Updated: June 26, 2023 - 7 min read
Your Product Strategy is the essence of how you will plan, develop, launch, analyze and maintain your product in the marketplace. If you’re leading a Product Team, developing and communicating a Product Strategy is your most fundamental responsibility—get this right, and your team will be motivated and aligned knowing that you are moving in the right direction. Get this wrong, and you risk wasting effort and releasing a feature or product for which there is no true market, and leading a team that does not know either the ‘what’ nor the ‘why’ of what they are supposed to be doing.
Communicating a winning Product Strategy starts with getting your strategy right!
How to Nail Your Product Strategy
Getting your Product Strategy right requires the Product Manager to pay attention to internal and external factors. The Product Strategy lays out the steps to walk towards your Product Vision, so necessarily considers both detail-level and big-picture thinking.
To create a winning Product Strategy:
Know your customers deeply: To develop a product that truly resonates with your target audience, you must understand their needs, desires, and pain points. Invest time in observing customers, analyzing product usage data, conducting interviews, and participating in sales calls. By staying close to your customers, you can anticipate their changing needs and adjust your Product Strategy as needed.
Stay informed on the market: In a rapidly evolving business landscape, staying up-to-date on market trends and competitor activities is essential for maintaining a competitive edge. Subscribe to key industry news sources, pay attention to legal/regulatory changes, and keep an eye on competitors. Leverage the knowledge of peers within your organization to gain additional insights on staying informed.
To effectively tap into these insights, especially customer insights, you have to look at the data.
Rely on Data Alone to Choose Your Path Forward
Data-driven decision-making is crucial to a winning Product Strategy. If you can’t back up your strategic decisions with data, how do you know they’re strategic? Data is a relevant player throughout the Product Lifecycle. It’s a resource you need to use during discovery, planning, development, launch, and iteration. Data insights can give you direction for both potential and already-existing products.
To ensure a data-centric approach, consider the following:
What features are being used or not being used? Why? Analyzing feature usage patterns can help you identify which aspects of your product are most valuable to customers and which may need improvement.
Are you on track for new sales, upgrades, churn rate, etc.? Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) allows you to gauge your progress toward your strategic goals and make necessary adjustments.
However, be cautious with the data and analysis methods you use. Data insights aren’t perfect – they’re only as good as the information and the interpretation they’re based on. Pay attention to the data, but also be open to the possibility of flaws in your conclusions. If something isn’t adding up, revisit the data and look for what you missed.
Further, relying solely on hard data can cause you to miss important insights from qualitative sources or create false confidence if a key insight isn't visible in the dataset being considered. Strive for a balanced relationship with data, using both quantitative and qualitative sources to inform your decisions.
Spend Time 1:1 with Key Stakeholders
You can create the best strategy in the world, but it means nothing if you don’t execute it. This means you need to get buy-in from decision-makers, cross-functional team leaders, and your Product Team. One of the most surefire ways to make sure everyone follows through on Product Strategy is to involve them in the creation process – the earlier, the better.
Be an open book – share the information you are working with to create your strategy, show your thought process, and ask questions you don't have answers to. Show the Product Strategy early and often, share it with people, and allow them to add comments and ask questions. Reference it often and communicate it frequently. Assume people have forgotten all the details and over communicate even what seems obvious; it only seems obvious to you because you know the strategy through and through.
Expect pushback as you create and execute your Product Strategy. Data plays an important role here as well; have data on hand to defend your decisions. As a Product Manager, you have a deep understanding of your product, with a clear rationale for the decisions you take. From the outside, it’s not so clear. Everyone has an opinion on Product, and not all of these opinions are strategic. Having a strong grasp on the data will let you respond to pushback and requests confidently.
Doing the Right Thing Beats Being Right
That said, bad decisions do happen. You’ll have to make strategic decisions with incomplete information, and those decisions won’t always turn out well. Pay attention to what happens as you execute and be willing to recalibrate based on results.
When it comes to Product Strategy, it's more important to do the right thing than to be right. Set your ego aside and admit when you're wrong. Don't go down with a sinking ship; instead, accept new information and modify your approach as needed. Pay attention to signs that stakeholders are losing confidence in the strategy and get curious. Find out why and decide how or if you need to pivot. Avoid the temptation to stick it out because of the sunk cost.
Make sure you’re on the right track or find out if you need to pivot by by regularly asking questions like:
Have your customers' needs, behaviors, or priorities changed? Evaluating customer feedback and market research can help you identify shifts in customer preferences and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Have new competitors entered your market and/or changed customer expectations? Stay vigilant to new market entrants and the tactics they employ, as they may disrupt customer expectations and force you to refine your Product Strategy.
Have you encountered new or unexpected challenges on your journey? Adapt to unforeseen obstacles by revising your Product Strategy and making necessary course corrections.
Did you uncover new insights that you think are more important than what you were working with originally? Embrace new information and adjust your strategy to capitalize on these findings.
Are your measurements lacking confidence or actionability? If your data isn't providing actionable insights, reevaluate your metrics and data collection methods to ensure they align with your strategic objectives.
Are you simply not reaching any measure of success? Do you see signs of failure? Recognize when your Product Strategy is not working, and be prepared to make significant changes to get back on track.
If you find you do need to pivot, there are some steps you can take.
Pro Tips: Pivoting Your Product Strategy
You know what they say about the best laid plans! Here are some actions to ensure you can successfully pivot your Product Strategy when necessary:
Be open to feedback: Actively seek input from stakeholders, customers, and team members. Listen to their concerns and suggestions, and be willing to incorporate new ideas into your Product Strategy.
Stay agile: Embrace an agile mindset, which allows for quicker adjustments and pivots when needed. This approach enables you to respond effectively to changes in the market or customer needs.
Reevaluate your goals: When pivoting your Product Strategy, reassess your goals to ensure they align with your new direction. Make sure your revised strategy supports these goals.
Communicate changes clearly: When making changes to your Product Strategy, clearly communicate these adjustments to your team and stakeholders. Explain the reasons behind the pivot and how it aligns with your overall vision.
Monitor progress: After pivoting, closely monitor your progress towards your new objectives. Track KPIs and gather feedback to ensure the revised strategy is on track for success.
Mastering the art of understanding your customers, staying informed on market trends, engaging with stakeholders, and demonstrating adaptability in the face of change, will help you develop and communicate a winning Product Strategy.
Updated: June 26, 2023