4 lessons Product Managers can learn from Target’s failure in Canada

by Saeed Khan

target-no-heart-canadaTarget is a retail giant in the United States, with about $75 Billion in revenue and over 1,800 stores nationwide. In 2012, Target announced it would open stores in Canada; it’s first international expansion beyond the United States.

In March 2013 Target opened it’s first stores in Canada, quickly expanding to over 130 stores across the country within the first year.

And then, less than 2 years after opening it’s first stores in Canada, Target announced that they were closing ALL Canadians stores, and laying off all 17,000+ employees including some at their Minneapolis headquarters who were hired to oversee the Canadian operations.

The state of the failure is significant, with almost $5 billion to be written off by Target.

How did Target fail so miserably and what can we learn from this fiasco?

1. Understand and meet market expectations

 

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First, it’s important to understand Canadian consumers. We loved shopping in Target stores in the US. They have good prices, good merchandise selection (many items not available in Canada) and very helpful staff. When shopping at a large retail store, what else could one want?

When Target announced they were going to open stores in Canada, many Canadians expected those same attributes — price, selection, service — to be part of the Target experience in Canada. Sadly, that was not the case. Prices were mediocre, selection was poor and the service was nowhere near what it was in the US.

Great Customer Service (in the US)

For example, I was once in a Target store in Sunnyvale California. I asked one of the  staff where I could find a clothing item, and the person literally walked me across the store and pointed out exactly where that item was and made sure it was what I was looking for. He then walked back across the store, I’m assuming to resume what he was doing.

This level of service  was nowhere to be found in the Target stores in Canada. The staff were competent, but competent is not memorable, and certainly didn’t meet expectations set by their American coworkers.

Tweet this: 4 lessons Product Managers can learn from Target’s failure in Canada http://wp.me/pXBON-4jl #prodmgmt #target

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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.

Consolidation

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.

Rivi

Tweet this: Product Management and the Consolidation Curve  http://wp.me/pXBON-4ne  #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.

It’s Time to Give Your Product Portfolio a Good SWOT

by John Mansour

In B2B, assessing your product portfolio’s

  • Strengths,
  • Weaknesses,
  • Opportunities and
  • Threats

should be an annual ritual.  Why?  This exercise offers a macro view of your portfolio’s performance and provides valuable insights that are key to a solid market strategy, which ultimately impacts your product, marketing and sales priorities.

What is a Product Portfolio SWOT?

swotIn its most basic form, a portfolio SWOT is a matrix of products and market segments where the cross-section illustrates the relevance of each product to each of your target market segments and financial performance of your company (total revenue for all products) in each market segment.

Why Do It?

The primary goal of performing a SWOT analysis isn’t so much about how your products are performing, but how your company is performing in each of your chosen market segments as indicated by the sales of the most popular products in each segment.  It reveals a critical insight into how your customers utilize your products in the form of logical business solutions. Key takeaways that guide your portfolio strategy decisions include:

  • Identifying market segments where you’re strongest (by revenue and number of customers) and understanding how much runway remains for growth.
  • Identifying market segments where you’re weakest – and understanding if it’s more of a sales and marketing deficiency or product deficiencies.
  • Identifying market segments that are most opportunistic. In many cases your weakest market segments are the most opportunistic because your products have high relevance.  It’s simply a matter of exerting more marketing and sales effort to seize the opportunities.  In other cases, it may be new markets where emerging needs play to your strengths.
  • Identifying the biggest threats in your product/service category. These can be new competitive threats, disruptive technologies, shifting business models, etc. that threaten to make your company less relevant in the eyes of prospective buyers and investors.

Who Owns It?

In smaller organizations, the ownership typically falls on product management.  In larger organizations, product/industry/solutions marketing or strategy teams own it.

When Should You SWOT?

Once a year should be sufficient for most B2B companies.  Ideally, it would be completed or refreshed as a precursor to your annual strategic planning cycle.

Making Your Portfolio SWOT Actionable

Your portfolio SWOT analysis is one of several data points that are key to aligning your products and services with market segments most conducive to reaching your company’s goals.  Make it actionable by comparing your SWOT results to the dynamics in each of your target markets and the biggest obstacles those organizations are facing.

You’ll quickly see where your portfolio is strong, where it’s at risk and where your biggest opportunities are in the short and longer term.  Product, marketing and sales priorities will quickly come into focus.  Build a portfolio strategy around those priorities and then, as usual, focus on relentless execution of the details.  You’ll love the results!

If your product priorities are constantly competing and…constantly changing, contact us today to learn how our framework and training programs can get your product portfolio on the straight and narrow to deliver higher-value solutions and accelerate growth.

Tweet this: It’s time to give your product portfolio a good SWOT http://wp.me/pXBON-4lW #prodmgmt #productmanagement

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.

Worth Repeating – 5 Steps to Creating a Great Product Management Organization

by Saeed Khan

There’s a lot of general discussion about traits and activities to help individual Product Managers excel, but not a lot is written about Product Management teams and departments.  I wrote a pair of blog posts on this topic a couple of years ago, but not much since, so I thought it was time to revisit the topic.

A reality of Product Management teams is that they are usually relatively small, particularly when compared to larger departments such as Engineering, Marketing or Sales.  And perhaps it is because these teams are small, that not much thought is given to how to best structure them. But in fact, given the critical cross-functional role Product Management plays, having a well structured, scalable and properly staffed team can make a huge impact on the top-line of a company’s balance sheet.

Here are the 5 steps to building a great organization.

1. Understand the full value of Product Management

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Too often technology Product Management is viewed as the requirements collector, or keeper of the product roadmap, or an adjunct to Engineering. But all of these sell short the value and impact Product Management can have on a business.

What is the ultimate goal of Product Management?

To  optimize the business at the product, product line or product portfolio level over the lifecycle of the products.

Or as Don Vendetti defined it in his guest post:

To deliver measurable business results through product solutions that meet both market needs and company goals.

Either way, the focus is on the business success.

And if you look back at the origins of Product Management it’s clear that’s how it was envisioned by James McElroy at Procter and Gamble 80 years ago.

Tweet this: 5 Steps to Creating a Great Product Management Organization  http://wp.me/pXBON-4kC #prodmgmt #productmanagement

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Why do Startups Fail?

by Saeed Khan

success-failThere’s no shortage of reasons why startups fail.  You can find lots of articles on the web with lists of reasons. But I hadn’t seen anything analytic until now.

I saw the following graphic mentioned in a Tweet recently.

It is from a company called CB Insights and is based 101 startup postmortems.

Now the data set is small, and may not be statistically valid everywhere — e.g. are startups in India failing for the same reasons as startups in the US? — but it’s a good data set none the less. Note that the sum of the percentages is greater than 100%, so I can only assume that companies had multiple issues

The most common reason for failure, by far(!), is “No Market Need”.  And if you look further down, you see “Ignore Customers” and “Product Mis-Timed”, which in my opinion, are almost the same as “No Market Need”.

Top 20 reasons startups fail

While not completely surprised by these findings, the fact that the number one reason is so far ahead of ALL other reasons DOES surprise me. It indicates one of two things. Either that there is still a LOT of work to do to teach startups how to identify markets, or people will pursue business ideas rather blindly regardless of what the market opportunity really is.

Here are a couple of the examples cited in the article, but I encourage you to read or view some of the postmortems. They are very interesting case studies.

Product: Patient Communicator

I realized that many of the true money-making businesses in healthcare really aren’t about optimizing delivery of primary care. This is a longer discussion but I realized, essentially, that we had no customers because no one was really interested in the model we were pitching.  Doctors want more patients, not an efficient office.

See full postmortem here.

Product: VoterTide

We didn’t spend enough time talking with customers and were rolling out features that I thought were great, but we didn’t gather enough input from clients. We didn’t realize it until it was too late. It’s easy to get tricked into thinking your thing is cool. You have to pay attention to your customers and adapt to their needs.

See full postmortem here.

Saeed

Tweet this: Why do startups fail? http://wp.me/pXBON-4ma #prodmgmt #startups

About the Author

saeed-headshot-colourSaeed 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.