The best Product Leaders are grief relievers. They are on top of the three steps talked about in this article, and they execute the necessary activities to get ready for the annual planning process.

Q3 marks the beginning of the annual planning process. Organizations are starting to compile all the data, documentation and reports to prepare for this effort. Things are really starting to get busy.

 

A major input to the annual planning process is the Product strategy. Having this input in time gives marketing and sales enough time to prepare, and to learn how to bring new products to market. Without it, an organization starts the year behind the eight ball.

 

Product leaders who are grief relievers contribute positively to the annual planning process. They have their next year strategy in place. Product leaders who are grief creators are those who put the organization behind before the year gets started.

 

Knowing how critical the Product function is to annual planning process, what efforts should the Product Leader be executing?

 

There are three:

 

  1. Product Planning

     

  2. Defining Product Principles

     

  3. Supporting the Go-to-Market design

     

Download the Annual Planning Checklist to identify what step and phase of the product strategy cycle you are on, pin-point the key outputs (solutions) from each phase that a Product Leader should produce, and evaluate your next steps in the entire process.

 

 

Let’s break down each of these three activities into a bit more detail.

 

Step 1 – Product Planning

 

Product planning is about focusing on the market segments that are most attractive to pursue. These are the ones you are going to align your Product strategy around.

 

By leveraging market research and win-loss calls, the market problems of these segments can be identified and scored.  Your current product portfolio inventories and shows the products you have today and the resulting coverage. Through the Product Planning exercise, market problems that are not addressed or are just emerging are incorporated into the road map of products that will be designed in the future.

 

Product Planning is really broken down into three steps. The first is identifying the fast growing markets you want to play in. The second is defining the profile of accounts that are most likely to buy each product. And the third is identifying the target buyer for each product.

 

With these three steps done, and the identification of most attractive market segments complete, a Product Leader can then move into defining the Product Principles.

 

Step 2 – Defining Product Principles

 

Defining Product Principles is all about building the new products and solutions. This starts with defining use scenarios, which tell the story of how a user will leverage the product to solve their market problems. These use scenarios then become product designs that then feedback into the product development cycle. Ultimately the last step of defining product principles is to name and package the product so that it is market-ready.

 

Defining product principles is really accomplished in two steps. The first step is defining the buyer behavior. Here user personas, use cases, user stories and user validation testing are all developed. The goal of this step is to ensure a strong product-market fit. The second step is to define the optimal customer experience. This is done by ensuring all the customer touch points within a product life cycle are known and aligned to the customer expectations. Developing a world-class customer experience is one of the best ways to differentiate your product in the market.

 

Once the Product Principles are defined, a Product Leader can shift their focus to supporting the Go-to-Market plan.

 

Step 3 – Supporting the Go-to-Market

 

Once the first two steps are accomplished, the Product Leader can move into supporting the Go-to-Market design. This is done by working hand-in-hand with marketing and sales leaders in the organization. At this point, any new products have been built and packaged and it is time to take those to market. So the focus shifts from product development to product management and enablement. A great Product Leader is supporting the marketing and sales functions with the necessary tools and collateral to be successful.

 

In this step, a Product Leader supports the Go-to-Market design in two primary ways. The first is by developing a Product Roadmap that aligns to the buyer’s and user’s needs, as well as creates clarity for the marketing and sales functions. The second way is by developing a Product Launch and Messaging plan which facilitates the motion of bringing new products to market. This is the critical last step to ensure products which are developed don’t just sit on a shelf.

 

Tying It All Together

 

The best Product Leaders are grief relievers. They are on top of the three steps above, and execute the necessary activities to get ready for the annual planning process.

 

If you are a Product Leader and want to ensure you are ahead of the annual planning process, or if you’re a peer to the Product Leader and want to support their efforts, then download the Product Leader Annual Planning Checklist. This tool will ensure the Product Leader in your organization is prepared for the upcoming annual planning process.

 

Good luck with your 2019 annual planning.

 

Download the Annual Planning Checklist to identify what step and phase of the product strategy cycle you are on, pin-point the key outputs (solutions) from each phase that a Product Leader should produce, and evaluate your next steps in the entire process.

 

 

Additional Resources

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Daniel Korten

Helps companies make their number and grow revenue by using a data-driven approach to solving problems.

Dan joined SBI in 2012 and has mastered many roles within the firm’s Consultant Team. Most recently he became Client Success Manager, where he oversees and ensures project quality, consultant team development and client satisfaction.

 

Dan is an expert problem solver, which he achieves through data-driven decision making. When advising clients, he incorporates market segmentation, account segmentation, revenue & budget planning, sales organizational strategy and sales operations strategy.

 

Dan has also deep experience solving multi-functional organizational alignment issues impacting revenue growth. Expertise in private equity due diligence & screening, product strategy, buyer segmentation, demand generation strategy, sales territory optimization and talent strategy round out his broad base of knowledge in problem solving.

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