Case study: When you want to expand the target segment of your product

Sunita had just returned back from the product camp in the weekend with some fresh ideas and that got her thinking about what had happened to her product in the last quarter. Sunita was the new Product Manager of her company’s flagship product which faced plateauing revenues – a mid-life crisis for the product, which seems to be quite natural for all products. Challenged with the task of improving the same, she found that the product was once a roaring success (rather it still is) and had crossed many chasms successfully. The product completely concentrated on the small and medium business (SMB) segment of the market. After brainstorming with Steven, the Product Marketing manager and with Molly, the VP of Sales – there was enough market research data that indicated that there was a need for a similar product in the large enterprises. Sunita had taken the strategically important decision of retrofitting the existing product with features required for the large enterprises; this she thought was cost effective – as the expansion of the product line can happen with almost the same product as base.

Three months into the whole exercise – she started getting strange vibes from the market. There was no traction from the new segment the product targeted – the large enterprise. Even worse: there was negative (amplified much higher) sentiments from the existing customers of the SMB segment – which made her shiver. The existing customers felt that the product had now become complex to use. The large enterprise segment prospects felt that the product still addressed only the SMB segment and not suitable for them. The  sharp Product Manager that Sunita is, she did some soul searching and after connecting a few links, it hit her like a bolt out of the blue. She had created another personality for the product. The same product now sported a split personality. Split personalities create discord in all segments of the market. Sunita recommended two immediate changes to the whole strategy.

1. The existing product will continue to address the SMB segment and she shall engage with the customers to elicit the tacit needs of the customers – which can increase the value proposition delivered by the product.

2. The exercise – gave birth to a new product line – custom made for the large enterprise. Although similar (not same) – a dedicated product line can address the needs in a more specific manner. A new product line also brings in new thinking and dedicated people in charge of marketing, sales, support and operations.

It’s been a year since this happened and Sunita meanwhile found that there were several un-stated needs of the customer in the SMB segment and she concentrated on those. Meanwhile the product line for large enterprise began to take baby steps and started getting good traction from the prospects at the large enterprises.

Does it sound like a tale from the fairy tales book? Almost? Or, does it feel painfully similar? Well, there were several challenges, wrong decisions to begin with, short-cuts which cut you short and so on. However, Sunita (and her company) realized this and “failed-fast” – and implemented the learning – which makes it more like Aesop’s fables or Panchatantra.

Have you faced something similar? Tell us what you think.

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