Use Six Spicey Keys to Ensure Product and Company Success

Having trained thousands of product managers, product marketing managers and CXOs at various hardware, software, SaaS, insurance, financial services, telecommunications, retail and service companies worldwide–as well as managing hundreds of products and services through their product lifecycles–I’ve identified six key areas that insure product and company success.

They are the SPICES of product and company success:

  • Strategy
  • Process
  • Information
  • Customers
  • Employees
  • Systems

The world, according to Battelle, spent about $1.6 Trillion on research and development in 2014. Assuming much of that is focused on developing new products, what if the failure rate could be reduced?

What would its impact be?

While the urban myth says 80-90% of new products fail, George Castellion and Stephen Markham says it’s more like 35-45%.  That would translate into a waste of about a half a trillion to three quarters of a trillion dollars this year from product failures.

If these six keys were implemented effectively, they would significantly increase the chances of success thus making you and your company more successful!

For a product and/or a company to be successful, they need these six SPICES:


Do you have a strategy in place that gives your product/company an “unfair competitive advantage” as we call it here in Silicon Valley?

Especially in the areas of: Innovation, market/competitive research, target personas, value proposition, positioning, target markets, product roadmap and implementation.  Having any one of these differentiators will make life difficult for your competition. The more differentiators you have, the better your chances of winning. Over time, the elements of this strategy become your “brand”–the “promise” of your product and/or company that sets you apart from your competition.

Apple does this extremely well and it is a major part of their spicy key to success.


Do you have a repeatable, mature and optimized product lifecycle process?  Are you using a framework that  increases your chances of success?

Without a process that includes who makes what decisions, who needs to be informed/consulted, who is driving the product–your company will develop a culture of blame for its product failures.

Strong, clear processes will build a “can-do” culture–a culture of success.


Do your people have the right information available at the right time? Or are they flying in the dark?

Without the right information, you may have already gone out of business but just don’t know it yet.

Just look at my failed mobile advertising business. RCN News credits me with having produced the first mobile U.S. advertisement on a cell phone in 2003–something I am very proud of.  But that and 25 cents won’t let me buy a cup of coffee.  I created the app to carry the ad for the Nokia phone–a product that had the largest market share in the world so I was told by Nokia.  I later learned that Nokia had dominant market shares in Europe and Asia–but not North America.  I had no ad reach for the US market. And, I didn’t have an advertising sales channel for other, lucrative global markets where Noika was dominate.  I had a true distribution channel disconnect because I was given accurate, yet incomplete data which I didn’t notice.  If I had the right information at the right time I might have succeeded instead of failing.

Are your CXOs doing everything they can to make sure you have the right information to succeed?  Do you have a product management portal a dashboard you can turn to for data that you need in your job as a product manager and/or product marketing manager?


Does your Product/Company do what your customers “do”? (See Blog entitled “Do: It is more than Demographics. Its about Behavior… What do people do?”

If your product and your company truly help people do what they want and need to do, then you will be wildly successful.  In turn, generating your value proposition and positioning statements to then drive your messaging, media and marketing efforts becomes effective–and easy. Microsoft comes to mind.  I am sure (tongue firmly planted in cheek) everyone wants to buy a Surface tablet because they have seen their commercial of dancing tablets, right? This from a Microsoft that has done more than any other company to make people feel stupid trying to use their “complex” operating systems.  Remember having to click on “start” to stop the computer? Crazy! Wrong procedures/behaviors like this drive customers away over time!


Does your organization have the right people with the core competencies necessary to build, market, sell, and support insanely great products?

If not, you probably have gaping holes in your company’s competency maps and you will probably fail.  Kodak comes to mind with their failure to transition from chemical to digital technology for the capture, storage and presentation of images. In less than 10 years, the former number one player in the photography market is now no longer relevant.

Systems and Tools:

Do you have the tools and systems in place to support the product lifecycle that improve productivity?

Most product managers and product marketing managers are using tools designed for other purposes–not for them.  By the way, where are the targeted tools for product managers and product marketing managers that enables them to do what they do?  See our “What do You Think: Product Management and Product Marketing Challenges?”

Want to succeed in the world where the customer journey and the digital transformation is changing everything?

Then you have to get your spicy SPICES together: Strategy, Process, Information, Customers, Employees and Systems. It may not be easy, but it is a true recipe for success!

PS.  Thanks to Mary Gospe of Kickstart Alliance for her SPICY mnemonic.

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About David Fradin

David Fradin has trained thousands of managers throughout the world. He infuses his workshops with insights and experiences gained as a expert product leader, product manager and product marketing manager at companies like Apple and HP. He was classically trained as an HP Product Manager and was then recruited by Apple to bring the first hard disk drive on a PC to market. As a result of his leadership and management skills, Apple promoted him first to Apple /// Group Product Manager and later Business Unit Manager at the same organizational level at that time as Steve Jobs. His forthcoming book “Building Insanely Great Products” and these workshops covers the founding values, vision, product life cycle and management employed by Apple at its founding and which it returned to in 1997 when Steve Jobs returned to Apple. What students will learn in these workshops is exactly what has made Apple the most valuable company in the world.

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