At Tolpagorni, we’ve made it our business to develop product strategies, advising companies on how best to navigate the road to success. Over the years we’ve created and driven strategies throughout a number of diverse industries – and in that time, we’ve seen it all. We’ve seen the roadmap with unlimited resources. The suicidal sales-driven strategy. The dream PowerPoint strategy. The passive run-me-over strategy. And many, many more.
With every new strategy we see however, the more we ask ourselves the same questions. Why is it so hard to create a product strategy? On what criteria do we judge a product strategy? And, most importantly, how do we effectively execute a product strategy? Now, after our years of experience devising hundreds of strategies for hundreds of businesses, we’ve set about answering those questions, with our very own six-point plan for strategy success.
One of the main reasons for the failure of a strategy lies with inconsistent content. A lack of consistency leads to a lack of integration between the various parts of a strategy, making it impossible to execute. If a pricing strategy and target markets don’t follow the same flow of logic, for example, the strategy will fail as a result. Inconsistency is especially common in the case of product strategies that are overly extensive, or where a template has been used during the development process.
At its essence, a strategy is designed to be used. It isn’t a pretty picture or a presentation piece – it is a practical tool developed for the purpose of implementation. For this reason, when creating a strategy, it is crucial to first ask, ‘How will this be used?’, and ‘How will this guide our decision-making process?’ Bear in mind when looking to answer these vital questions that the most important user is often the product manager – which means designing the strategy for them, rather than a product board or top management. Also, remember that if your strategy is a well-crafted one, it will be a well-supported and well-executed one too.
THE SECRET OF HIGH-TECH PRODUCT STRATEGIES
So far we’ve discussed the two simplest points of successful product strategy creation. The remaining four are where things become a little trickier – the four points that make up the essence of product strategy. Some models are defined by their context, some by corporate guidelines, and some vary in the support that they receive from management. At Tolpagorni, we pride ourselves on creating and executing a range of different strategies, all of which have the potential for success. And as we’ve learned, success lies not in finding an optimal market strategy, but in identifying one that can be effectively executed.
So how do we know whether or not a strategy has the ability to be executed? In order to answer this, we’ve dedicated our time to reading strategy books, developing strategies for the world’s top companies, collaborating with the finest consultants across the globe, and conducting research with leading universities. And in that time, we’ve identified the four key elements needed in order for a strategy to be successfully executed. Now we’ve gone one step further, by packaging our discovery into one singular business tool. We call it the Product SoundTrack®, and it’s as simple as it is impactful. A pattern for profitability that delivers sustainable results with favorable margins. And the four crucial elements? Edge, Vector, Core and Jam.
What is it that gives your product an advantage over the competition? How do you ensure that you’re always a step ahead? Having an edge in the marketplace is vital, which is why ‘Edge’ is a core element in our product strategy. You may know ‘Edge’ by different names such as USP (Unique Selling Point), differentiator, or value offering, but whatever you call it, it always needs to have the same two characteristics:
1) Continual evolution. Your ‘Edge’ must be constantly upgraded, updated and redeveloped in order to stay fresh and current. Bear in mind that your competitors will always seek to emulate you, and so in order to stay ahead of the pack, innovation and progress are of key importance.
2) Continual value. Your ‘Edge’ needs to offer significant value to your customer, and so in order to differentiate yourself from your competition, you need to always be reevaluating the level of value you offer. Pay special attention to the area of resonating focus, and keep your edge sharp.
Identifying your edge and exploring how you can work with it to your advantage is a crucial element of successful product strategy.
Effective product management is similar to predicting the future. In order to create a successful product, you need to be able to foresee which way the market will move. As NHL player Wayne Gretsky said, “I don’t skate to where the puck is, but where it is going to be.” In the same way, ‘Vector’ is the driving force that affects both your customers and the marketplace – the element that can move profitability forward or hold it back. In order to develop a sound product strategy, ‘Vector’ needs to be fully understood and accounted for first.
Inspired by the work of PRTM and Michael McGrath, who referred to it as ‘defining technology’, ‘Core’ is the singular component of a product that allows for the development of sustainable differentiation. Rather than being limited to a single technology, ‘Core’ is a continuous skillset or tool that is difficult for competitors to copy, and facilitates the process of constant product redevelopment. Sometimes it is an algorithm, sometimes a modular system, and sometimes a process or production. Whatever its form, however, ‘Core’ can never be customized and must continuously be invested in for the sake of business success. As such, it is the most critical element in any product strategy, and must never be ignored.
A product isn’t created in a vacuum. A product is created by a team – one dedicated to generating insights, and continually developing products and technology. Teamwork is about multiple people with multiple skillsets coming together in an environment of trust, respect, and interaction. And it’s creating this environment that’s key to the success of a product strategy – a space in which people can ‘Jam’, gel, and work together towards a common goal.
Ensure that an optimal mix of these four elements is present in your next product strategy, and you’ll have a blueprint for success that you’ll be able to execute with ease.