You were so helpful to Santa last year with his Blitzen 3000 that he gave you a job! Congratulations!
You’re now Lead Product Elf for Santa Mail in Santa’s North Pole headquarters.
There’s no strategy in place for the ‘Santa Mail’ product and Santa fears it may not be keeping up with customer expectations. He’s expecting a brilliant strategy from you in your first 90 days.
You’ve been wondering what you were thinking trading the Sydney sunshine for the Arctic freeze?! You’ve got a permanent brain freeze, Santa’s constantly on your back and you can’t find your starting point.
There’s no need to think your a cotton headed ninny muggins. At Product In Heels we’ve got you covered.
Here’s the first three steps in our proven framework for designing a product strategy. You can use it as your starting point from the bank to the North Pole!
1. Understand your target customer and their needs
2. Understand the customer and business value of your product
3. Use points 1 & 2 to craft your product vision
4. Determine the opportunity size and any costs
5. Map a high level target customer experience
6. Define your objectives & most important metrics for success
7. Include a high level plan of how you intend to reach your vision (now, next, later roadmap)
A note on the above framework
This is a starting point that examines common elements of product strategies I’ve worked on during my decade of experience.
Depending on your product and business environment, you may look at other elements such as the competitive landscape, industry trends, organisational strategy and product marketing approach. You want to include anything relevant to building a story for your product.
I’ve omitted many of these elements for the simplicity of the examples and to help you focus on the critical elements.
Understand your target customer and their needs
Think about who your customer is, any problems they face and their needs.
This topic could be explored as a series of blog posts, but the critical place you should start is to find out directly from customers what they need. I would also place emphasis on gathering the behavioural facts from any data available.
In some cases it’s going to be easy to head into the field and intercept customers in their environment (at a bank branch or a train station). You may also be supported by in house and/or external research teams that can help you explore problems and identify opportunities.
A common pitfall I’ve seen with these research programs is that they put a lot of specific questions and options in front of customers and ask what they think.
This approach is risky because you’re putting solutions in front of customers without uncovering the real problems or desires they have.
Instead, ask customers how they are going about their daily lives and why they’re doing what they’re doing. Then you can see how your product fits (or doesn’t fit?) into that.
Sometimes you’re going to find yourself in situations that aren’t product led and the organisation refuses this important step. The best option you have is to be resourceful. Here are some creative ways to find out what customers are up to:
- search for any previous customer research your company has
- ask your contact centre leads for case summaries and customer feedback
- scroll social media comments and app store ratings
Following the above tips, we’ve pieced together the following:
- Santa Mail customers are young children from all over the world who celebrate Christmas
- they want to submit their wish list and secure their place on the nice list
- they want Santa to receive their letter in time for Christmas
- ~50% of customers post their letters directly, the other 50% entrust their letter to a distribution network of retailers (source: Product In Heels analyst)
Understand the customer and business value of your product
What does it look like for the customer if you can solve their problems and meet their needs? That’s the customer benefit.
If you’re still unsure here’s a small hack I use when I get stuck. Review verbatim customer feedback and try to theme them. For example, if you look through feedback from ticketing customers you’ll see common themes around “security”, “choice”, “ease”, “transparency” and “fairness”. Your customers are probably looking for an experience that allows them to pay securely, the way they want, and it should be easy. And it’s likely they have problems or unmet needs in those areas today. You might just need to explore it a bit more.
- Customers have access to Santa to share their Christmas desires & an opportunity to influence their position on the nice list
- Customers can trust that their letter will arrive well before Christmas, giving them confidence they’ll receive their wish list items
- Customers have flexibility in how they submit their letter to Santa
Use points 1 & 2 to craft your product vision
I’ve skipped over one aspect a little bit here – you also want to do some thinking on how your product is unique from other competitors (or its current state in a monopoly situation.
My favourite vision statement at the moment is this simple yet powerful one from Product Coach Christian Strunk (which a Transport colleague, Dylan, shared). In fact, the blog post is so clear and helpful you should check it out.
“We believe (in) a [noun: world, time, state, etc.] where [persona] can [verb: do, make, offer, etc.], for/by/with [benefit/goal].”
There are a variety of product vision templates you can use that vary in complexity. In an agile environment it’s common to have specific vision templates for epics that are more detailed than the above.
“We believe in a world where every young person can access a secure and quick communication experience for sharing their Christmas dreams with Santa.”
I always prepare my product artefacts as if I were marketing directly to a customer (note, customer can equal stakeholder). Although this approach isn’t always popular but in my experience it’s effective.
My advice is to treat every communication as a product marketing opportunity. The more simple and engaging your message is, the easier it will be to influence your audience to support your thinking.
I hope you enjoyed working on Santa Mail!
I found this a challenging example – do you think Santa would approve my probation?!
Let me know in the comments what you think the vision could be!