How to Define Your Product Strategy
Foreword to a twelve-part series on product strategy.
Early in my career as a product leader, I learned to execute quickly, leading to success in building games and children’s software. But two things reinforced the value of strategic thinking for me. One good, another bad:
- The Good. I learned to accelerate progress by thinking strategically. In building children’s software, I anticipated the value of brands and signed many of them to long-term exclusives. I also learned to appreciate the value of grade-based positioning (Elmo’s Preschool, Reader Rabbit’s 1st Grade) as well as the emerging internet opportunity.
- The Bad. I was a co-founder of Creative Wonders, which we sold to The Learning Company (TLC), and then sold TLC to Mattel for $3.5B. But two years later Mattel spun TLC back out of the company for one-tenth its value. We had failed to build long-term, enduring value.
Fast forward to 2005 when I joined Netflix. I shifted my focus from satisfying customers to delighting them. I also learned about the balancing act of delight and margin, and what makes products hard-to-copy. And I learned to articulate a product strategy — a set of hypotheses for how to delight customers in hard-to-copy, margin-enhancing ways.
In 2010, I applied these approaches at Chegg, the textbook rental and homework help startup. Today, Chegg is a public company with a market cap of $4.5B. I expect Chegg will grow in value just as Netflix did over the last ten years.
Crisp execution and high-cadence experimentation are critical, but having a clear product strategy supercharges your efforts. Strategic thinking enables you to think ahead, to effectively “skip quarters,” and to build enduring value.
What follows is a series of short essays that provide a step-by-step approach to defining your product strategy:
- #1 “The DHM Model”
- #2 “From DHM to Product Strategy”
- #3 “The Strategy/Metric/Tactic Lock-up”
- #4 “Proxy Metrics”
- #5 “Working Bottom-up”
- #6 “A Product Strategy for Each Swimlane”
- #7 “The Product Roadmap”
- #8 “The GLEe Model”
- #9 “The GEM Model”
- #10 “The Quarterly Product Strategy Meeting”
- #11 “A Case Study: Chegg”
- #12 “Step-by-Step Exercises to Define Your Product Strategy”
I hope you find these essays helpful. Click below to read the first essay: