Getting to know your product

Dougmarketing strategy, product management, product strategy, products0 Comments

There are few greater career levers in marketing and product management than having a deep understanding of your products & their consumers.  When colleagues, partners, and management see that you’ve gained such mastery, your ability to influence & drive business decisions grows substantially.One method I’ve found for quickly infusing yourself with a healthy dose of product insight is running your product through what I’ve dubbed the ProductBuddyTM tool (think of it as the equivalent to a nice cuddling session with your product).  ProductBuddyTM can be especially powerful for helping you quickly get up to speed on a new product.

ProductBuddyTM is powerful because it not only equips you with critical insight into your product’s category, but also provides you with:

  • Ideas for making product enhancements & innovations
  • Ideas for improving your marketing strategy & marketing programs
  • Visibility into aspects of your product where you require greater insight & understanding

ProductBuddyTM Tool & universal product attributes 
The ProductBuddyTM tool is used for assessing your product category across a number of universal product dimensions & attributes – by universal, I mean those dimensions & attributes that can be used to describe any product or service category, from productivity apps for your iPhone to vacation rentals and dish-washing detergent.

Examples of universal product dimensions & attributes include:

  • Consumer interest level.  Cars would represent a product category with very high consumer interest levels while car oil would be on the very low-end of the scale.
  • Ease with which consumers can experience the product’s value.   Insurance products would be on the “difficult” end of the scale as compared to pain relievers such as Tylenol or Advil on the “easy”-end.
  • Aesthetics & design importance.  I’d put sneakers on the high end of this scale and home-repair tools on the lower end.  When was the last time you purchased a wrench because of its vibrant hue and charming shape?
  • Pleasure producer vs. pain & stress reducer.   Restaurants & televisions would go on the pleasure-producing end of the spectrum in contrast with mental-health therapy on the pain- & stress-reducing side.


Example of the ProductBuddyTM tool in action: College

ProductBuddy: College Example

 

While I’ve only included a sample of universal product attributes in our “college” example, just from looking through the scoring you can immediately get a feel for the dynamics of the college “product category”:

  • College: a difficult, high-stakes, extremely pricey purchase with profound influence upon one’s identity and sense of self.  Now imagine running a product category like “toothpaste” through the same exercise… same product dynamics as college?  Certainly not.

List of universal product dimensions & attributes for ProductBuddyTM Tool
While the list below is by no means exhaustive, it includes enough different types of product dimensions to provide you with a well-rounded understanding of the dynamics of your product category.

A few important notes about universal product dimensions & attributes before you start scoring your product category using this list:

  • Some are very much associated with specific stages in the consumer/purchase life-cycle (demand/interest, research & selection, purchase, installation, usage, maintenance, re-purchase, disposal, etc.)
  • Some are more relevant to internal, organizational considerations while others are externally focused on the consumer and the market for your product.
  • Some are more relevant to certain product categories than to others.
Universal Product Dimension / Attribute Relevant Stage(s) in Consumer Lifecycle
Consumer interest level (cars vs. car oil) NA
High/Low price point NA
Number of scenarios / use cases in which product is used/needed NA
High/low purchase frequency – e.g., car vs. toilet paper NA
Social pressure / reflection of one’s identity related to product category (e.g., type of car you drive vs. brand of rubber bands you use) NA
Most important reasons consumers become interested in product (key triggers) Demand/Interest
Importance of aesthetics & design (form vs. function) NA
Provides Pleasure vs. Reduces Pain/Stress/Risk/Loss NA
Number of options/different features NA
# of different pricing configurations NA
Predictability of demand for product NA
High/low effort – physical / mental energy required Relevant to each part of lifecycle
Speed & ease-of-access to information would want to have/know Research & Selection
Ease of communicating benefits of product Research & Selection
Cost of channels that can effectively market product Research & Selection
# of specific features that drive bulk of purchase selection decisions Research & Selection
Easy to assess/research pricing; ease of making product comparisons Research & Selection, Purchase
Importance of Price in determining purchase decision Research & Selection, Purchase
Emotion-based/Logic- or Functional-based Research & Selection, Purchase
(Perceived) Risk & consequences of making a bad purchase (e.g., purchasing a used car vs. a piece of fruit) Research & Selection, Purchase
Ease of making & completing purchase Purchase
Cost of channels that can effectively sell product Purchase
Steepness of product learning curve Research & Selection, Usage
Easy to use/complex Usage
High/low post-purchase costs & maintenance Usage
Speed at which product fills given customer need/achieves customer goal Usage
Value derived by product per unit of effort (mental or physical) Usage
Speed in which value can be derived from product (e.g., eating chocolate vs. SEO) Usage
Level of pleasure derived while using (mental, physical) Usage
High/low-touch Usage
Ease of receiving & setting up product Usage
Ease-of-seeing value provided by product Usage
Cost of channels that can effectively service product Usage
Diversity of consumption patterns for product – does everyone use or consume product same way or is their great variability? Usage
Ease of repurchasing product Repurchase
# of ways consumers can currently repurchase product Repurchase
Main reasons why consumers do not repurchase product Repurchase
Ease of disposing of product Disposal

How should I use this list?

  1. Copy the list into a program like Excel, and score your product across each dimension. (Feel free to skip those dimensions that are not relevant to your product category)
  2. Add more dimensions to the list and score your product across those as well. (Just by going through the list you’ll come up with additional dimensions for assessing your product category)
  3. For each dimensions, ask yourself whether there is an opportunity for enhancing your product or improving your marketing or operations.  For example,


…and before I go
Please, please let me know if you have any questions – shoot me an email, leave a comment below, etc. More to come on this topic. Getting to the essence of your product — to that the juiciest part of the steak — is where the greatest opportunities await.

Recommended books for getting to know your product better

    

Also, check out all of my business book recommendations.


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