My most favoritest product document

April 14, 2011 at 11:20 pm 3 comments

I recently worked with a client who asked me to help them redesign their site architecture. As part of my proposal, I suggested we back up and really define the customer, the market, and the product’s position within the market. Fully expecting a “No thanks, just redesign the site” (start-ups are notorious for putting the cart before the horse), I was delighted when they agreed.

As we went through the process, I continuously heard “It’s like you’re putting to paper everything in my head.” Amen brotha! Its so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day execution of your product and forget to ask once in a while, “What is it again that I’m trying to do?” That is why I’m such a fan of the product positioning statement. It really can be, when used properly, your guiding light.

Before going further, I’ll clarify what I define as a product positioning statement. In a nutshell it answers the questions: for whom, why, and how. There are lots of different templates out there, so find the one that’s right for you. Personally I use a modified version of Pragmatic Marketing’s template, addressing the following:

  • Describe the problem in the market
  • Describe the ideal solution (without describing your product)
  • Main product message (kind of like a tagline that sums up your product in 10 words or less)
  • Main feature sets* of the product that solve customer problems

Now, here is why I think a positioning statement is so important…

Its gets everyone on the same page
Assuming you can rally support among your team to spend time on this effort, putting together the positioning statement is a great way of gathering all the disparate information in your teams’ heads and getting it all in a centralized location. Once you’ve done that, it’s much easier to come to a collective agreement about your product strategy.

It keeps everyone focused
Not only does this document serve to remind you of the main goals when you’re stuck in the weeds, it also acts as a way to prioritize work efforts. There are lots of great ideas flying around, but does that great idea help you accomplish what you’ve defined as your positioning statement? If not, then it either gets deprioritized or perhaps it’s time to revisit whether your positioning in the market should change.

It gets everyone thinking like a marketer
Its so easy to think about your product in terms of its functionality…especially for those in a technical role. Raising the conversation to the level of market problems and feature sets (as opposed to individual features) helps the entire team think in terms of building a product that will answer the broader market problem rather than individual features.

Your marketing team/copy-writers will love you
Having written copy myself, I can tell you its infinitely more difficult to do when you don’t have a sense for why the heck your product is worth its druthers. The product positioning statement serves as a starting point for any major customer messaging. This includes sales materials, fund-raising decks, etc. So perhaps I should change the header of this paragraph to “Anyone who has to sell the product will love you” instead.

If you’re reading this, I’m probably preaching to the choir. So what if others in your organization don’t really understand or believe in the positioning statement’s value? Do it anyway and keep it in your back pocket for the right moment. Then when there is a question of “should we …..?”, you can ‘wam bam thank you maam’ them with why they should or shouldn’t based on whether it helps solve the market problem. When they ask where you got your moment of brilliance, pull out that positioning statement.  Look for every opportunity to use the positioning statement to inform decisions and I promise they’ll learn its value. And thus, you prove yours.

Yah Product Positioning Statement!

* A feature set is multiple features rolled up into a larger offering that solves a market problem. Example: an inbox, comment board, and instant chat on a social network would be part of a feature set for “Messaging”, which helps the user communicate in whatever way is most convenient at the time.


Entry filed under: uncategorized.

Rebuttal to “Why its harmful to listen to users” Huge letdown by Zappos

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. dkzody  |  April 16, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Good thinking and good work. “what are we doing here and why?” is a good question to ask oneself every so often.

  • 2. Smith  |  April 27, 2011 at 6:08 am

    thanks for sharing this wonderful post

    ce mark

  • 3. SallyOutLoud  |  May 19, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to write this post. I intend to “Do it anyway and keep it in your back pocket for the right moment”.


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