Where is the 'product' in a product launch?

Put another way, if a product is something that solves a customer problem, then a 'product' is all things necessary to solve that problem. Sounds simple enough but often confusing in technology companies where our 'product' is defined as the thing we've built, but the customer's expectation (buying criteria) can be very different. From a product launch perspective this narrow definition of product sets the stage for chaos, confusion, and blame, much of which is placed on the product marketing manager (often the job title responsible for product launch). Let me take a software example and look at the bill of materials that might be needed for a contemporary technology product. We would need the thing that we built and it should have all the things that make it a useful product with a delightful customer experience. Things like help, documentation, quick start guide, etc. We thought through the things our customer needs to use the product. Then we need to think about the steps necessary for our customer to get to the point where they can have that delightful experience. If the product is complex enough that implementation planning and services needed, who will do that? We may need to define a step-by-step implementation process. Is this process something we charge customers for or is it something they can do themselves? Does our product have any prerequisites? Is that something we provide or will we need a partner to fill that requirement? Now we need the things necessary for us to make it a business, like a price, a way for accounting to book the sale, a plan to pay our salespeople, and a transfer of knowledge to our customer support team. Then we need the things to help us communicate to the target customers in our market aware that we have an answer to their problems, like buyer personas, positioning/messaging, and a go-to-market strategy. Where companies get in trouble is they mistakenly define their product as the thing their development team built (using criteria) without considering what their customer is expecting to buy (buying criteria). When the development team is done they throw it over the wall to the product marketing manager to launch. If it's an incomplete solution from a buyer's point of view it makes for a difficult sale, revenue expectations aren't met, and the blame game starts. We can get so caught up in the excitement of creating that we lose sight of the fact we're running a business.
David Daniels

David Daniels


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