Products, like humans, are constantly cycling through different stages of being. Introduction, growth, maturity, and decline… any of this sound familiar? It’s the circle of life, and we all make our way around its great, big circumference one way or another. But as product developers and strategists, we have a special appreciation for this journey — from the moment life enters the world to the time it goes “gentle into that good night.”
What we’ve learned along the way is that, sure, you can wing it. We all do to some extent. But what might the voyage look like if approached with a certain level of planning? A wise man once rapped, “You only live once.” That motto goes for products, too, so join us as we make the most of it with a product development strategy.
The second you start dreaming up a solution to meet market demand is the second your product’s development begins. This phase encapsulates the entire ride — from its early stages of ideation all the way through launch and beyond. Throughout this process, you’ll want to ensure your product lives its life to the absolute fullest. Right? In that case, consider implementing a product development strategy: a step-by-step plan for achieving market success throughout every stage of the product life cycle.
Rooted in market research, this set of guidelines works behind the scenes to position your offering as the ideal solution in consumers’ minds. The best part about it? A product development strategy doesn’t discriminate. It can take any number of approaches, proving to be a valuable tool whether you’re bringing a new product into an existing market, an existing product into a new market, or even a new product into a new market.
It’s an infinitely versatile methodology, and one that can help drive your business goals.
Product development has a ton of moving parts, and often by extension, a ton of moving people. Think about the number of teammates who play a role in raising your product. Developers, managers, strategists, and marketers — it takes a village, after all. But the reality there is that with each unique brigade comes its own set of priorities, workflows, and styles of communication. While these functions may share in their motivation to produce a solid end result, miscommunications can arise, costing your business valuable resources that could be better allocated elsewhere.
A product development strategy can help you align, and stay aligned, with internal stakeholders to ensure everyone is working toward the same north star. When implemented at every phase, a strong strategy can empower cross-functional teams to make informed decisions that meet key business objectives.
For reasons that include the big one outlined above, product development is high-risk, there’s no doubt about it. But with the right methodology in place, it can also be pretty high-reward. From designing a prototype to building a brand personality, a well-positioned product relies — first and foremost — on extensive research to illuminate the path forward. The process of implementing a product development strategy (surprise, surprise) is no different.
If this set of guidelines is to serve as a blueprint for your product’s success, it should be heavily influenced by market, consumer, and competitor insights. Where is there a void in the marketplace? What product features might solve consumers’ problems most effectively? How are competitors’ offerings priced in comparison to your own? Creating a product development strategy that leverages the cold, hard facts can help distinguish measurable goals at every phase.
Let’s say your product has finally reached the maturity stage of its life cycle. It’s had a good run so far — a successful launch, a strong period of growth — but now, the market just isn’t responding the way it once did. Is it time to send your product off into the sunset? Or does it still have a little fight left? A product development strategy can not only help you make this important distinction, but also pinpoint the areas for improvement should you decide to hold out. Regardless of your decision, understanding how well your product is performing can help save more of those vital resources in the long run.
Take one of Apple’s most iconic products, for example. It was 2001 when the first generation iPod entered the consumer market. At the time, it packed an unfathomable "1,000 songs in your pocket," forever changing the way people experience music. Apple has reportedly sold more than 400 million units since the iPod’s inception, and over the last 20 years, made ceaseless improvements — one model after another. It’s true, of course, that smartphones’ rise in popularity has kicked most portable listening devices to the curb. But a strong product development strategy has allowed Apple to make informed decisions about where to take its offerings next.
As the tech giant has clearly demonstrated (with its $3 trillion market value and all), improving the performance of an existing product can put your business at a major advantage. Maybe your research findings indicate that consumers are itching for a key feature enhancement. Or, perhaps adding a new feature entirely would extend your product’s scope. Whatever the circumstance, a strong product development strategy has the power to help you win business from your closest rivals.
Building your product from scratch? The benefits of implementing a new product development strategy are arguably even greater. Once you’ve established the unmet need your offering can fulfill, you can use this methodology to help it stand out in the crowd. This is especially helpful if your industry is oversaturated with similar products clamoring for consumers’ attention. Consider conducting a competitive landscape analysis to help you identify the market’s biggest players, and gain insights that can be incorporated into your product development strategy of choice.
Much like products, the marketplace, too, is alive and kicking. That means there will always be new opportunities to leverage. But as with anything powered by a proverbial heartbeat, the reality of peddling your wares to a living, breathing marketplace is that your product must be prepared to respond to cultural shifts, changing customer needs, and the ever-evolving competition.
Thankfully, a well-executed product development strategy provides the perfect framework for identifying opportunities to propel your business forward. Engaging in strategic initiatives like research, data analysis, and concept testing can help get the ball rolling. You can then use those learnings to bring a new product to the market, pitch your product to an adjacent market, or tailor your product to more closely align with consumer needs. Whatever the game plan, your business should be continuously looking for new ways to bring value to your target audience. Implementing a product development strategy is a great way to do it.
The word “innovation” gets thrown around a lot — especially in the world of tech. But what do we actually mean by this term as it relates to product development? As far as we’re concerned, real innovation is achieved if, and only if, you’ve identified a novel solution to a pretty weighty problem. An “innovation-driven” strategy, therefore, aims to create new, untapped value that remedies your customers’ pain points.
Routinely ranked The World’s #1 Most Innovative Company by Forbes, Salesforce offers a prime example of this approach. At the core of this cloud-based software company burns a fire of curiosity; it prides itself on addressing every idea as if for the first time, and as a result, constantly delights consumers by supplying critical solutions to the way they work. Back in 2020, Salesforce even built a new product in eight weeks to help the world safely return to the office during the height of the pandemic. (And for those of you who are unaware of how long it takes to build a digital product, let’s just say eight weeks is pretty damn fast.)
Companies that pull this tactic from their arsenal are not only well-equipped to anticipate market needs, but also tout their offerings accordingly. Netflix is one such company. It needs no introduction, and its “consumer-driven” product development strategy may be the reason why. Streaming since 2007, the popular service platform has always approached product development through direct alignment with viewers’ expectations. Its strategy leans hard into user feedback and personalization, giving binge-watchers a front-row seat to the content they desire — oftentimes, before they’re even aware of it themselves.
But don’t take our word for it. Just take a look at the homepage next time you log in. From “Top Picks” to “New Since You Last Watched,” the platform’s algorithms are constantly working to meet users’ needs. Offering video suggestions is an obvious maneuver, but these personalization efforts go as far as ranking the content users see, uniquely organizing it into rows and pages, and even pairing it with specific imagery to pique their interest. This tailor-made user experience drives customer satisfaction, and as a result, monthly retention: the platform’s main engagement metric and, arguably, biggest business goal.
Rubbing elbows with the likes of Apple is yet another tech giant to implement a strong product development strategy: Microsoft, and man, did it go big. For years, the software company offered a simple email product before transforming itself into a multi-industry empire. Today, Microsoft connects users to a multitude of add-ins and third-party services like LinkedIn, GitHub, and more. Its status as a digital conglomerate now allows the company to provide products to an even wider range of customers — and like Google, Amazon, and Facebook — drive its business forward with more than one stream of revenue.
Clearly, the angles at which you can approach a product development strategy are as varied as the reasons you may have for implementing one. In fact, you may even consider keeping an entire handful of product development strategies in your back pocket. There’s no one-size-fits-all, and as with life, there are no rules. But with a simple plan in place, you can confidently guide your product throughout every stage.
If you’re interested in implementing an effective product development strategy with Big Human, feel free to reach out. We’d love to hear from you.