You can boil down your strategy to a few core elements. Use a simple framework to help explain it in only two sentences.
- One of my favorite quotes comes from Mark Twain. Here it is. "I didn't have time to write a short letter, "so I wrote a long one instead." When writing a product strategy, realize it can take many forms. Some folks write long documents that last for many pages. Others are more comfortable telling a step by step story using slides. You might even see complex spread sheets backing up strategy with detailed financial models.
There's no single right way to articulate a strategy. It makes a lot of sense to do so in long form. It's useful to flush out details for a strategy to make sure it's well thought out and clear. Regardless of how you choose to document your strategy in full, you should always be able to describe it concisely. It's not about saving time or paper, it's about achieving clarity. If you boil down your strategy to it's essence, you should be able to sum it up in one or two sentences.
If you can't do that, it probably means you still haven't figured out some important points or that you're avoiding making some key choices. Sound simple? Not quite. It's surprisingly difficult to express rich and complicated concepts in very simple terms. Fortunately, many people have faced this challenge before us and have come up with several useful frameworks to help address it. Over the years I've found myself going back time and time again to a particular framework.
The Elevator Pitch sentence structure is very simple, almost too simple. It forces you to express your strategy in only two sentences. It's a fantastic tool. Here's how it works. You keep the capitalized words intact and replace the underlined lower case ones with the core elements of your strategy. Then you read the whole thing out loud and see if it feels right. Is it convincing? Do you believe it? If not, go back to the drawing board and rethink it.
Is it clunky or too long? That means you probably put too many things into it instead of making some tough choices. So, go at it again. This framework can work for products or services of any type or scope. Let's try it out. What's the product strategy behind the online Netflix subscription service? This is how I would use the Elevator Pitch Framework to sum it up. For young Americans who want on demand entertainment, Netflix is an online subscription TV service that works seamlessly.
Unlike HBO or HULU, Netflix releases original content for binge watching. Let's try something else. How about Amazon Web Services? For growing companies who need to control infrastructure costs as they grow, Amazon Web Services, or AWS, is a cloud hosting service that is highly flexible. Unlike Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure, AWS offers a complete portfolio of cloud services.
Do these sentences cover all customer categories, features, or differentiators that exist today? Of course not. But imagine how useful it might have been to have this clarity and focus when the Netflix and Amazon teams just got started and had to figure out what to build first and how to go to market and get traction. Mark Twain was right. It's much easier to throw in everything but the kitchen sink than to come up with a meaningful, concise, concept.
It might be hard work, but it's well worth it. Why don't you try it? Pick your favorite product or service and describe it using the Elevator Pitch Framework. Then try it out on one of your own products.
- Tenets of a good strategy
- Using the elevator pitch framework
- Determining your target customers
- Determining the product differentiation
- Developing a product strategy
- Identifying key stakeholders
- Collecting and organizing input
- Maintaining and implementing your strategy