Elevate your Product Strategy Game

Gayatri Diwan
6 min readOct 29, 2023

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Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Have you ever wondered — what are the ways to devising a winning product strategy? How can you develop a product strategy since you are new in your PM career or have never written one? Where do you start and how do you think strategically like product leaders?

In this post, we will discuss the following topics to help you build a winning product strategy:

a) What is product strategy and why is it important?
b) How to build a winning product strategy using a 7-step mental model?
c) What are the traps and pitfalls to avoid while building it?

What is Product Strategy?

Product strategy should not be confused with a feature list factory or your product vision. Product strategy is like a connecting tissue between product vision and product roadmap.

Product strategy cannot exist on its own without a sound governing product vision. Hence, let’s talk about product vision first and then discuss what is product strategy and its importance.

In my opinion — product vision is something that should be aspirational, key differentiator, big picture — something that communicates the value your product brings to possibly millions and billions of your customers. Vision should be simple yet comprehensive to guide your product strategy.

Product strategy is fundamental in all product led organizations. It sets the foundation for how the company plans to achieve its vision.

Simply put, product strategy boils down to the 3 Ws:
a) Why do we need this product?
b) Who are we building the product for?
c) What are we building and the outcomes we want to achieve?

Product strategy truly matters since it provides clarity to your business stakeholders to understand the direction in which your product is headed and strives to create the right outcomes aligned with the business strategy.

Now that we know the importance of product strategy, let’s dive into the mental model to develop one.

7-Step Mental Model for creating a solid product strategy

I am a firm believer of first principles and customer first mindset. With that said, I am also a big advocate of Amazon’s working backwards approach which I myself have used since my time there.

I would like to share a mental model that I personally use while building product strategy and hope you will find it useful regardless of your level or time spent in the PM career:

1. Who is your customer?

Who is your target customer for whom you are creating the product?

2. What is the problem statement?

What problems are you solving? What do your customers want, what are the jobs to be done (JTBD), and is there a product market fit (PMF)?

3. What is the impact and benefit to the customer with supporting data?

Data helps win arguments and IMHO arguments are opportunities to create a shared understanding of the problem and its benefits. As part of your strategy, share how your product provides quantitative and qualitative benefits to the customer.

4. What is the ideal state? What does good look like?

For the customer, what is their ideal experience while using your product? I have learned to pay attention to this step from my mentors. I am surprised how many teams and even organizations miss or skip this critical step.

5. What is our criteria for success and how will we measure our success metrics?

The success metrics will be defined by the business outcomes your product strategy will help drive and achieve. These metrics need to be defined right from the beginning, built during product development and not as an after thought.

Remember: ITERATE! MEASURE! ITERATE! MEASURE!

6. What are the core product tenets or principles?

  • Product strategy leader is like the captain of a ship who has to steer the ship in the right direction to the ultimate destination. The path to the destination can be full of turbulences but I have realized over the years that product principles will help you stay guided and grounded.
  • Product tenets will help make product development decisions. They help us make better tradeoff decisions to break the tie between products when they competing for the same resources.

7. What are the key pillars and themes we want to invest in?

The key pillars are more of the product capabilities that need to built and will help us differentiate from our competition.

And then finally - What does the Minimum Lovable Product (MLP) look like and do you have a roadmap for it?

These steps are usually followed by the Go to Market (GTM) plan, what solutions/tools or platform we would use to realize this strategy along with a 18-month plan/3-year plan. Lastly, it is critical to state assumptions upfront and factor in known risks or headwinds with a mitigation plan.

This is a no ultimate secret recipe but in my opinion, it helps us uncover most of the blind spots and gets us started on the right path. This 7-step mental model varies a bit depending on the type of product that is being built such an existing or 0 to 1 product Vs. B2B or B2C product.

With this mental model, let’s try to steer clear of the traps/pitfalls while building an effective product strategy.

What are the pitfalls to avoid while building a product strategy?

Based on my experiences, here are a few watch outs that I pay extra attention to while developing a product strategy:

(This is not an exhaustive list)

  1. Product Market Fit (PMF) is very critical for your product — Without it, your product will not be successful and it is advisable to go back to the drawing board when you don’t get it right.
  2. Engaging the right people early and having a shared understanding of the problem — Product management and strategy is a team sport so involving the right people ensures that you get a well-rounded perspective as you formulate the strategy. Of course, you will need to align the product strategy with your stakeholders and get their buy-in.
  3. Having the right processes mapped out for successful pilot and launch — Never launch products in silos without mapping out the end-to-end flow with products and processes in mind. I found it it very beneficial to identify the areas of cross overs between product and process. Often these cross overs are ignored since product and technology tends to get over indexed on leading to gaps in providing what the customers want.
  4. Good strategy coupled with solid execution is very important — If you have a good strategy with poor execution, it is usually a disaster but a mediocre strategy with solid execution is a lot better and will help you survive. Regardless, you need a great strategy and a solid team to build and execute the plan.

Above everything, product strategy is a team sport and a continuous journey that needs to be evolved along its way.

With the use of AI/ML, we are going through a paradigm shift in technology. In my 12+ years of product management experience in building AI/ML products, this mental model still holds true to build AI driven product strategy. AI is an enabler and cannot replace the 3Ws of product strategy (discussed above) and sound product judgement in building trusting and meaningful customer experiences.

Thank you for reading and hope this post helps you to elevate your product strategy game the next time your VP/SVP of Product asks you for one!

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Gayatri Diwan

Seasoned Product Leader with PM experience at Amazon, Expedia & Deloitte. A product enthusiast with expertise in AI/ML space & loves talking all things product.