How does an organization gain market leadership in a rapidly changing landscape amidst tough competition? It’s a lofty question with no simple answer. 

In the spring of 2020, we began exploring an approach to guide our direction given the conversations we were having with product executives. The problem of ineffective product management and its implications were becoming more pronounced as the pandemic was driving companies to accelerate digital transformation and rapidly innovate products to serve customers in new ways.

With that, we set out as a team to define how this problem could be solved in a different way given that existing solutions such as static training binders, cheap low-quality online courses and costly dogmatic university certificates, do not provide adequate mentorship. In addition to solving this problem, our process would also result in a three-step playbook that any company could follow to build great products that win.

The 3-Step Playbook to Gain Market Leadership

Over the course of many months, our team worked together to understand the problem, its implications, and what the market needed. We also needed a way to tell a story and deliver that to the market. It’s this process that revealed a 3-step playbook as the approach we were seeking to guide our direction.

These are the plays:

  • Design and build a category-defining product that is different.
  • Craft a compelling story to make your customer the hero.
  • Communicate a straightforward story with a sales funnel to grow your business.

Let’s elaborate on these three plays.

Design and Build a Category-Defining Product That’s Different 

Play number one is core competitive strategy to design and build a category-defining product that is different. We based this play on Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets.

Your number one job when becoming a category king is to change the way people think. If you can change the way people think, you’re going to influence their buying behavior. The key to this play is you’re going to need to do three things simultaneously. 

You’re going to need to have an outstanding category, a great product, and an incredible company all working together to change the way people think. 

Let’s look at three examples of market leaders that compete in entirely different spaces. We’ll use these examples to tease out what they have in common: 

  • Salesforce challenged the status quo of on-prem CRM, which Siebel Systems for so many years had dominated. By creating a whole new product category called Cloud CRM, Salesforce promised affordability through a subscription, faster deployment times, and lower complexity. Today, we accept the cloud as reasonably expected. At the time, it was a massive shift for organizations. 
  • Netflix took us from a world of going in-store to Blockbuster to rent movies. They then moved us to accept DVDs by mail, and finally, streaming video. 
  • Uber took us from a world of hailing taxis to being able to use our smartphones. A few touches of your screen and a car will come to us to take us to our destination. 

These companies carefully created a brand new product category and did a fantastic job of changing the customers’ mindset. They moved people from a world they were very comfortable in and brought them to a new world.

The deliverable in this play is a concise “point of view” document. It must identify the problem you are uniquely qualified to solve, its implications, the name of the new category, and the expected outcomes from adopting this new solution. 

Clarify Your Message So Your Customers Will Listen

Play number two is a storytelling framework. We modeled it after the book Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller. It’s a simple way to clarify your message so that your customers will listen. The story starts at the beginning with a character. That character is your customer. 

This framework includes seven principles:

  1. The customer is the hero, not you. Your customer has a problem. 
  2. We know that customers buy solutions to internal issues. So, think about the category problem that you’ve defined. Ultimately, this is where they’re going to need to feel the pain personally to buy your product. 
  3. Now, your customer is going to need a guide, that’s you. Remember, they’re looking for a guide, not another hero. You, as the guide, are going to give them a plan. 
  4. Customers are going to trust a guide who has a plan. 
  5. Since customers don’t take action by themselves, you’re going to need to challenge them in step five of your story. 
  6. This is where you’re going to save them from the problem. 
  7. Being clear about what you’re rescuing your customer from will bring them to step seven in your process, which is where you’re going to take them.

This framework will ensure that your customers will choose you as their guide on the way to solve their problem.

The result in this play is a BrandScript that captures a simple, clear story to power all of your marketing programs and put you on the path towards market leadership. 

Use a Sales Funnel to Grow Your Business

Lastly is play number three, which is to communicate a straightforward story using a sales funnel to grow your business. This play is based on our learnings from Marketing Made Simple by Donald Miller.

There are five key points to this methodology: 

  1. Craft a brand script to clarify your message. This is what we did in play number two. 
  2. Distill that story into a one-liner that can easily deliver that message to anybody and make it easily understood. 
  3. Design a clear landing page to bring that message to life. 
  4. Exchange value on the website to capture email addresses. This is where you’re going to give away something for free in exchange for that valuable email address. 
  5. Finally, you’re going to send your prospects helpful emails to help them solve the problem as your guide.

If you follow this methodology, you’re marketing and sales teams will love the inbound leads coming your way.

The primary deliverables are a website landing page that brings your story to life and helpful emails to your prospects that drive sales conversion.

How We Applied the Playbook

Let’s break it down for you on how we applied this playbook at Products That Count. 

Products That Count Defined a New Category

The problem that we went after was ineffective product management that can lead to failed product launches, lost engineering, throughput, and ultimately significant missed revenue for an organization. 

The new thing that we created, the product category, is a Product Acceleration Platform that enables any organization to learn product management craft through a personalized, scalable approach. 

Finally, our promise to product leaders is to help them turn their product teams into a competitive advantage, and ultimately, accelerate their revenue and path to market leadership.

We Built the Product for the New Category

We built a new product, Product Mentorship at Scale, and differentiated our offering with these three pillars:

  1. A breadth of world-class content that we refresh daily. 
  2. A depth of content across geographies, industries, and different phases of the product lifecycle. 
  3. We also recognize that product managers need to stay sharp. Our progressive capabilities allow product managers and product leaders to continuously up their game through a personalized approach. 

This breadth, depth, and progressive approach is the answer to ineffective product management.

Crafting the Story of our Category and Product

The Products That Count story starts with the product leader. Product leaders face problems that include failed product launches, low engineering throughput, attrition, and missed revenue. 

Our customer meets Products That Count as the guide who has the most influential Product Acceleration Platform on the market. We’re going to give them a plan that transforms their product teams into a competitive advantage. 

We know for them to take action, we’re going to challenge them to onboard their team to drive and change the organization into a product lead culture. Ultimately, that’s going to save those product leaders from a tragic end, such as losing their team, losing their job, or even having the company fail. 

Product leaders will build world-class teams fueled with a mindset of product excellence, which leads to accelerated revenue and market leadership.

We Communicated Our Story with a Marketing Program

To drive the adoption of our new product and gain market leadership, we needed to put a sales funnel into action to introduce the world to our new solution. When you create a new category, you need to be able to reinforce the category problem first, and then your solution second.

This process led to a new Products That Count website, landing pages for our various offerings, lead hooks, email drip campaigns, and so much more. 

Discover our solution

Now that you see how we applied the process to address the problem of ineffective product management, learn more about our category-defining solution at the 2021 Product Awards.

You can be one of the first to discover the answers. Click here to register for the 2021 Product Awards.

If you’re interested in learning more about the problem we defined, we wrote a whole article on the ramifications of ineffective product management.