SBI recently spoke with Terry Hicks, the chief product officer at Infusionsoft. Infusionsoft is the leading provider of sales and marketing software for small businesses, and Terry is responsible for their overall product strategy. We spoke to Terry about integrating his strategy with the go-to-market strategy. He began the discussion by explaining how he develops his product strategy in the first place.
How does Terry decide what markets to compete in? “There are two things I look at,” explained Terry. First, where is there an underserved need? And second, what is the size of the population of people that are having this issue? Essentially, he takes it down to the product level, all the way down to the needs of the buyer. Terry also had a great analogy when it comes to determining which problems to solve inside of his markets. “Are you providing a pain killer or are you providing a vitamin?” he asked. If someone has a headache, they reach for a pain killer. On the other hand, there are no consequences for not taking vitamins. Your product needs to be the pain killer.
Terry next addressed how to understand if your product is the best and whether it will resonate with the market. “I’m a big proponent of the more agile or lean environment in order to create prototypes, and give customers the option to follow-up with their actions and subscribe to products,” he explained. At Infusionsoft they try to prototype quickly and put it in front of real customers. This is their guide to determining if they should continue investing in the concept.
We next turned the discussion towards go-to-market strategy. First, we asked how he develops the value proposition for new products. “It goes back to really focusing on what problem the customer is trying to solve, and what is the job they’re hiring your product for,” said Terry. When it comes to the consumer, he thinks in terms of what benefit they are seeking. And how the product will ladder up these benefits.
Another key part of his go-to-market strategy is positioning. How does Terry handle positioning? First, he does not acknowledge positioning relative to the competition and alternatives. Instead, what he really tries to think about is the problem the customer is trying to solve, and how his product uniquely addresses it. This allows him to build meaningful benefits into the product.
Another key piece of Terry’s go-to-market strategy is selecting which products should be marketed and sold to which customers, through which channels. “You’ve got to know where to find the customer, so I focus the customer’s behavior,” explained Terry. He understands where the customer is already, and where they are comfortable buying. As for which product and which channel – this is also defined by the customer. What problems are they trying to solve, and where are they spending money to try and solve it?
Integrating the Product Strategy with the Go-to-Market Strategy
We wrapped up the conversation with 3 key ways to integrate the two strategies. First, Terry recommends really knowing and understanding your customer. Your product strategy and go-to-market strategy need to determine who you’re trying to serve, and what problems you’re trying to solve. Second, really understand the customer’s behavior. The best way to do this is through testing. Because what customers say, and what they do, is often different. Terry recommends setting up simple tests to validate key hypothesis quickly. And finally, Terry recommends understanding that the product is everyone’s responsibility. As you’re thinking about customer insights and product testing, include the cross-functional teams. Learn together, and ensure you’re aligning your product strategy, go-to-market strategy, and also the other functional strategies as you move forward.