5 ways people create a terrible product strategy
A product strategy isn’t a five-year plan with a list of features to add in the product.
Hey everyone👋, welcome to the 35th newsletter.
Over the years, while I was working on my products, my major issue was building the product in the right way that users need. I was good at marketing, so I wasn’t worried much about it. I moved all my focus on adding features to the product and making it look good in my eyes. Basically, that was my product strategy.
But that didn’t last long and was the leading indicator of decline. Now, I’m more focused on the user journey and a product strategy that aligns with my overall vision and business goal.
I learned very fast that building a great product requires a great product strategy that’s centric towards customers and the daily activities have a purpose which can be measured. But still, I find many brilliant startups having terrible product strategies and below are the top five I’ve encountered the most.
1. Considering plan as the strategy
Once I was working with a founder who asked me how to increase their monthly sales. Upon questioning them about a simple product strategy, to understand the product and users better, all they wanted to hear from me was, what they should do on a daily bases or daily tasks that will improve sales.
They were already trying to do a lot of things, adding more features thinking users might want that, increasing ad spending, and even after 2 months there was not much progress, there were a lot of things that need to be figured out.
They wanted a plan without a strategy.
Some companies fall into this trap that product strategy is more of a plan about building new features, and at a certain capacity. But that’s far from the truth.
Often time we lock ourselves into building features, roadmaps or ways to increase sales without questioning - is it the right thing to focus on reaching our goals. We tend to focus more on the outcome. We need to have a plan to reach the goals but not without a strategy with a clear vision of the product.
2. Not having a clear vision
No matter how many features you add to the product, a company always runs on a vision - which is the ultimate view of the business. Even a simple task you encounter on daily bases - say social media. Think if it’s serving the company's vision & purpose. Is the content, platform or image clear with the company's overall vision?
Mostly new and small companies are more focused towards faster outcomes that they completely neglect whether their actions are directed to the ultimate product goals or not.
Be clear about the vision, set quantitative goals, think about how you want your customers to think about you, how you want to stand against your competitors and how you want to see your product expand before creating a plan to execute.
3. Thinking ads will do everything
One of the worst product strategies for a new product I hear is Ads. They definitely are great and help your business expand and boost sales but that’s not a strategy for the early stage.
At a time when nobody knows you, building trust, visibility and brand awareness among early customers will help more than an ad does.
The best Ad strategy is to already have some paying users and a niche down audience segment. So, when you create an ad you know whom to target, how to describe the product & users and create the right call-to-action (CTA).
With your already paying users, try to find out why they use your product, what they think when they use the product & how their life is changed after using the product. These type of questions will make you think about the user behaviour and their journey. Ultimately creating a more strategic ad campaign.
4. Creating a wrong product for a user segment or vice versa
Building a fully functional product is a huge investment and is a big bet if you do it without validating it with customers. Rather than building a complete vision of the product, it is always better to start with a smaller MVP version. An MVP that solves one problem and is for one particular user segment.
Recently, I was advising a founder who had already built a prototype of the product and was so confident that there is a need for the product but still haven’t got users to try the product. So, there were my two suggestions:
If you see a problem, that you assume has a market, doesn’t mean a product is required for the solution - what will be the biggest scenario for people using it?
If you find that this problem requires a product, go to the place you found the problem first-hand, because most of the time you’ll find initial users close to it.
If you build a product or add a feature without thinking about a user segment for it, think again about how will you get new users. Your product strategy shouldn’t be just to build features but it should be a system that works with understanding the user journey and overall company vision.
5. Not knowing how the product will make money
No wonder how fantastic Twitter is, it’s my only favourite social media that I use, in comparison to Facebook or Instagram it still hasn’t figured out how to make money. But unlike Facebook, it has fewer direct competitors. (But it’s making changes now)
Even though Twitter is the heart of social media, your product doesn’t need to be like it. With your product, at least have one pricing strategy and the best thing is to implement it early. Your product might grow slower but it will save you a lot of thinking and experimenting in future.
Pricing can be hard but if you keep a reasonable cost and you see people are paying for it, even a few, you have done your price testing correctly. Also, don’t experiment with it frequently because it can negatively affect the user’s mind and brand value. Stick to one for at least a year so that by the time users can see added value with the increased price.
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