In the digital economy that we live in, technology companies are bringing many new “cool” offerings to the market everyday. At ifridge, we are fortunate enough to be a part of many of these early dialogues and see the real passion behind these new products.
What I also sometimes notice is the lack of solid market research and market planning that is often overshadowed by the excitement of a few customers or general positive response by the community. If you’ve worked in a larger organization, you are familiar with a more established product marketing/management role. This team is responsible for seeing the product from inception to sales and usually commits to a revenue number associated with the investment in development. Personally I am a fan of the processes outlined by Pragmatic Marketing but more importantly I am a fan of pragmatism.
We’ve broken down the preparation into 4 phases.
1) Market Opportunity– What is the current state of the market and the true potential for this offering? In one word, RESEARCH. Due the proper diligence on market definition and sizing, business challenges that the offering will solve, competitive landscape, and current trends.
2) Business Strategy – This part of the process has a few prongs. First, clearly articulate the product definition and its capabilities to meeting the market requirements. Then, assess your company’s readiness to meet the market opportunity from product development to definition. Once established, define your revenue goals, channels and pricing strategy. This part of the process is often where you have to ask the “tough questions”. Are you really ready to attack the market and if not, are you clear on the requirements to get there?
3) Positioning – Further define the offering and the market challenges it solves.
Positioning should be iterative, you will absolutely refine along the way. In this phase it is important to identify your key differentiators to provide a unique representation of the offering’s capabilities helping you to win business ahead of the competition. Be sure to move the offering from a technology focus towards the market opportunity by tuning into buyers and segmenting your target customers. And more important, TEST, TEST, TEST. Talk to prospects, current customers and analysts and don’t be afraid to modify along the way.
4) Programs – After all the hard work, you are ready to launch. Interestingly enough, we see companies jump ahead to this stage quickly. It’s where the tangible results are so I can absolutely see the urgency (ie. the revenue). However, if you don’t have the first three phases complete, it is the same as going out for a drive without the engine. Once you’ve built the right foundation, plan your launch and the first set of programs to generate demand. The hard work has been done now you get to focus on the execution.
Successful companies have proven that this phased approach works. Each area may have been approached a little differently but the pragmatism works. If you have examples of success by staying on course, I’d love to hear them. Or if you have the “exception”, please share that too. We are all open to different strategies as long as they all warrant the same result - SUCCESS.