Learn more about what makes a winning product strategy and how to get started writing one.
Writing down your product strategy is equally as important as making it, because that gives clarity and purpose to everyone involved in the product life cycle.
As for how to come up with a product strategy, Melissa Perri, a senior lecturer on product strategy at Harvard, came up with a Mad Libs-style, fill-in-the-blank template for product strategy.
“In [insert timeframe here] our product will be [insert outcome here]”, where the timeframe is many years long and the outcome is broad and relates to user benefit.
Here’s an example: “In 10 years, Uber will be the cheaper alternative to owning a car or taking the bus.”
We can find additional examples from renowned tech product strategists like Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs. A simple version of Bezos’ product strategy in 1994 might have read like this: “In 20 years, Amazon will be the everything store, where people buy a wide variety of goods and services online.”
Product strategy can mean different things depending on your industry. But essentially, a product strategist has a deep understanding of what users want, their organization’s capabilities, and what the market is ready for.
Product strategy requires both short- and long-term vision, constant prioritization, and smart balancing of details, deadlines, and people. It covers everything from product design and product development, designing product backlogs, to feedback and testing, go-to-market planning, and more.
Below you'll find a comprehensive definition of product strategy and all the elements involved—along with the reasons product strategy is vital to your organization.
We’ll also send you off with best practices for designing a winning product strategy from beginning to end.
A product strategy is a high-level, documented plan containing the goals and vision for your product, including who it will benefit (i.e., your target buyers), and an explanation of how it will provide value to them.
When documented, a product strategy also lays out all of the initiatives necessary for your team’s success through the entire product life cycle. These initiatives should take into account the current market, as product strategists are constantly focused on turning market opportunities into product realities.
One example: Sundar Pichai, now the CEO of Alphabet, led product strategy and management for a suite of Google software products for years. He knew early on, for example, that Google could build a better browser than Internet Explorer (Google Chrome), and that the browser could be extremely useful on a study, cheap laptop, the Chromebook.
Ultimately, your product strategy reflects your game plan as a product leader. According to McKinsey the majority of product strategists are involved in design choices, and nearly half are involved in discussions about pricing. Product strategists may also have a hand in user research, engaging with customers and partners, planning features, and more. Your product strategy sets the foundations for all of these decisions and actions.
A product strategy guides the “what,” the “why,” and the “how” of any product, so it typically has three major elements: vision, goals, and initiatives. Let's dive into those in detail.
A product vision, or product vision statement, describes the long-term mission your product hopes to achieve.
Typically created by a product manager or strategist, with input from executive leaders, your product vision statement should be aspirational. It should also clearly communicate the future of the product—what it will do, where it will go, who it will impact in the marketplace.
A great vision statement is also simple. It's a product summary that everyone on your team can rally around, and it should also make clear the pain point in the market your product will solve.
To summarize, here are some characteristics of a good vision statement:
Shared motivation - it helps rally your team around a singular idea that motivates them
User-specific - it communicates the value you provide to your users
Aspirational - it’s a big and ambitious idea that’s inspirational for the short and long-term
Clear - it’s not complicated: anyone would understand what it means
Short - it consists of a short sentence or phrase (i.e., you can say it in one breath)
A real-life example: If Amazon's product vision is "To be the Earth's everything store.”
Your product goals are where the numbers come in.
Product goals are the benchmarks and key performance indicators (KPIs) you’d like your product to hit. Unlike your product vision, which is broad and inspirational, product goals should be measurable and time-defined, such as a specific revenue amount, or percentage increase in expansion or market share.
As different as they are, though, your vision and goals work together to bring your product strategy forward. The vision is the greater mission that motivates you, while goals provide clear guardrails to ensure you’re going in the right direction. For that reason, your vision stays constant, while it makes sense to set and revisit your goals quarterly and annually.
One great example: the Netflix product vision is to entertain the world, but its product goals are to increase subscriber growth by X% each quarter.
Just as your product vision informs the goals, your goals inform your initiatives, which we'll cover next.
Product initiatives are high-level and thematic objectives, not literal tasks.
In a product strategy document, these should be broad enough to give your team something to work towards over a long period of time, but focused enough that they 1) relate back to your product vision and 2) impact your product goals.
Examples of product initiatives include:
- improving user experience
- breaking into a new demographic or industry
Both initiatives are broad, leaving room for your team to get creative on how to tackle them. To make the initiatives more manageable for day-to-day work, sketch out those initiatives in a product roadmap. Your product roadmap is where big-picture goals and objectives get broken down into specific action items.
To create a successful product strategy, start with a clear product vision and follow through with goals, initiatives, and coordinated team activity. To manage all those moving parts, you need the right collaborative tool.
Airtable can help you wrangle all the data, deadlines, tasks, and team members related to your product strategy in one place.
Some key benefits that make Airtable a perfect product management tool:
See everything from competitive analysis to product roadmaps in one platform
Harness the visibility of spreadsheets with the power of relational databases, which let you organize information in a way that’s easy to use and build on later
Airtable can help you realize the full potential of your product strategy, no matter your industry or product.
Explore Airtable and start bringing your product vision to life.
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