Taking your Product Vision from Planning to Execution
Why Most Companies Fail and How to Avoid It
Growing a small business into a big company is no small feat. Studies show that just one-tenth of one percent of companies ever reach $250 million in annual revenue, and just 0.036 percent will reach $1 billion in annual sales.
But one thing these success stories all have in common: the discipline, commitment, and organization to bring the right new products and services to market with consistency and excellence.
Successfully launching new products and selling them to current customers (which is easier because you know them, and they know your business) – and prospects in new markets and segments – is a classic revenue growth strategy. It’s typically a 7-step process that includes defining your ideal customer, researching your competitors, defining your pricing structure, developing a value proposition and product messaging, setting sales targets and goals, monitoring performance, and refining.
But there are many potential product development planning and execution pitfalls along the way. Let’s explore the most common ones, as well as proven best practices you can implement to maximize your chances of new product execution success.
Seven Steps to Product Management Success
Adopting a proven, best practice-based product management process – one that spans every stage of the process will set your company up for success. For example, Archetype’s Product Management Framework identifies seven key steps to enable the identification, development, launch, and service of a product or solution:
- Strategize: The strategize phase is an opportunity to develop an understanding of the customer’s need and a product or solution to solve that need. The output or deliverable of this phase is a pitch memo that includes sections that explain the industry problem and market opportunity, a solution to the problem, and the revenues and investments. Generally, a pitch memo is used in investor conversations and not as a product development deliverable. However, a pitch memo requires detail and vision when asking for investments. Ideally, this is the level of thoroughness needed when planning a new product.
- Validate: The validate phase is utilized to confirm and build on the understanding of the customer’s needs and wants to create a product deck to get to a go/no go decision on pursuing the product build. The output for the validation phase would be a product strategy document. The product strategy deck would include sections explaining user personas, a minimally viable product (MVP) feature list, a product roadmap, and pricing.
- Plan: The planning phase enables the development of a product delivery plan that demonstrates how and when the MVP version of the product will be launched, including go-to-market (GTM) activities. The output for the planning phase would be a product delivery plan. The product delivery plan would include sections that enable the start of product development, including various project tasks/key milestones, UX, business requirements (functional and non-functional), and KPI.
- Develop: The development phase is utilized to bring the product features to life. It includes the development of GTM collateral. The output for the development phase would be the development of an MVP along with processes and collateral to enable the launch (phase) of the product.
- Launch: The launch phase is where the GTM plan is executed, and the product is brought to market and measured against the established performance KPIs. The output for the launch phase would be the execution of the GTM plan, which would include the communications plan, sales training, and customer onboarding & training.
- Service: The service phase is utilized to monitor the post-launch period and address any issues that arise when customers use the product, including onboarding, training, etc. The output for the service phase would be to ensure adherence to technology service level agreements (SLAs) and acceptable levels of service and support.
- Optimize: The optimization phase gathers learnings from previous phases and collects customer feedback/voice of the customer (VOC) to enable product strategy and roadmap refinement. The output for the optimized stage would be an updated product strategy deck. The product strategy deck would include sections that lay out a refined product roadmap, updated product strategy, and any updates to the pricing strategy.
Developing a Go-To-Market Strategy
Now that you’ve identified the challenges and the best practices of product execution, you have a solid foundation to build your GTM strategy. A comprehensive GTM strategy should:
- Be inclusive of all stakeholders. A go-to-market approach should identify marketing, sales, and distribution channels to be leveraged for a successful launch.
- Reflect a solid understanding of the target market. New products may have broader messaging since you don’t have the data to know how buyers will respond. Your product designed for X may instead attract Y. Your go-to-market strategy will tighten up as you get data from the market.
- Clearly define your target markets. Work to get to well-defined, segmented target audiences that you can activate.
- Include messaging to ensure everyone tells the same story. Messaging should include a solid product description grounded in market research that resonates with the target audience, persuasive benefits, and a simple, clear explanation of how it solves a customer problem. It should also describe target buyer personas (including their relevant needs and challenges) and how to differentiate the product you’re your competitors.
- Provide a clear value proposition and pricing for the product or solution. The value proposition should be simple and easily understood. Pricing should reflect the customer’s willingness to pay and effectively capture value.
- Include promotional plans. Promotions should address the customer’s resistance to a purchase decision while keeping margins in mind.
- Specify measurements of success. Well-defined success metrics enable effective performance tracking and help your product and marketing teams make necessary adjustments to promotions, pricing, and other variables to drive better outcomes.
Common Root Causes of Product Launch Failures
We’ve covered the best practices for product management, but it’s also important to know the common root causes of product GTM failures and how to address them.
Lack of planning
In the early stages of a product launch, you’ll want to invest in comprehensive planning that encompasses your strategy, budget, competitive and market research, user personas, stakeholder and approval team, user journey roadmaps, and product roadmaps. This effort will pay dividends throughout the product development process, as it increases organizational agility and builds your product team’s confidence in their ability to bring a viable product to market.
To jumpstart the planning process with your product team, engage them with thought-starter questions such as:
- Have you identified the largest risks to product success? How are you mitigating those risks?
- How will you measure the success or failure of the product launch?
- Have you validated your product positioning and strategy? Are you able to launch an MVP version to test in the market?
- Have you identified all the stakeholders and had a kickoff to ensure awareness and commitment?
- Do you have the resources you need to execute the plan? What is the plan to hire any resources you need? How soon can you hire them, and how does that affect your plan?
- Is your product roadmap and timing realistic or aggressive? If it is aggressive, have you anticipated roadblocks, and do you have a plan to address?
- Do you have a projected P&L model built, and what assumptions are you making? How are you validating your assumptions? How are you going to manage costs?
When you don’t carefully plan product launches end to end, it can result in sub-optimal customer responses. A carefully planned strategy avoids issues like poor customer support experiences, misaligned sales distribution strategies, and no ramp-up plan. These kinds of problems lead to slow or non-existent sales, missed revenue targets, and lots of time, effort, and money down the drain.
Failure to embrace cross-functional collaboration
The execution phase doesn’t end with simply launching a product to market. You also need to handle sales paperwork, provide warranties and customer service, and maintain and/or repair the product, if needed. How effectively you do these things can largely determine the customer experience and overall satisfaction.
But too often, companies fail to carefully define and plan the supporting processes and all policies and procedures required to successfully service customers. For example, is your legal department ready to contract customers? Is the billing department prepared to invoice customers? Are your customer service agents ready to respond to customers’ emails and calls and successfully resolve issues? Is your sales force well-trained to discuss the product’s value proposition and how it will solve your customer’s problem?
Resistance to change
Agility in thought and action is critical to ensuring a successful product launch. The speed, volume, and complexity of the data that comes in during execution can be overwhelming. Organizationally, are you ready to respond to this new information? Have you spent the time to scenario plan to react to new information? Are you prepared to adapt your policies and procedures in response to new information?
For example, what will you do if the market and sales data tell you that your pricing is not well aligned with the willingness of customers to pay? Do you respond by cutting prices, offering limited-time promotions, or doing nothing? Though you may believe your product is worth the listed price, you must be willing to change that thinking.
Identifying a market fit can make all the difference in whether your new product sinks or swims. Market research and gaining valuable feedback early on from stakeholders in all departments, including marketing, sales, legal, and tech development, can help identify risks before it’s too late. Of the many factors that go into a successful product launch, learning to adapt and providing flexibility gives our Product Development team the ability to take big risks while planning for all scenarios. Does your company have an idea ready to launch? Contact us today to learn more about our product development consulting services.