A primary goal of product marketing is to get the right product, to the right target at the right time and price, ensuring customer adoption and profitability.
Markets are harsh and relentless in their expectation and criticism. Markets are easy to praise and support when things go right, but fast in their criticism when things don’t.
Product marketing is a delicate balance of science and art. Get it right and things really happen fast. Get it wrong and… game over.
We’ve discovered foundational challenges that are often overlooked. Challenges that, if addressed, significantly increase success.
1. Be objective in everything. Great product and service ideas are abundant. Smart people always think and dream up new ways of solving problems. A key to success is vetting the idea with objective data through great research. Don’t get caught in emotion, accidentally thinking that if you think it’s great that the market will feel the same. Remove emotion, be objective and validate that the idea is something that the market wants.
2. Validate the market. Working with cross-functional teams, integrate customers into a process to learn about market requirement, feature/function prioritization and testing. Frame and tell the vision, story and message of the product and service idea to see if actual demand can be excited ahead of development.
3. Make a financial model. We’re surprised at how few ideas are financially modeled to determine if there is a path to profitability. A good financial model will bring to light hidden costs (and opportunity) and challenges to avoid. Don’t justify a product decision based on its ability to generate revenue. Instead evaluate profitability—determining if and when the product or service can become profitable and the size of profits. If there isn’t a path to profitability take a hard look as to why the company would invest.
4. Check your timing. This is a critical factor that few understand or investigate. Is a product or service right for this time? The landscape is littered with great product ideas that were introduced too soon (or too late) leading to costly misfire and reputational damage. Gauge market, problem and competitive solution maturity to understand if the timing is just right.
5. Assess the fit. Does the new product or service idea support the strategic direction of the business, or represent the newest distraction? Objectively assess the purpose of the product, how it aligns with business strategies and how it creates new value and advantage to the business. If it doesn’t fit, don’t do it.
6. Validate organizational capability. When new product or service ideas come up there is often optimism that the organization can actually develop, package, price and deliver. Sometimes, though, this isn’t the case. Before you embark on a new product or service idea double check to ensure that the organization has the experience, skill and bandwidth to actually make it happen.
7. Determine the customer experience. Today’s prospects and customers seek experiences. Have you determined what the customer experience vision is for the product or service? If not, you’re automatically going to be at a disadvantage when you launch. Design and deliver your product to meet the customer experience vision—from initial search through to post-sale customer support. It’s worth the effort.
8. Avoid scope creep. Every product or service development effort suffers from scope creep. From the very start, have a process to vet incremental feature/function or deliverable ideas before they become a part of the development schedule. Fight hard to stay to scope as incremental scope creep can lead to time delays and cost overruns that move the idea from profitability to loss.
9. Minimize personality influence. Within every organization there are powerful voices that can drive decision-making. When it comes to new product or service idea, listen to these voices while ensuring objective, outside market and customer data. Don’t allow the internal voices be “outsize” in comparison to those that will actually pay for the product or service.
10. Kill early and often. Every product and service development effort should be assessed at various stages or “gates” along the way from idea to delivery. At these moments it is important to assess the effort, cost, opportunity and any changes in market or the business. If there have been changes in any of these, a “keep or kill” decision process should be undertaken and competed. If the decision is to “kill,” do it quickly so as to contain the cost and damage to the business.
11. Poor value proposition. This is sometimes left to the end of the development and packaging process. This is a mistake. Every product or service idea must have a compelling value proposition, validated by market and customer research and guarded during the product management process.
Or, even if a compelling value proposition is initially identified in the market assessment exercise, sometimes the product or service value proposition ends up morphing into something else along the way. Avoid this. Should it happen, quickly assess the new value proposition and determine if it is something that the market is willing to pay for.
12. Bad competitive positioning. Every product or service has a competitor. Even if the competitor is considered the “status quo” (how things are done today). Identify unique, highly differentiated competitive positioning before you start the development process to ensure that the differentiation is actually developed and delivered. Leaving this to the end of the product management process increases cost, time and chances of failure.
13. Avoid complexity. Product and service ideas can sometimes become very complex and difficult to understand for prospects and customers. This is a death trap to be avoided. Strive for simplicity and clarity in the design, packaging, delivery, value proposition, positioning and messaging. Doing so will accelerate evaluation and adoption while also becoming an additional point of differentiation.
14. Have a roadmap. Avoid moving new product or service development without a clear, well understood and supported roadmap. A roadmap that outlines the various features, functions, deliverables and benefit along a timeline. Doing so allows everyone to cast the appropriate vision for the product or service, place new ideas for functionality or deliverable in the right time-based location and keep everyone aligned to the desired outcomes.
15. Don’t underfund the launch. Too often the lion’s share of investment goes to the development and packaging of the new product or service. With the launch and marketing as a necessary afterthought. Ensure that launch plans, activities, deliverables and outcomes are adequately funded to achieve the business and product or service revenue and profitability objectives. In today’s market, products or services rarely sell themselves on their merits alone. A successful launch is a key contributor to product success.
There is one more. Manage the product lifecycle. A product or service development and delivery is never a “one and done” effort. Every product and service must be continuously managed for customer experience, benefit, value and business contribution—profitability. This must be done for individual products…and across entire product or service portfolios.
To increase the probability of product and service success make sure you take the above into account in all planning, development, packaging, launch and ongoing product lifecycle management processes.
Try it. You’ll like the results.
The Afterburner Group has helping build better products and services for companies in the technology, energy, services, manufacturing and non-profit industries for over 25 years.
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