Scott is the CEO and founder of Terem, Australia’s leading tech product development firm.
Some of us in product take it for granted that a product-led approach is the way to operate. However, all too often our stakeholders – sales, marketing, our boss’s boss, even our own team – may need some convincing.
This post provides an outline of the case for why you might take a product-led approach. In making the case, we’ll explore the reasons for and against and the alternatives. But let’s start with a quick definition before we get into detail.
A product-led approach, in the technology and digital context, is where your product experience is the central focus of your organisation. It’s where your organisation aims to deliver on your value proposition to your customers solely or primarily through your product(s).
Traditionally websites and web applications were essentially marketing collateral, supporting a primary person-based channel (e.g. in-store, on the phone). That is, customers bought, interacted and experienced an organisation’s offerings through the organisation’s people – like sales staff and customer support.
Today websites and apps often are the product for many organisations. Customers primarily buy, interact and experience an organisation through their digital channels. And if digital isn’t the primary channel then it is usually a significant part of the customer’s journey.
A product-led approach emerged from highly successful companies that had no option but to be product-led because their product was all they had. Out of necessity, companies like Google and Facebook, had to take an approach that led to world-leading products. They recognised that their customer’s experience of their product was at the center of their success.
There are a few key reasons for taking a product-led approach.
You’ve already been exposed to the first and probably the most significant. If your websites, apps and (maybe) devices – your products – are or have become the channel or the primary channel through which your customers interact with your company then you have a strong driver for being product-led.
This doesn’t need to be the whole of the company. It may be in a part of your company, a division or a team.
Being or becoming product-led, taking an approach like the one outlined above, brings with it some benefits. The best way to explain these is by mapping these benefits out:
So now that we’ve seen why you might take a product-led approach, it’s worth considering why you wouldn’t.
The first and easiest reason to use to rule out taking a product-led approach is if your customer’s experience and interactions with your company are not primarily through your product or your value proposition is only partly fulfilled through your product.
Here are some examples:
And here is an outline of some alternatives (but by no means comprehensive or complete):
You still might determine that some parts of the experience (and your organisation) benefits from a product-led approach while others take another approach.
It can be challenging when different approaches come into play because you will often need to consider the end-to-end experience across multiple touch points to provide the best experience. There isn’t an easy answer here.
Below are a few somewhat random additional thoughts related to why you (or your stakeholders) might benefit from a product-led approach: