Skip to main content

Positioning Series

When you hire a product manager, one of the first series of tasks she should complete is to position the product. Positioning a product means defining your target market and key messages you will use to appeal to them.

Positioning the product in the most effective way typically requires leaving the office and doing substantial market research, including quantitative research (questionnaires) and qualitative research (prospect interviews and ethnographic studies).

Positioning a product should be an iterative effort. But as your new product manager educates herself by interacting internally within the company (talking to executives, sales, marcom, and developers; reading existing documents), she can begin filling out a preliminary template. She should answer the following questions:

  1. What is the company's distinctive competence?
  2. What are the top three problems the product solves?
  3. What is the product's biggest weakness?
  4. What is the strength within the product's biggest weakness?
  5. What is the product's biggest competitor?
  6. What is the competitor's biggest strength?

This list is by no means exhaustive but includes the most important questions for simple cases. Fitting the product into the positioning umbrella of the company or a line or suite of products may be necessary. Profiling prospective buyers and sizing the market are also important.

However, answering these preliminary questions goes a long way towards determining the best position for your product. After taking an initial stab at them, your product manager should conduct the market research necessary to validate and flesh out the answers.

In future entries, I will discuss what each of the questions means and how to obtain the answers.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why Spreadsheets Suck for Prioritizing

The Goal As a company executive, you want confidence that your product team (which includes all the people, from all departments, responsible for product success) has a sound basis for deciding which items are on the product roadmap. You also want confidence the team is prioritizing the items in a smart way. What Should We Prioritize? The items the team prioritizes could be features, user stories, epics, market problems, themes, or experiments. Melissa Perri  makes an excellent case for a " problem roadmap ", and, in general, I recommend focusing on the latter types of items. However, the topic of what types of items you should prioritize - and in what situations - is interesting and important but beyond the scope of this blog entry. A Sad but Familiar Story If there is significant controversy about priorities, then almost inevitably, a product manager or other member of the team decides to put together The Spreadsheet. I've done it. Some of the mos

Stop Validating and Start Falsifying

The product management and startup worlds are buzzing about the importance of "validation". In this entry, I'll explain how this idea originated and why it's leading organizations astray. Why Validate? In lean startup circles, you constantly hear about "validated learning" and "validating" product ideas: The assumption is that you have a great product idea and seek validation from customers before expending vast resources to build and bring it to market. Indeed, it makes sense to transcend conventional approaches to making product decisions . Intuition, sales anecdotes, feature requests from customers, backward industry thinking, and spreadsheets don't form the basis for sound product decisions. Incorporating lean startup concepts , and a more scientific approach to learning markets, is undoubtedly a sounder approach. Moreover, in larger organizations, sometimes further in the product life-cycle, everyone seems to have an opinio

Henry Ford's "Faster Horse" Quote

You may have heard the ( apocryphal ) Henry Ford quote: If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have said "a faster horse". Over at the On Product Management blog , Saeed gives his take on this infamous quote. He "hates" it, and gives some compelling reasons. Saeed is spot on in his explanations. Personally, I think the quote is great, but it's a matter of interpretation. The valid point of the quote is not that it's a bad idea to facilitate a conversation with your market to better understand it. The valid points are: You must ask the right questions to get valuable answers. You must interpret the answers thoughtfully - often outside their direct meaning - to glean reliable information. Asking questions is not always the best way to "listen" to your market. (E.g., sometimes pure observational studies are more reliable.) Nonetheless, I find the quote is helpful to combat "armchair product management" in the