Launching a new product without a strategy is a bit like taking a road trip without a map or GPS – you might end up somewhere cool, but it’s likely to be a bumpy and inefficient journey. A product strategy framework provides the roadmap to help ensure your launch is successful: targeted, well-timed, and profitable.
With proper planning, you can be confident that your product fits the market and that you have a solid launch and promotion process. So why is it that: 95% of new products fail? The 280 Group conducted an in-depth survey where they quizzed 890 Product Managers, and a few home truths appeared:
- Product managers are mostly seen as leaders. However, 57% of participants think their PM is ”still too tactical and not strategic enough.”
- Product Managers focus too much on development and QA, while other phases of the product lifecycle are ignored (56% of respondents).
- Almost 50% of survey participants stated that their product management teams fail to have a consistent or well-prepared process.
From this information, we can see some themes — and a lack of strategy is a big one. But what does product strategy mean, exactly? And where does it fit into the overall process? Allow us to explain.
What is product strategy?
Product strategy is the long-term vision of how a product or service fits into the market. It sets out what you want to achieve and provides direction for getting there. The goal is not only to create something profitable in the short term but also to build an enduring brand presence and customer loyalty.
Think of it as the bridge between conceptualization (i.e., I have a great idea!) and development (i.e., let’s start building!).
To use a real-world example, imagine that you and your friends decide you all want to plan a party for someone. You don’t just start calling up random caterers. First, you need to consider whether it will be a surprise and acquire information about their (and their guests) availability, possible venues, themes, activities, and so on. In other words, you think about it strategically before you get down to planning and development.
Shifting back to the business world: a product strategy is essentially a document that justifies the existence of this product. It should answer these key questions:
- Who is our audience?
- How will this product solve their ‘problem’?
- How will this product benefit the business?
These questions will shape the overall arc of your strategy.
What’s the difference between a product strategy and a product roadmap?
While product strategy and roadmap are both key elements of product management, they’re not the same.
Product strategy is a long-term view of how your product will fit into the market — it focuses on the ‘why?’. For example, why does this product belong in this market, and why should customers choose it over another?
On the other hand, a product roadmap is an actionable plan outlining what needs to be done and when. It focuses on the ‘what’ and not necessarily the ‘why.’ For example, what features do you need to build, who’s responsible for building them, and when should they launch?
The key difference between the two is that strategy is a longer-term vision (think years), while a roadmap outlines short and medium-term goals over several weeks or months.
Why use a product strategy framework?
An effective product strategy framework helps to bring clarity, focus, and direction to all processes involved in developing a new product. It ensures that everyone — from product managers to developers — is pulling in the same direction, working towards the same goal. They should also help you identify and solve potential problems early and provide a process to help structure and guide the entire product strategy creation process.
Having a product strategy in place allows you to:
- Define the scope and goals of the product, making it easier to plan and develop.
- Ensure all stakeholders work towards the same goal, reducing ambiguity and minimizing distractions caused by conflicting opinions.
- Identify potential problems early in the process and solve them quickly before becoming more significant.
- Consider market drivers that will shape your progress.
- Set out your USP and competitive advantage, which provides clarity of vision.
- Monitor progress and make informed adjustments as you go.
10 Steps to creating a winning product strategy framework
Creating a winning product strategy framework doesn’t have to be complicated! Follow these ten steps, and you’ll be well on your way to giving your product the best possible shot at success.
1. Understand the market
Take time to research the target market. Who are they, and what do they like/need? What are their problems, and how can you solve that? What’s their buying behavior? The more you learn about your market, the more tailored your strategy will be. Send out surveys, dig into your Analytics — even talk to strangers on the street. Do what you can to understand your prospective users, then put that into a user persona.
For Porsche, the target market might look like this:
Interests: Luxury cars, driving, sports
Demographic: Upper-middle class, wealthy individuals and car enthusiasts
Psychographics: Ambitious, image-conscious, motorsport fanatics
Goals/Needs: Want to be associated with a quality, reliable, and luxurious brand
Objective: To acquire the most prestigious sports car in the market
2. Research competitors
Take an inventory of your competition. What’s their product offering? What gaps exist in the market that you could fill? Knowing how they position themselves in the market gives you a clearer picture of how to position your product.
For Apple, the competitors might be the following:
3. Create a mission statement
Think of your product strategy as a journey to a destination. What is that destination? What’s your ultimate goal? The answer should set you up for creating a mission/vision statement.
Try listening to others discuss their mission, and take advice from thought leaders like Simon Sinek if you need help to define your ‘why.’
Here’s AirBnB’s mission statement as an example:
“to help create a world where you can belong anywhere and where people can live in a place, instead of just traveling to it.”
As you can see, it both encapsulates their brand, gives us a ‘why,’ and sets them apart from more traditional hotel options. Perfect!
4. Think about your context
Your product needs to suit your users’ lives. If you don’t know how your product fits in, neither will they — nor will they buy it.
Think about how they’ll use your product and what you can do to make it easier for them to integrate it. For example, if you’re selling a streaming app, you must consider how your customers download it and on what devices. You also need to consider the different features and how they work together to make life easier for your customer.
For Netflix, their context might include the following considerations:
- Device compatibility: can Netflix be accessed on phones, laptops, and tablets?
- 3G/4G connectivity: Can Netflix be used in areas with limited or no internet connection?
- Content Library: How often is content updated, and what genres are available for customers?
Learn from your competitors’ strategy
So you’ve taken a look at the competition to help you see if there’s a gap. Now it’s time to dig deeper.
Study what they’re doing — like when and how they launch new features. How do they market themselves? What pricing model do they use? Are there any particular strategies that have been successful for them which you could emulate?
You don’t need to begin from scratch (unless you’re doing something completely different). Look at the giants in your field and use them as business role models. Just make sure you learn from their mistakes, too.
As part of this, consider how the market might change. Creating a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) chart at this stage can be helpful.
Looking for a free SWOT analysis template? We have one.
For Pizza Hut, a SWOT chart might include the following:
Strengths: A large and loyal customer base, an established brand with a global presence
Weaknesses: Slow to adapt to changing market trends
Opportunities: Online delivery, plant-based options, gourmet flavors
Threats: Increasing competition in the pizza delivery market
6. Develop some KPIs
You need to measure things to track progress. How do you know when you’re successful if you don’t?
Create some key performance indicators (KPIs) that you can use to track the success of your product. Popular metrics include the number of sign-ups, downloads, revenue figures, customer engagement, user retention, etc. Depending on your product, you can also track things like customer sentiment or feedback.
Take the time to think about this early on – when it comes to success and failure, you can’t always rely on gut feeling. Implementing KPIs from the start makes sure that you have a consistent way of measuring your progress.
As part of this, you’ll also need a plan for collecting measurements. Will you use project management software? Will you make someone responsible for running surveys and collating the data? What about your website stats — do you have a Google Analytics pro on-hand to help you untangle things like conversions and bounce rates?
For ASOS, KPIs might include the following:
- Number of daily visits
- Number of orders placed
- Amount spent by customers
- Average delivery time
- Number of returns in a month
7. Create your product roadmap
You’ve figured out your ‘why’ — now it’s time to work on the ‘how.’
Your roadmap will be the document that outlines everything you need to do to get your product from concept to customer.
It should include a timeline with key milestones, required resources, and subdivided tasks. This is also where you’ll define each stage of development and consider any risks that may arise along the way. It should also include a list of relevant stakeholders, influencers, decision-makers, gatekeepers, and financial people.
Be realistic about the timeline — give yourself enough time to test and validate ideas, plan for launch, and get customer feedback. Also, remember that this is a living document; keep updating it as you progress through the development cycle.
8. Share your strategy
Once your product strategy document is ready, it’s time to share it and ensure you’ve got everyone on board.
You should begin with your ‘why’ (as outlined in your mission statement), then explain the benefits of following your product strategy framework and how it will help the team focus their efforts and stay on track. You could even share some successful case studies if you have them.
Top tip: before diving in with stakeholder meetings, have an informal chat with your manager and use them as a sounding board. If they like the sound of your plan, you’re in a good spot. If not, you’ll need to revise your previous steps. You can also ask for tips on how to pitch your plan more effectively.
9. Get it going
Now that you’ve got the green light, it’s time to start putting your strategy into action! Make sure everyone knows their tasks and has the necessary resources to achieve them. Keep regular check-ins with the team so everyone remains on track.
Remember, your product strategy framework is flexible — so don’t be afraid to pivot if something isn’t working as well as you’d hoped. This could mean testing new ideas, gathering more customer feedback, or even looking into other markets.
During this stage, you’ll also need to familiarize yourself with a range of product development techniques to create cheap, low-fidelity versions of your product, which you’ll use to gather data and test hypotheses with minimum investment. Otherwise, you could waste time and money creating a finished version only to discover major flaws.
Each of these helps you dip your toe in the water before diving in:
- Wireframes: These help you map out the user journey and plan the flow of your product (give our free wireframing tool a try).
- User testing: Testing is an integral part of product development, as it helps you understand how customers interact with your product and ensure that it’s easy and intuitive to use.
- Prototyping: This is a great way to test ideas quickly, get user feedback, and iterate accordingly.
- MVPs: A minimum viable product (MVP) helps you test your product’s core features without investing too much time and money.
Finally, when you’re ready to take things to market, it’s time to get a full-scale production plan in place, which includes the timeline, resources, tasks, and costs involved in getting your product to market and into the hands of customers!
10. Monitor progress
You need to keep an eye on things by monitoring and analyzing data to help you find out what’s working, what isn’t, and whether you need to make any changes.
Make sure everyone’s on the same page by holding regular meetings with your team so they all understand their responsibilities. And don’t forget to keep checking in with stakeholders, too — they’ll want to know how things are going, even if you don’t always have good news to share.
And finally, remember to celebrate your successes along the way to keep morale up and remind everyone why they’re working so hard.
Product strategy framework best practices
Now that you understand the basics of a product strategy framework let’s look at some best practices to help you get the most out of them.
1. Start with research: It’s crucial to gain a deep understanding of your customer base and what they need from your product before you start building anything. That way, you’ll know the features to focus on and where to direct your energy.
2. Focus on customer needs: While it’s fun to explore the most far-reaching possibilities of your product, ensure you’re always prioritizing the customer’s needs first. What will they find useful? What problems are you helping them solve?
3. Test, test, and test again: Be bold, try out new ideas, and then measure their success or failure using analytics, reports, and user feedback. That way, you can quickly identify any issues and take advantage of new market opportunities.
4 . Be agile: A product strategy framework should be flexible and agile, so treat it as such. It’s better to make changes quickly than waste time and energy on something that isn’t right.
5. Get buy-in from stakeholders: Make sure you communicate your plans with key stakeholders and get their approval before moving forward — otherwise, you may face an uphill battle.
6. Use the tools available: Many product management tools can help streamline your product strategy framework. Make sure you use the best ones for the job.
Using these best practices, you can create a successful product strategy framework and bring your vision to life.