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As product leaders, we should be able to assess where along the product maturity curve our products fall.  The answer provides guidance on where to go next.  Introduction, growth, maturity, decline (or perhaps extension) … each phase has its own set of challenges and will yield a different strategy going forward.

So what do you do when your product is in the mature stage and is no longer seeing the organic growth the organization has come to rely on?  And arguably, if you do nothing, decline is not far behind? To further complicate things, there is perceived to be plenty of runway left with the market problem your product solves for … meaning product retirement is not yet the right choice.  

Great leaders (and great product managers by the way) are able to assess opportunities like these in the context of three fundamental questions:

1. Who am I serving? (with this question, you are clearly identifying the market opportunity, including a representation of your current business)
2. What do they need/want, and are ready to buy? (with this question, you are addressing the needs of the market)
3. How can I reach/persuade them? (with this question, you are calling out your distinctive competence and value proposition)

Once you’ve assessed the three questions and you understand where you are, you also need to have a vision of where you want to be. Getting from point A (current state) to point B (future state) requires an intentional growth strategy … a multi-faceted approach that increases in potential opportunity, but also increases in potential risk. I like to use the Ansoff Matrix for this type of discussion.

  • Market Penetration (and Consumption) – this is the least risky approach … selling more of your current product to the current target market, and maximizing growth-strategyadoption/usage of that product.  In a strictly B2B context, only the former comes into play (selling more product).  When you start looking at B2B2C situations, selling the product is only the first part of the puzzle … getting consumers to adopt/utilize it adds to the complexity.

What is your current penetration within the verticals/markets you serve?  What can be done to reach deeper? Have you removed the friction such that it is easy for the consumer to utilize?

  • Market Development (Adjacencies) – next in the approach, selling more of your current product to adjacent markets.  This may mean new geographies, new vertical markets, or possibly a new customer segment.  Another consideration is leveraging other products/assets within your company to expand your value proposition and subsequent reach.

Can the current capabilities be leveraged to tackle new geographies? Note: currency, language, and locale considerations come into play that are not always as easy to solve for as you would think?  Can you move into new vertical markets? Note: while core capabilities may be similar, new verticals could introduce adjunct requirements which are not competencies to the company.

  • Product Development – new products and/or product capabilities to be sold to existing customers. This may be necessary when the platform/architecture needs to be updated, when new technologies come around that shift customer/consumer behavior,  or the needs of the market have evolved.

What investments can be made to the existing product to bolster its appeal? How do you know those enhancements are needed? What kind of measurable impact will those changes bring?

  • Diversification (or Alternative Channels) – selling new products/capabilities to new markets.  This often occurs when the current market is saturated, or current products/services are becoming commoditized leading to price compression.

Are there opportunities to exploit new players/partners in the broader ecosystem you serve?