- Jeff Cloutier
Business Management Truth: Product Success Takes A Village
Product completion is just the beginning and not the end!
Finishing the development of a new or revised product is a huge accomplishment for any organization. In most cases, shareholders, market analysts, key customers, and sales teams are waiting expectantly for the promised delivery. But, product completion is just the beginning and not the end. Ensuring expected ROI with a well-constructed market success plan is equally as important as the product itself. Actual market share delivery needs to be a focal part of any marketing strategy and product plan.
Where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incident, chaos with soon reign.
- Victor Hugo
I purposely use the term “market success” plan because it more accurately captures the desired outcome. “Launch" plan or “Go-to-market” plan innately focuses on the initial introduction, but most revenue forecasts and NPV calculations provide a 2-5-year plan for profitability. So rather than focusing only on the first months of a products life, a market success plan lays out the organizational effort needed to realize the long-term goals. A 5-year plan is obviously far reaching for today's dynamic markets, but that's okay. A market success plan provides a dynamic strategy that should adapt as feedback is received and market response is captured. It's much easier to adjust a known course than find your way while lost at sea.
On occasion, companies fall victim to traps that could be avoided with a market success planning strategy. These pitfalls have organizations 'reacting to' rather than 'proactively driving' the desired market response. A few of the more common snares are detailed below.
1. Market planning is started once the product is completed rather than at the preliminary stages of development.
Trying to plan and execute launch activities at the same time is almost impossible, especially for smaller teams. And it’s the planning process rather than the resulting plan that provides the actual value. The thought, discussion, and eureka of the planning provide the real value. The plan itself only serves to memorialize the planning exercise. The most efficacious market success plan starts with a collaborative effort very early in the development process. Let’s be honest…when market success planning is left to the end, it’s often sacrificed for more expedient sales enablement. Much of the value is lost by skipping the planning process and moving directly to the implementation phase.
2. Product plans lack variability considerations.
Any type of forecasting and planning involves some sort of guesswork. Granted, it could be very educated guesswork, but it's still the art of predicting the future. Market success planning should include adaptations for expected, best, and worst case scenarios. Managers should figure out the most impactful variables, run scenarios at the limits, and create a market success plan that's ready for whatever the future holds.
3. Product teams mistake internal excitement for market excitement.
It seems obvious that a customer's daily priorities include 1,000,000 things besides the new product launch. Often, the product or service is one small part of the customer’s day and getting their attention takes concerted effort. Yes, everyone at work is excited about the new product, but that doesn't mean everyone in the world is excited. This is a perfect example of the sample set not representing the population. The internal enthusiasm and energy generated by a new product or impending launch doesn’t intrinsically represent customer excitement in the marketplace. Focused and grounded success planning ensures the internal excitement is validated with customer value through long-term, thoughtful action.
4. The use of ‘canned’ repurposed plans.
Previous plans provide great outlines to begin new plans. It's always easier to edit existing content rather than stare at a blank piece of paper. But don’t assume market success will be obtained in the same manner as past products. As with any marketplace…market dynamics mature …customer needs evolve...stakeholders change…and sales processes grow. Every market success plan needs to be pressure-tested against the real-time market challenges of your unique product. Assuming a static market may provide just that in revenue…static.
5. Marriage planning is replaced with honeymoon planning.
I’m all for a spectacular honeymoon, but a great honeymoon doesn’t guarantee success. A sound marriage takes continued focus and effort. Product success is very similar to a marriage in this aspect. A spectacular product launch is great, but long-term planning is the only sure way to ensure the desired financial outcome once the honeymoon is over.
A market success plan may seem like a lot work, but so is recovering from a sales forecast that only reaches 50% of forecast. I'd rather do the proactive work upfront rather than reacting on the backend. Elaborate plans that rival Tolstoy’s War and Peace aren’t the solution either. Quality trumps quantity in this situation. A proactive, purposeful market success plan that drives the desired outcome over a product’s entire life cycle is the goal.
OnTarget Strategy provides onsite business management and business strategy consultant services to organizations in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and the Colorado region. We also partner with clients across the United States and Canada.