Imagine it's your first day at your new job in Gotham City. You rush to the nearest station, but you miss the last train. You spot a taxi on the road below and decide to fly down. Unfortunately, your wingsuit fails, and you plummet to your doom. If only you listened to your team when they talked about your product development strategy.
You might not need a superfast car or a flying suit in your business, but you do need to plan your new product ideas. Without a plan, disaster awaits. With a plan, you might be the hero your customer needs.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this article:
- What is a product development strategy?
- Why is product development strategy important?
- How to build your product development strategy?
- 3 famous product development strategy examples
Read on as we unmask the secrets of a winning product development strategy to help you conquer your market.
What is a product development strategy?
A product development strategy is the set of guidelines a company refers to when it wants to bring a new product into an existing market (or existing products into a new market).
Before you can bring your vision to life, you must lay out a series of steps, such as market research, product concept planning, testing, and optimization. A strategic product roadmap that connects the critical actions and key objectives will make it easier for your team to execute. And the best time to create such a plan is right at the very start.
Why is product development strategy important?
A product lifecycle is built on a robust product development strategy. Companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Wayne Enterprises, Inc. can afford to take big chances—but why would they?
If you can invest the time and effort to do things right from the outset, you give your product a real chance of success. Here are six benefits of a product development strategy:
Better team alignment
If your people can't share information or cooperate effectively, the mission will be a nightmare. James Gordon might have been a cop, but he had no issues sharing classified information with the weird masked dude who hung around dark alleyways. See, Commissioner Gordon knew the value of communication and collaboration (which is more than we can say for Sandra in accounting).
A product development process helps you get everyone on the same page. You can align teams from different departments and bring people together to work on idea generation and growth initiatives under a shared vision.
Every time you launch a new product, it’s a big risk. When your competition is armed with the best tech, data, insights, and emerging talent, there is no place for guesswork.
A product development strategy is built on a foundation of extensive research, which includes your target audience, current market, and competitors. The more you know about the road ahead, the better prepared you’ll be for any risks.
If you’re a startup or small business with limited resources, you can’t afford to waste anything. Bruce Wayne’s long-suffering butler, Alfred Pennyworth, proved to be a budget-conscious product developer who figured out how to save a few bucks on creating the bat suit.
A product development strategy helps your team evaluate your needs and resources. When you have a plan in place of gut reactions, you can eliminate sub-optimal decision-making to ensure you maximize resources.
81% of product managers measure the success of their products. The ability to measure your progress and assess the impact of your efforts is essential to your strategy. You can collect customer feedback through focus groups and marketing testing. These methodologies help you get validation from the target market, so you can make sure you’re on track.
A product development strategy outlines Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and milestones to make it easy to gauge progress. For example, Batman aims to keep body counts and crime statistics low.
Many companies make the mistake of thinking innovation means they must get the big suits to sit in the boardroom and spitball hare-brained ideas at each other. But innovation is not a C-suite task. It's not something that belongs on a to-do list in the CEO's notepad.
For your company to truly reimagine the future—like Steve Jobs or Batman—you must nurture a culture of innovation that inspires and motivates everyone in the organization to do their most meaningful work. A product development strategy is a blueprint for this vision.
Stronger value proposition
This aspect of your business strategy is about more than adding a new item to your product line. When you’re in a competitive niche with a host of similar products, your market development strategy is how you stand out from the pack.
A new product development process can help you take a new idea or a current product, and give it a strong value proposition. This not only leads to better products, but it gives you a competitive advantage that attracts new customers and a higher market share (like Bane when he took over the Stock Exchange).
How to build your product development strategy
Okay, enough flapping our wings, let’s show you how to fly. Here’s the step by step guide to help you create a product development strategy that won’t leave you (and your dreams) as a broken, crumpled heap on the sidewalk:
Step 1: Empathize with your users
When you understand how your products could fit into real-world scenarios, you can adapt and evolve the design to complement the challenges customers face.
Take this conversation between Bruce Wayne and his business manager/genius inventor, Lucius Fox:
Lucius: "Compared to your usual requests, jumping out of an airplane is pretty straightforward."
Bruce: “What about getting back into the plane?”
Lucius: "I'd recommend a good travel agent."
Bruce: “Without it landing…”
Lucius concedes a smile before swiftly presenting the possibility of using an old CIA program called Skyhook. How's that for a pivot?
Sometimes, customers find uses for product features that weren’t exactly as the product designers intended. A human-centric approach will help you see how your potential customers view the world. With that, you’ll take a leap toward creating a product they’ll love.
Step 2: Define the problem
A vital part of your product development strategy is a structured plan that outlines your users' pain points. Here's how you can get clarity on the problems:
- Write down every pain point your team can identify.
- Prioritize the list. You can focus on the most pressing issues or on the problems that your team could solve quickly. If you're feeling daring, you can even try a combination of both.
- Collaborate with your product team to make the final choices.
For Lucius Fox, the overarching problem was trying to keep Batman alive on his vigilante escapades. When you consider the reality of your customers' lives, it's easier to understand their specific challenges.
Step 3: Brainstorm potential solutions
Are you excited by the prospect of your Fab Five C-suite members huddled around the boardroom table, with takeaway noodle boxes and Red Bull to fuel your great ideas? Congratulations, you absolute dinosaur.
This dated method is the recipe for ideas that are detached from the reality of your customers' challenges. The top-down approach doesn't consider the opinions of your frontline employees (you know, the people who actually deal with your customers!).
There’s a better way to brainstorm—an omnidirectional way that sparks innovation and inspires company-wide buy-in:
- Invite your cross-functional strategy team. With a boundaryless structure, you can give everyone a voice.
- Share information with the entire team before the meeting. As you provide people with more context, everyone will understand the goals and vision. Cascade’s project management features can help you share the research and development information.
- Set boundaries for suggestions. For example, give each person a 5-minute limit to convince the team they have a viable concept. Without a structured approach, you could be stuck there for hours listening to rambling pitches from your Legal department’s answer to The Riddler.
- Create a shortlist of the best product concepts. Once you narrow down the ideas, devise criteria to develop a minimum viable product. For example, you could estimate the resources, time, and budget for each concept.
Step 4: Build a prototype
It's time to take your vision to reality. In this phase, you'll work closely with the design and development teams to build the MVP. It's even better if you can create a fully-working version of the concept. If the CFO tries to simulate the outcome with an Excel formula, tell him to sit down, or else you'll have to simulate his exit out the window.
Unlike Bruce Wayne, you might not have a few billion to build prototypes for every brainwave on the list. So, you’ll have to get selective. You can use a decision matrix to make the best choice between the front-runners.
Step 5: Test your solution
This final stage in the product development process is crucial—it’s time to get feedback from your users. Hopefully, your product doesn’t require them to risk their lives like Batman. (If it does, you can ask the CFO to test it first.)
It's best if you can get reviews from a large group of beta testers. With a bigger sample size, you can gain more valuable insights. You can use the feedback to make adjustments and improve the product features and functionality before the full product launch.
3 Famous Product Development Strategy Examples
When you iterate on your product development strategy, you'll eventually have a finely-tuned machine that improves the user experience and increases revenue and consumer loyalty. Who knows, it might even reduce crime on the streets of Gotham City someday if that's your market.
Here are three examples of successful product development strategies that have captured global attention faster than a caped crusader:
For the largest streaming service in the world, customer retention is paramount. Underneath the slick branding of Netflix is an artificial intelligence-driven engine that constantly provides feedback about user engagement. As personalization gets better, it drives user engagement, customer satisfaction, and retention.
You don't become one of three trillion-dollar companies without a little bit of innovation. Google advocates a 10x mindset, encouraging teams to think bigger and make the leap to unlock new possibilities. This push to accelerate innovation helps employees reimagine the ideas and reorient the product to stay ahead.
The Swedish furniture company would be an also-ran if it didn’t master product development strategy. Instead, IKEA is one of the world's leading retail furniture brands and a global cultural icon. Its strategy marries principles of digitization, consistency, and experience to deliver products people all over the planet now have in their homes.
Plan your product development strategy to nail the next launch
Nobody wants to fall off a building, not even Batman. If you make impulsive business decisions without research or planning, your projections, goals, and budget will all drop like a lead balloon. You’ll need a rock-solid product development strategy to make sure that doesn’t happen.
As a subset of corporate strategy, this single source of truth defines the direction for your product team. With clarity on the problems of your market and the goals for your product, you can unite your team and foster a culture of innovation that drives success.
It’s time for a new product development strategy that is built for success. Check out our strategy planning template to get started!