Louise and I recently discussed the topic of evolving from one offering to multiple on the Product Marketing Hive podcast. We quickly realized 30 mins won’t be enough to cover the topic in detail. So, here is a follow-on that tries to be succinct and serve as an ideas starter. It lays out eleven areas that need to be thought through to evolve from a single product to a product suite. The overall perspective here leans more to business to business (B2B).
Before we go into it, let me offer a little more context. Being successful with one product is no guarantee of being successful with a second offering. The Product Marketing Hive wrote on this very topic earlier in the year. There is no internal blueprint to follow. You need to go through the same learning curve to have a minimum valuable product, TO product-market fit, TO accelerated growth. That said, the second product will likely take less time to go through the cycles than your first product. Add to this stand-alone challenge the portfolio challenge. In other words: what is the impact of a new offering on the existing one and how do they compliment each other. The combination of new offering and portfolio of offerings is a lot of novel ground which this checklist intends to simplify.
With that, let’s start listing out the areas.
The biggest decision point is why have a portfolio in the first place. What does it achieve for the business? Side note: this is for the executive team to determine. Product Marketing and other departments are informed of the chosen direction.
- Is the intent to build a fence around the core offering… protect price?
- OR Facilitate the acquisition/adoption of the most profitable offering via other product on-ramps?
- OR is the intent revenue diversification? Removing the company dependency on a single product that is subject to the competitive/economic pressures of a single demand and supply scenario.
For PMMs this means tons of market sizing and segmentation work, as well as a review of the buyer journey and relevant personas.
Core decisions need to be taken around how products will work together.
- Will code need to be rebuilt?
- Is metadata and account / user data shared?
- Will the UI follow similar style guidelines?
- Is upsell / cross sell automated (Hello PLG!)?
- Do the products need to sit on the same infosec foundation?
Most of these decisions are with the product groups. Nevertheless, PMMs can support the decision with buying persona insight, good voice of customer and market need research. For example:
- Are buyers similar?
- Does TAM (total addressable market) for product A+B change vs when they are treated in isolation?
- What is the competitive perception impact on clients and prospects?
Pricing & Packaging
Sales proposals, quotes and pricing are delivered via a CPQ engine (configure price quote) with modern multi-product B2B SaaS offerings. Upgrading to such a system can be complex and lengthy. As a workaround and to get multi-product sales off the ground, you can create a single SOW (statement of work) allowing Sales to sell. Beyond that one can identify the value of the single and / or combined offerings by conducting classical price value-research. Policies around discounting, promotions etc. are subject to above strategic preferences.
- In other words, what is the perceived value of product A+B?
- Should they get bundled or remain standalone?
- Will a discount on one drive overall revenue?
The challenge here becomes one of calendaring, prioritization and focus.
- Do you focus on each product individually or the portfolio?
- Or do you ignore both of those and focus on the brand as a common denominator?
Inevitably the expansion away from a single offering will require a rethink of the content calendar and go-to-market prioritization with tough choices being made. Other questions to ask:
- What does the combined digital and physical buying journey look like?
- What content assets need to be developed top, middle and bottom of the funnel?
With a single product it’s relatively easy to provide updates. With multiple offerings one needs to think about subject leads as it becomes difficult to be an expert in everything. From there Sales will be focused based on their interest / audience. This could result in a partially disengaged cohort unless the knowledge transfer is optimized to their situation. Training formats will need to be adapted.
- Which sellers get trained in what order?
- What is the best delivery format?
- How do you evolve a Sales organization proficient in demoing a product to one relying on Sales engineers?
Sales volume plus ticket size consideration combined with logo kickers is a common sales compensation with single products. With multiple products one needs to weigh up the importance of core revenue vs growth revenue and incentivize accordingly. Account management needs to be re-thought in the context of share of wallet versus market share of a product. Most of these are Sales challenges. However PMM can support and influence the direction with product launch incentives.
- Does the business case include a SPIF (sales performance incentive fund)?
- Have clear sell-out targets been established?
- Is Sales trained on the “to be lead” handover process?
Many billing systems and processes are designed with upfront billing in mind. However, usage based billing is increasingly popular and has some intricacies. Product A may have a different usage schedule/volume to Product B. To avoid client dissatisfaction off the back of erroneous bills, invoicing policies may need to be adjusted or processes and systems upgraded. Especially the latter can be a significant investment. Some basic questions will have to be addressed.
- Does the billing feed need to be redeveloped?
- Is the billing department trained up on the new offering and its value?
One common revenue recognition test is to see whether a new offering is dependent on another service offering. If so, they can’t be uncoupled from an accounting perspective. This has implications for how new offerings are developed. Again, not a PMM owned domain. Nevertheless, is accounting involved in these discussions? Has revenue been modeled with rev. rec. rules in mind?
There are many tools nowadays that help with collecting product use data. As products get added into the mix, the interaction between those offerings starts becoming relevant. Furthermore usage needs to be tied to revenue and, ideally, prospect data. With products likely built on varying technology foundations an additional warehouse facilitating system interaction is a likely outcome.
- Can product adoption be measured across products?
- Is revenue impact based on usage understood?
The expectation is for a Customer Success organization to be experts in how to use a product including workarounds. This is with the goal of showing ways to use the offering to achieve the desired outcome with the ultimate goal of more stickiness. As the portfolio grows it becomes more difficult for one individual to know it all. On the support side choices need to be made around time-frequency support.
- Is there a buyer overlap, thus support expectation, between offerings?
- What is the natural ratio of product to account to support staff?
- What is the preferred service model and how is it best delivered?
PMMs can influence these choices via sound persona research.
Some choices will have to be made around organizational structure. Especially the extent to which products share infrastructure. For instance,
- Is Sales organized by offering?
- Do engineers share code libraries and IaaS infrastructure?
- Is CS going to be focused by customer type, use case, product or geo?
- What should success KPIs look like?
Answering these choices is a highly collaborative exercise that is best conducted jointly with product management during the offering build out stages.
This is a very high level ‘checklist’. All topics here are worth deep diving into as there are many nuances and tangential issues to tackle.