Product Strategy: 3 (short) exercises to start tackling this challenge.

Antonis Argyros
5 min readOct 7, 2020

If you have ever worked in a small company, especially a technology start-up, the chances are that you have rarely participated (voluntarily at least) in a discussion to define your product strategy. From my experience building technology ventures from scratch the last +21 years, this topic rarely makes it to the agenda at all. The main argument that is used most of the times is that product strategy is “just theory” and it has very little value (if any) in the real world... Our house is on fire now and we don’t have time to strategize on what we must do in the future.

This argument is extremely sound and I am afraid, I must admit that I have used it multiple times in the past but it cannot be the reason not to have a clear sense of where you are headed. In circumstances where the available resources (mainly time and money) are limited, there is an overwhelming focus on executing over discussing, for acting over talking.

Ventures fail all the time, that’s part of the startup economics. But, in today’s extremely competitive landscape, not knowing where you are headed is the fastest road to failure.

One of our key principles at Vesquad is to ensure that all the ventures we support know where they are aiming to get before they set off.

Even though this principle sounds very obvious, it requires transcending the notion that a product is only about screens and features. The reality is the exact opposite, you should start with your user’s desired outcome and work backward to the technology and the cool tools you can develop.

With the main goal to trigger your appetite on product strategy and hopefully initiate some internal discussions, this article provides a very short(based on its importance) reference to some of the influencers that have impacted the way our product designers and product managers work within Vesquad.

Tip : You could use the title of each of the following segments as a call to action for a short workshop that will help you get one step closer to the definition of your product strategy.

  1. What is the value of your product?

Entrepreneurs and managers tend to focus on cost reduction and supply-side efficiencies without investing the same amount of effort on understanding the demand side which in most cases remains poorly understood.

As the leader of the Product, you must ensure that the value your product is creating is properly understood and only after you have documented the value you start exploring ways of capturing it. As Eric Almquist has demonstrated all these years, value is complicated and hard to quantify. As a result, we have many pricing experts but very few (if any) value experts.

In brief: Pricing is an extremely important exercise you must make but you should not start there. First and foremost, you should define the value of your product

Bain & Company, 2015

🎓 First Exercise: After hosting numerous sessions I have seen that the one exercise with the highest impact is to define the value that your product creates. You can start documenting this by elaborating on the these 4 areas

  • Functional (What does it do)
  • Emotional (How does it feel)
  • Life-changing (How does it change my life)
  • Social (What value society)

Tip : Best way to visualize it is by using the above pyramid that Eric Almquist created (and yes he was very much inspired by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid)

2. What is the Job your Product is asked to do?

If you are a product owner, manager, designer, etc you are already fully aware of this concept that has been introduced by Alan Klement. The idea is that someone is not going to buy/use your product for the features or the cool technologies you have incorporated but for a specific job that your product will deliver to the customer at the end of the day.

One personal note, even though this approach is extremely useful to adjust your mentality accordingly (nobody cares about how cool your solution is, they only care if you deliver real value to them at the end of the day) I do not agree 100% with the wording. It is useful to keep in our minds that people are the ones that have the job and not products.

🎓Second Exercise: Spend the time needed to fill in the Value Proposition Canvas (by Alex Osterwalder)

by Alex Osterwalder
by Alex Osterwalder

Tip : You can also use the Lean Product Canvas. Ideally, you can fill in both 😎

3. What is the journey of your customer?

In the first two exercises, the focus was on your product and now we need an exercise that will bring the focus back to where it should always be, your customer.

If you haven’t correlated with any of the above arguments maybe this one could help. The companies that treat their customers well outperform those that don’t have the customer as their king. And not only they outperform them but based on our experience, they are 65% more profitable.

So, how do you treat your customer well? You can start by getting into their shoes and realize the challenges they are facing, their biggest motivations, and their main pain points.

🎓Third Exercise: Create the customer journey map by using tools like Overflow, Flowmapp, Marvel, etc.

Tip: Please do take into account that you must revisit the above canvasses, tools, etc at least once per quarter (definitely more often when you are starting up your new venture) and update them based on your learnings.

Hope this is helpful🤓 . Feel free to PM me if there is anything I can help you with

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Antonis Argyros

Serial entrepreneur with 22+ years of experience in building from scratch and running tech ventures.