Pragmatic Institute teaches that product success starts in the upper-left portion of the Pragmatic Institute Framework. In other words, the key to success is to first identify market problems that need to be solved. It may sound simple, but there are often
gaps between product management, product marketing and marketing, which makes this easier said than done.
In many companies, product management develops requirements for engineering while product marketing and marketing support sales. Often, no one is focused on how the whole organization will align to deliver the solutions to prioritized market problems. This may lead to developing a solution for just one specific client—or even worse, bouncing
from one idea to another and not getting anything completed.
Here is how one company addressed this challenge.
Eagle Investment Systems LLC, a BNY Mellon company, provides investment accounting, performance measurement and data management solutions to large investment management companies. Eagle was doing well, with steady growth and client retention greater than 95 percent. However, Eagle recognized that its market was changing. Customers were expecting not only advanced technology and services, but also solutions that delivered clear business outcomes. Eagle wanted to remain at the forefront of addressing its customers’ needs while continuing to grow and evolve in an increasingly complex world of investment management.
Moving from selling features to delivering outcomes was not just a sales, marketing and product development
challenge, it required Eagle to rethink its culture and processes. Recognizing a need to focus on selling outcomes and capturing greater market share around a solution, Eagle’s management created a new role: head of market strategy.
At Eagle, the primary responsibilities of the head of market strategy are to:
- Understand the market and look for new opportunities
- Identify market problems to solve rather than new feature requirements
- Build internal consensus on which problems Eagle should solve and the value to the customer of solving these market problems
- Lead the effort to develop the go-to-market strategy for a specific market problem
- Oversee the execution of the go-to-market strategy
This new position was filled by elevating one of Eagle’s product managers. Since the position was critical to Eagle’s future, management decided that it would report directly to the chief client officer. By removing most of the tactical tasks typically performed by product management or product marketing, Eagle enabled this role to focus on strategy.
Other organizations that are interested in the role may want to take a page from the decisions that Eagle made, starting with selecting someone who has the confidence to “shake things up.” Even though Eagle’s new head of market strategy had been with Eagle for 11 years, he was willing to challenge Eagle’s status quo. Equally important, he was willing to learn and grow in a role that required acquiring new skills, such as learning to objectively talk with customers to understand their business needs.
It is critically important for the person in this role to have the ability to build consensus across the organization. They must be politically savvy and be able to work without formal authority. It’s also important that the organization has realistic expectations for the role. Given the length of most B2B sales cycles, it may take months before there is an impact on revenues. However, management must view this as an investment that will pay off over time.
Senior management everywhere will appreciate the many subjective benefits and objective measurements tied to this formalized role. Within the first year, Eagle increased its strategic, multi-year sales pipeline by fivefold, moved a majority of its pipeline from opportunistic to strategic, and focused its solution delivery on solving urgent business needs.
Winning organizations understand that customers buy solutions to achieve business outcomes and will align their organizations to deliver these outcomes. This requires a strong quarterback to make it happen.
Due to the daily demands of their role, product managers and product marketers often lack the bandwidth (and the inclination) to take on this responsibility. With greater regularity, companies will be investing in the role of head of market strategy to focus investment and drive results.