Businesses get excited about creating their own product because of the potential increase in revenue and market growth it can bring. These same businesses often underestimate the need to build a product driven organization to support the product lifecycle and customer experience. This is not a decision that should be taken lightly.
Product transformation requires a fundamental shift in how you operate your business.
You will need to unify your people, processes, and technology around a clear go-to-market strategy to build and sustain a product that satisfies your customers. In addition, it’s important to implement a clear feedback process to understand how your customers engage with your product and what their expectations are as the product matures.
Based on experiences with our clients, we developed seven key considerations for transforming into a product driven organization.
1. Define Your Market & Target Audience
Research the market and learn about similar products already out there. Validate that there is a need or desire for your product. Next, think about what your product’s unique offerings are and how you can differentiate yourself from competitors. You can start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Why do customers like similar products that are already available?
- What customer needs are not being met?
- Is there an opportunity to make a popular feature better or automated?
In addition to the market, research your target audience. Learning about and defining your customers’ needs, motivations, and pain points will help inform your product development and marketing strategies. As more details are uncovered about what your customers value, you can develop unique customer personas to determine how to best engage with them. For example, if you discover that your audience spends more time on Facebook than Instagram, that will inform how and where you use ads on social media.
2. Define Your Product Driven Business Strategy
One of your first steps should be defining the organization’s product business strategy. It’s important to identify what and why you want to transform. This will help you define what success looks like, which in turn helps guide you in building your organization’s strategic roadmap.
- Is the driving force to remain competitive due to disruptions in your industry?
- Is there a desire to innovate and create a cutting-edge product?
- Does your organization want to change its value proposition to customers?
A well-defined strategic roadmap is like a compass for the business. It serves as a guide, helping employees navigate their roles so that their actions align with the organization’s path to success. To create a strategic roadmap, start by creating a product vision. This will help shape your organization’s high-level product goals. The goals should focus on the desired outcomes of the product transformation and help determine what key milestones are needed to achieve them.
3. Build a Product Management Organization
In transforming to a product-based business model, organizational change is inevitable and must be addressed. Once the product-driven business strategy is defined, teams need to be equipped with a solid support structure. You may need to make some changes to the existing organizational structure and invest in new skill sets and roles, so they can execute successfully. However, managing this type of change is more than just publishing a new organizational chart. Don’t forget to assess if the right tools and processes are in place to support these new teams and roles.
|TIP: As organizational changes are being made, perform an operating model assessment to ensure day-to-day operations link back to your newly defined product driven strategy. As part of this effort, it may also make sense to conduct an application rationalization to streamline your application portfolio.
A key area that will need to be built up is the product management organization. From the start, set the tone for how important the development and management of the product is for the organization to grow and scale. Other key functions, such as marketing, training, and support, should be engaged with the product team as well. Not only does this help keep them informed, but it also gives these teams opportunities to bring up issues and identify impacts that product decisions could have on the rest of the organization.
4. Capture the Voice of Your Customer
Prior to launch, strive to capture the voice of your customers early on by getting as much feedback as possible. This ensures the product works as intended before releasing it to the masses. By iteratively testing the product, issues and flaws can be identified and corrected before it’s launched. In addition, continually gathering feedback from customers can help teams maintain focus on which product features are most important.
|TIP: If you conduct thorough research on who your target audience is, identifying the right customers to support testing efforts will be much easier.
There are several different ways you can test your product. You can test the performance of different designs on web pages, emails, and other marketing materials by utilizing A/B testing. Another option is to create a free trial or demo of your product. If customers are willing to purchase it after the trial or demo ends, this validates that your product is delivering the expected value. Many software organizations first create what’s called a minimal viable product (MVP), which contains just enough features to satisfy early adopters. These users can test the product and provide feedback to help inform what needs to be prioritized before the official launch.
5. Tell Your Product Driven Story
As the product is developed and customer feedback is incorporated, you should start to form the product’s story. We as humans tend to engage more emotionally with stories, which you can use to your advantage to build trust with your customers and understanding with your employees. Being able to clearly articulate your product story is important for both aligning internal teams and communicating to your customers.
- What does your product do and what is the need it solves for?
- How does the product fit into your organization’s existing landscape?
- Why should customers care about it?
This is also where the initial market research can come in handy. Understanding how your product is unique and where it fits in your customers’ lives can help make the story more compelling. Also, keep in mind that your story is more than what you explicitly state about the product. The tone and the platforms used to connect with your target audience also shape the product’s story. It’s important to be consistent and authentic to reinforce why your product is valuable and how it benefits your customers.
6. Grow A Community of Product Champions
Once the product story is established, start building a community that can go out and share it with the world. Identifying change champions or brand ambassadors within your organization is a great strategy to build a community from within. Once educated on the product, these employees can help answer customer questions, provide training and be an advocate for the customer’s voice. This can help align internal teams to the product vision while simultaneously increasing customer engagement and adoption.
|TIP: The more you involve stakeholders across your organization, the more invested they will be in supporting the business’ product-driven strategy.
A common theme throughout this article has been to involve customers from day one. It’s also important to build a community of customers that understand the benefits of the product and are willing to share their success stories. Testimonials are a powerful asset because future customers are far more likely to listen to what an existing customer has to say about your product as compared to a sales team member. Another way to deepen a sense of community around your product is to create channels for your organization to interact directly with customers. From social media to webinars, there are many ways to support and engage with customers, which in turn drives awareness and interest in your product.
7. Embrace Flexibility & Change
Industries, technology and consumer trends all evolve over time, so organizations need to be nimble and adapt their products to keep up with change. Therefore, it is crucial for your organization to set expectations from the outset that there is no “stopping point”. Meaning, after a product is launched, the work does not stop. Product development is an ongoing, iterative process because products need to be maintained and improved to continue to deliver value to customers.
|TIP: Your product roadmap should be a living document that is regularly updated to ensure it aligns with current business objectives and addresses customers’ changing priorities.
One way to effectively embrace change is to adopt an agile mindset, which can be a major shift for many organizations. Although the term agile is often associated with software, the concept can be applied to other types of product teams as well. Having an agile mindset is about enabling teams to collaborate and continuously improve so that they can deliver consistent value to customers. Change should be welcomed and harnessed to improve the customer experience, even if this means deviating from the plan. This mindset will help your teams effectively adapt and respond to change, rather than ignore it, to make a better product.
Transforming into a product driven organization is a significant undertaking and requires a strategic, customer-driven approach to be successful. From inception to launch, there are many factors to consider in building and growing a product. We hope these insights are helpful to you in your product transformation journey.