Many football fans outside of New England are not thrilled that the Patriots consistently deliver wins year after year. How do they do it, even with losing TB12? They have a strategy with a strong leader at the helm that lives and breathes his vision while wearing a cut-off hoodie. As companies look to address customer wants and consistently deliver value, they may want to take a page out of Bill’s book: have a game plan.

Product strategy is not just focused on the product team; they are part of the larger group involved in the long-term vision and how that vision will be realized. The big picture of the product is kept in mind as the strategy is built. Product strategy is also not just a roadmap. Strategy involves defining your targets, identifying measurables, and gaining a true market understanding. According to McKinsey, 50% of all product launches fail to hit business targets because there was no plan. FIFTY PERCENT. That win/loss record may get you to the playoffs but not necessarily the championship.

So how do we get that big win? Have a Game Plan!

G: Get Real

Find your WHY – Why should the product exist? Why should people care about it? You need to have a vision in order to drive a strategy. If you haven’t seen it, Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action will help you understand why starting with why is absolutely critical. We’re also willing to bet that a large percentage of your staff needs to understand the why to buy into a new product, changes, or decisions.

A: Assign the Who

Determine the target market. You want to identify and understand a smaller, relevant niche in order to dominate it. During Pats season in New England, you will see and hear fans everywhere you go. You’ll also see what the fan base “looks” like. The Pats have identified their target market as working class, Dunkin’ drinking, comfort-seeking, football fanatics. What does your customer persona look like? Knowing this information will help you determine how to communicate with your consumers.

  • Base your decision on RESEARCH
    • Gather data on current users; what are the common characteristics?
    • Customer need – How can your solution solve problems or add value for them?
    • Gather social media analytics; who is engaging with your brand?
    • Check the competition out
      • What is their target market? Are they looking at markets you haven’t yet? What’s their pitch look like?
  • Write down your target market statement, test it out on real people then build your Personas
    • Our target market is [users] aged [age range], who live in [place or type of place], and like to [activity].

M: Market Fit

How does your product fit in the marketplace? How will your users view it? Think of this portion as identifying what works best for publicity. Take the user’s perspective and focus on how to get and keep their attention. We need a billboard for our message.

  • Market positioning
    • What are competitors doing? What’s the cost of entry for them?
  • Collect market insights through testing and research and evaluate how you size up
    • What are the market size, growth rate, and current customer base?
    • Conduct interviews with potential customers
    • Define an MVP – what’s essential?
    • Create a prototype and conduct Beta testing – get feedback from a small group of users

E: Exclusivity

What makes your product unique? What will motivate customers to choose your product over another? Go back to the market research. Take a deep dive into competitive analysis. Interview possible users. The more you know about the “others” in the market, the better you can identify ways to surpass them.

For the Patriots, to prep for the upcoming game, teams break down film not only on themselves, but also on their opponents. They watch hours of tape to identify gaps in defense, figure out tells the quarterback may have, and track what plays they run most effectively. Knowing as much as you can about the competition gives you the opportunity to really stand out.

P: Pursue Excellence

Identify your ultimate business goals; such as delivering value, delivering what matters, and focusing on continuous improvement. Get those KPIs and metrics on the page. Whatever you chose to call them, you need to define quantifiable ways to measure success.

Some examples to think about:

  • Customer Retention
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • New Feature Adoption
  • Daily and Monthly Active Users
  • Number of User Actions per session
  • Defects and Detection Effectiveness
  • Support Ticket Escalations
  • Monthly Recurring Revenue

Having clear, quantifiable ways to check performance and ensure improvement are essential. Think back to football for a minute. Win/Loss ratio, total yards allowed, QBR: everything is measured and tracked for teams to see areas of opportunity. Once your goals are set, it’s crucial that you track how you’re performing toward them to ensure you’re progressing.

L: Launch Team

If you’re wondering how to ensure everyone stays on the same page with the vision and strategy, that’s where the formation of a cross-functional launch team comes in. We want to at least include marketing, developers, UX, support, product, and sales to make sure all facets are covered. Think of this group as the front office of the Patriots (or any other professional team)– highly aware, always communicating, tracking changes, mitigating risks, and keeping the big picture in focus. Having a cross-functional group allows not only for collaboration but also cross-pollination of ideas and expertise: no silos here!

A key feature of this group: They should have the ability to take end-to-end responsibility and be empowered to make decisions. Providing direction and clarity for your internal teams is a huge must! Think of the team on the field… if they aren’t all informed of the play, chaos may ensue.

A: Accessible, Actionable Plans

How useful is a plan if we can’t refer to it? How can we get better if we have no baseline? Pick a place that teams can reference (Confluence, SharePoint, a whiteboard). Be clear on your vision, your target audience, and their needs, what makes you different in the market, and your goals. Hand out the information! Give teams priority, a plan, and guidelines to execute. Note that I didn’t say directions to execute. Why do you think a great quarterback can call an audible? They have guidelines to keep the focus on forward progress, but they can adjust on the fly when a challenge arises! Empower your team to take ownership and enable them to stay synced, engaged, and focused.

N: Next Up, Never Settle

With a WHY in place and leaders in each functional area involved, you can then inform your teams and get buy-in. Having a clear vision is one step, but communicating it and making sure it is understood across the entire organization is essential. Being able to unite around a goal and execute as a team allows for teammates to buy in and be part of the plan (people want to feel included and in the know). The clear vision and plan give space for true collaboration. McKinsey again delivers us some insightful statistics on market performance: team collaboration has an overall 51% correlation with success.

With a strategy and buy-in secured, you can now jump into a Product Roadmap. This next step will be the framework that drives the building of the product. However, be prepared to check back in on your product strategy often. The largest room in the world is room for improvement; we should always be focused on learning and growth. Continuous improvement, a growth mindset, and maintaining a united movement to a true north are the keys to long-term success.

Enjoy coming up with your own Game Plan! And if you need some help, we’re here.

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