marketing at Internet and mobile tech companies. You can reach him at or on Twitter as @mattvolpi

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