One of the hardest things for a business owner, or entrepreneur, to do is to objectively evaluate the company’s products or services. When trying to grow the company, take a hard look at your products.
One of the hardest things for a business owner, or entrepreneur, to do is to objectively evaluate the company’s products or services. They most likely built the product initially and have their heart and soul invested in it. When revenue is trending downward, the tendency is to invest in more sales personnel or marketing efforts because the problem could not be with the product itself (“certainly no one is calling the baby ugly, right?”).
The reality is that the market is changing so rapidly nowadays that what was highly successful and profitable last year may be outdated this year. Customer loyalty will only go so far until they pursue other options.
Listen, Listen, and Then Listen More
First, you have to evaluate whether your existing product is something that enough of the market wants and will buy to increase growth.
What are your existing customers telling you? They always want more but do you spend time and ask them? If you added a feature or service, would they be willing to pay more for it? Do not be bashful, ask.What is the competition doing? Are you on top of the market and where it is going? A SWOT analysis is not bad for this exercise.What is your sales team telling you? You always have to remember to filter their feedback, but it is a good source of information.
Let’s assume you now have an objective view of the offering as it is today. Now you must decide how you want to position or update it for growth.
Transforming the Offering
A very important point to understand when positioning an existing product for growth is to make sure you do not freeze your sales. What does that mean? If the word gets out that you are updating your product and it will take 1-2 years to complete, why buy the current one? People will either wait or go with the competition.
One approach I have seen that works is to phase in updates over time. It is okay to talk about the existing features and the new ones that are coming in near-term. Word will get out that you are shaking things up and reacting to the needs of the market.
Another approach that works is to focus on what you do very well and use that as a competitive advantage.
I was with a company that was in the process of transforming a technology product that was quite older. The product could not compete functionally with the newer products on the market. What we did have was a lot of employees with experience on the customer’s side. They were former employees in roles we were selling to. Our competitive advantage became the use of services and expertise rather than on selling features and functionality. The service and reputation had to be stellar and it was.
Consider trying this approach if your product needs major overhauling.
Plan the Work, Work the Plan
Now that you have done your research, know what the market requires, and have an idea of what it will take, put together a well-thought out plan. You must plan it and stick to the plan. It is too easy to get sidetracked by chasing deals that provide short-term revenue. If an opportunity is in alignment with your planned direction and a client is willing to fund it to make it happen sooner, do it.
I highly recommend sound Product Management and Product Marketing processes if not already in place. If you are not sure what these are, check out 280group.com. They have a ton of information as well as certification courses.
Above all, work the plan to get your product where it needs for sustained growth. Customers have told you they will buy if you do it. Some may even help fund the work.
Now you’ve got existing employees on-board with the concept of growth. You know what you need for new employees. You now have a plan to transform the company’s product into something the market will buy.