Living product strategy

Living product strategy

A product strategy is fundamental to the success of any product or service. It should act as a high-level guide to describe goals, audiences, roadmaps, and a guide to return on investment. The best bit about a product strategy is the clarity it provides for all levels of a business, from the board level all the way down the chain of command.

It should also help improve tactical decisions along the way, as long as your roadmap has been planned and created correctly. The market, audiences, and competitors will alter along the journey, so your roadmap is crucial.

The changing nature of the world means your product strategy should be living. It should flex and bend according to shifts and trends, and you should be ready to iterate and make changes along the way. We’re going to walk you through why that is and how you should do so.

The Basics

Every business should have a product strategy; that much we know is non-negotiable. Unfortunately, what some companies tend not to do is revisit their product strategy and iterate. But before we can go into the tweaking and alterations to the product strategy, there are several basics that must be nailed down.

These are:

  • Working out what the business needs to achieve
  • Whom the business wants to talk to
  • Creating something that sparks interest and creativity
  • Understanding the return on investment
  • Building a roadmap to get you there

Let’s look at them in more detail.

What the business needs to achieve

The first question founders or product owners need to ask themselves is this: what do I, or the business, need to achieve with the launch of this product. It doesn’t necessarily matter what the goal is, but you need to set that goal before you can do anything else.

Without working out what the business needs to achieve, the product strategy will be aimless and rudderless. Your underpinning goal should act in the same way as your value proposition: a North star to guide you.

Everything should come back to what the business needs to achieve, tweaking the strategy as you go so you can still reach that goal.

In times of uncertainty, however, the business goal may change. For example, your product may end up being used in a way that it wasn’t designed for, so what you want to achieve may change.

Who you want to talk to

The next step in your strategy is determining whom you want to talk to. By this, we mean the audience of your product or service. Getting this part right is critical to the success of your product or service, as there’s no sense in marketing to an audience that doesn’t understand or want your product. 

This may sound like we’re dumbing this down, but we’ve seen it before: brands or businesses speeding through the strategy process without researching or understanding their audience. This can be a fatal mistake.

Create something that sparks

To get the most out of your product, it needs to be something that sparks engagement. It also needs to be something with usability, purpose, and relevance. If you can pin down these four factors, you’ll be on your way to delivering something that sparks.

This is a crucial part of your product strategy as relevance and purpose bring your product to life.

No one likes an irrelevant product, at least not in the long term, so creating something that has genuine usability and purpose is critical

Understand the return on investment

Before you even think about launching your product, you must understand the return on investment. There’s no point in releasing a product that won’t at least break even on your initial investment, so it’s critical that you work out the ROI and understand it.

This means understanding how it’s going to deliver return. For example, what revenue streams are available, how will you promote your product, what will the ad spend be, and at what point will your investment be repaid?

Build a roadmap

The roadmap for your product strategy should be a high-level overview that maps out the vision and direction of your product over its lifecycle. It should be a strategic working document that sets out the why and what behind your product, as well as the overall plan behind executing the strategy.

The roadmap should always come back to the product strategy and tie in with your overall business strategy.

By getting the roadmap right and tying it back into the strategy, you set yourself up for success by getting buy-in across the team and executive levels.

The product roadmap neatly brings everything together and distils the plan into what’s most important, so you and your team can focus on what’s important and what gets the job done. What’s crucial is that the roadmap is revisited and used as the name suggests: a map.

Coming Back to the Beginning

Once you’ve set out what you need to achieve, whom you want to talk to, understood the ROI, built your roadmap, and created something with relevance and purpose, it’s time to come back to the beginning.

Measurement and testing

The only way you’ll know if your product strategy is working or not is if it becomes a living product strategy. This means measuring and testing throughout the course of your product’s lifecycle. Data is king when it comes to iteration.

Your data sets will tell a story: who’s buying, where they’re buying, and when. In addition, the data will paint a picture of your trajectory, so it’s critical that you constantly test and iterate to stay ahead of the curve.

The customer is always right

The customer is always right. An old saying, yes, but in this case, it’s true. User testing and listening to customers is one of the best ways to extend the life cycle of a product. Only by fully understanding how your audience uses your product or service can you iterate fully and improve what you already have.

It may turn out that your product is being used in a totally different way than how you initially thought it would. This can be a natural occurrence, so there’s no need to panic if this is the case. Trust your audience and listen to them, as they’ll point you in the direction of success.

Your work is never done

One of the biggest problems with product strategies is that they’re not living product strategies, which is to say that they’re not revisited enough. Other than the roadmap, it’s quite often seen as a one-stop-shop. What brands forget to do is come back to the strategy.

This is key because, at the moment, the world is rapidly changing and not always for the better. So businesses need to adapt and take control of their products. With pandemics, war, and recessions all aplenty, brands should be adapting their product strategy for success – or be left behind.

Final Thoughts

The idea behind a living product strategy is that, in theory, it should never be finished; there should be a rhythm that sits within the product strategy. Some say that you should revisit it every three months, but that could be too soon, so, at the very least, it should be revisited no later than every six months.

It’s an entire process of validation to make sure that what you’ve created is actually working and true to the strategy. But unfortunately, it still feels like brands and businesses “birth” products and services and then don’t connect them back to the strategic vision for the product. Or they don’t connect it back to the business vision and objectives.

Having said that, it’s very difficult at the moment to do that with pandemics, recessions, impending war, and a cost of living crisis on our doorstep. So while it may be hard to plan ahead, there are more reasons than ever for brands to go back to their strategy and deliver the best possible experience for their audience.