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Intercom on Product: The intersection of company and product strategy

How does product strategy relate to company strategy? Here are the six key ingredients for a great product strategy.

Five years ago I wrote about how product strategy means saying no – you must ruthlessly protect your product from feature creep. 

Saying no, however, is just one part of a successful product strategy. As your business scales, you’ll need to carefully align your product strategy with your broader company strategy to ensure cohesive and sustainable growth.

In today’s episode, we discuss the six key elements of an effective product strategy and how to execute it, which we have evolved and adapted from Michael Porter’s famous paper “What Is Strategy?”

  1. Unique activities: Find the differentiators that make sense for you.
  2. Similar activities: To be competitive, you need to match or improve upon your rivals’ important features.
  3. Coherent: Your various activities should fit together coherently – the sum should always be greater than the parts.
  4. Trade-offs: Clearly define the parameters of your product strategy – learn how to say no in order to set obvious boundaries and avoid bloat.
  5. The final two are timing and measurability. You need a timeframe that you’re working within and the goals should be measurable in some way.

You can listen to our full conversation above, or read a transcript of our conversation below.

If you enjoy our discussion, check out more episodes of our podcast. You can subscribe on iTunes, stream on Spotify or grab the RSS feed in your player of choice. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the episode.


The meeting point of company and product strategy

Des: Welcome to Intercom on Product. This is episode seven, the product strategy edition. Welcome Paul Adams, our SVP of product.

Paul: Hi Des, nice to be here again.

Des: So I was in a bar recently (it doesn’t matter where, because I’m lying) and somebody asked me “what is a good product strategy?” So now I put that question to you, Paul.

Paul: Yeah, that’s a good question. So let’s start at the very top. The first thing is, at least here at Intercom, we have a company strategy and a product strategy, and they’re different things.

Des: But not in conflict.

Paul: No not in conflict, absolutely not, it’s actually a direct relationship – the product strategy comes from the company strategy and is a part of the company strategy. So for example, you know I run a Product team, we also have LB Harvey, who runs our Sales team, and Shane Murphy-Reuter, who runs our Marketing team.

“There’s lots of different parts of the company, all of which need a coherent strategy, and the product one is only one piece of it”

Des: And Eoghan, who runs our company.

Paul: And Eoghan who runs our company right, and you. And so there’s lots of different parts of the company, all of which need a coherent strategy, and the product one is only one piece of it.

Des: Is that something that product managers will often lose sight of? Like it’s easy to think that your strategy is the overall strategy. Like you have this kind of God complex. I’m not talking about anyone in particular.

Paul: I have seen that in the past. But to be fair though, it’s not just the PMs. I think a lot of startups do this too, right? They conflate the two and they don’t separate them enough.

Des: It’s fair to say in some cases a company is literally defined by its exact product, as in there is a one-to-one relationship between what the company is trying to do and what the product is trying to do. And a lot of B2B products are in that space.

It’s also fair to say that the likes of Uber, or WeWork, or Airbnb, they’re not just defined by their app. So I’m sure whoever’s working on the Airbnb mobile app has a product strategy for that, but I’m sure there’s also a bigger picture, where Airbnb concern themselves with things like regulations, generating a market of global landlords etc.

“You could make beautiful, high-end seven-fingered gloves and your product might actually be perfect – it’s just the market is very, very, very small”

So I think your product strategy is a perfect subset of your company strategy, and the only thing that we’re really debating here is how much of a subset is it? Is it most of it or is it just one little piece?

A classic example for me is Ikea. I was at a conference last week and I was talking to somebody who manages Ikea’s mobile product, which has fancy augmented reality stuff in it and everything you’d expect these days. But obviously that’s not the Ikea strategy, that’s just a product strategy, so I think there is clearly a subset relationship and just the magnitude of the subset is what’s actually relevant.

Paul: Yeah, absolutely. And most people listening aren’t Ikea, or Uber, or Airbnb, where logistics and the physical world is a big part of their product and company.

Most of them are more like us in that they probably have a software product and they probably sell it. And that to me is the easiest distinction between a company strategy and a product strategy – if you think about product-market fit as a core component of any successful company, then company strategy defines the market or helps you to find the market. And the product strategy, obviously, is the product and the product must fit the market. So you can have great markets, you can have terrible markets, you could have a terrible market and a great product strategy and you’ll fail

Des: I often use the analogy that you could make beautiful, high-end seven-fingered gloves and your product might actually be perfect – it’s just the market is very, very, very small.

As a result it might seem hard to distinguish which was wrong, but when you actually look into it, the thing was kind of broken by default at the company strategy level. Conversely, if you have a plan to sell cool socks endorsed by celebrities but it turns out the socks are bad, then it’s probably a product fault and not a company strategy fault.

Paul: I think an interesting duo that we could also talk about here is a product strategy and product positioning, because obviously both of those things are very deeply intertwined. But they’re different too – the product team for the most part owns and drives the product strategy and the marketing team for the most part owns and drives the product positioning – so both of them need to also play off each other.

“The company strategy tells you the market; who are your buyers, where’s the value, where’s the problems, how big is the market, is there opportunity there? And then the product is obviously the product half of product-market fit”

Des: Yeah, there’s an interesting thing that’s changed here, with the advent of things like Jobs-to-be-Done, which generally tends to produce products that solve problems. And the positioning is then interesting because the problem can exist in loads of different circumstances with loads of different buyers at loads of different time points. And how the marketing team position it is how they attach themselves to demand, by saying “you should use X when doing Y.” Whereas the product team might not necessarily care too much about the specifics of the instantiation of the solution. They’re more obsessed with “anytime this problem occurs we have to solve it.”

Paul: Right, I remember tweeting once “if you’ve built a great product that no one knows exists, have you build a great product?” Which is kind of getting at a similar thing – you can have a great product strategy, you even have a good company strategy and a great product strategy and execute it excellently. And if your product positioning is off or your marketing strategy is off, it doesn’t really matter.

Des: And you can take positioning with a capital “P” to include price point, etc., where it’s essentially where you place it in the world to be consumed. And then you’ll find yourself in a situation where you have a good product but not a good business. So that’s the difference between a company strategy and a product strategy. Let’s recap it again because we kind of meandered here.

Paul: So think about product-market fit. The company strategy tells you the market; who are your buyers, where’s the value, where’s the problems, how big is the market, is there opportunity there? And then the product is obviously the product half of product-market fit.

Des: Right. So then talk to me about what you actually want to see in a product strategy. What are the ingredients? What makes it up?

Be unique, but defensibly so

Paul: At Intercom, we do have a framework for this year and it’s heavily inspired by Michael Porter’s paper What is Strategy?, which is an amazing paper. We’ve kind of evolved it, built on it so that our strategy has elements that are unique to us, of course, but the main components are as follows.

Number one is that there are unique activities in the strategy. So in other words, if you think of a strategy as made up of lots of different activities, i.e. things you’ll do, then some of those activities should be unique to you, meaning that a lot of people don’t do them. And the reason for this is that you need differentiation. There must be something different about your product. “Why would I buy this thing over that thing? Oh, that’s different and better in some way.”

“It shouldn’t just be unique because you’re the first person to think of it. Ideally, it’s unique because you can do it in a way that isn’t copy pasteable, right?”

Des: I guess defendably unique is what you really want there, right? It shouldn’t just be unique because you’re the first person to think of it. Ideally, it’s unique because you can do it in a way that isn’t copy pasteable, right?

Paul: Exactly. Or is hard to copy and paste. We’ve had this – Intercom’s history is littered with examples where we’ve done something and other people have followed it.

Des: I can’t think of a single time that’s happened Paul.

Paul: And we’ve done it too, right? We’ve been inspired by other companies and we’ve copied what they’ve done at times. So the differentiation is always only temporary, assuming it’s valuable, but it’s always only temporary.

Des: I think that’s definitely true in a realm of B2B software where you can take stuff from a database, put it back in, write it in a certain way with a certain font etc. There’s no sustainable modes here.

“I think for a product strategy specifically, you’re in the realm of things people would class as hard to copy”

Paul: So here’s where the defensibility piece comes in. Where you need to make it hard to copy so that it’s unique in that it’s different for you, at least at this point in time, and that makes it hard to copy.

Des: And so that might be your product, it might be your route to market. But going back to the macro level within the strategy world, what are things that are hard to copy? I can think of say a platform play. I can think of building, a specific type of brand. I can think of maybe a crazy 3D AR technology that one’s going to be able to see behind. It’s kind of black box so people can’t work out how you do it. It’s magical. That type of stuff?

Paul: I think for a product strategy specifically, you’re in the realm of things people would class as hard to copy like data and the knowledge you’ll build on top of that data, things like that. You know, we’ve an app store it’s hard to get third parties to go and build 20 apps in your app store.

Des: Especially as a startup. Whenever there’s a community element there’s a challenge there. Cool. So then so you’ve got some unique activities. Is that it?

Embrace similarities with your competition

Paul: No, that’s not it. Number two is that there are “similar activities”, which is things other companies do in this space you’re playing in that you need to do too. So they are are similar and that gives you competitiveness. Right? As opposed to like differentiation or defensibility. “Hey look, I’m going to switch from product A, to your product, product B, but you need to provide X, Y, and Z before I’m switching.”

Des: So it’s different and better.

“If someone wants to go after Slack, they need to be similar enough to Slack that you’ll perceive them as being switchable”

Paul: Yeah, I think there’s an interesting distinction there. You can do them as well as, or better, obviously. Maybe you could even make the argument that you could do it a little bit worse if the unique activities are so strong. So there’s a definite relationship there between how different and defensible are the unique activities to pull people in and how much are they willing to sacrifice the similar activities? And for the most part, if you want someone to switch on the basis of the things they value in the product they’re using already then those similar activities need to be good.

Des: As in, if someone wants to go after Slack, they need to be similar enough to Slack that you’ll perceive them as being switchable to from Slack. So that’s the similarity piece. And then they’ll also need a reason why they’re better that Slack just won’t copy and paste, right?

Paul: Yeah, that’s a great example actually. Slack for the most part copied and was inspired by HipChat from Atlassian that came before it.

Des: I’m sure they’d dispute that, but for the rest of the internet, yes.

Paul: And so, HipChat had a certain amount of features.

Des: Which was a rip off of Campfire just while we’re keeping score.

Paul: Yeah, that’s right. And so, for someone to switch from HipChat to Slack, Slack needed to be as good as HipChat in a whole bunch of dimensions. Where I think Slack did phenomenally well, was in building these unique activities, all the interoperability. We’ve our Slack instance connected to all sorts of stuff –monitoring, you name it – and that’s hard to copy. And that’s where the unique activities come in.

Des: I often visualize that as like tentacles in a sense. Hipchat and Slack, at their core, were basically group chats, one-to-one chat on the web and on mobile. Slack’s product was actually better full stop. But they’re basically the same product.

However, the tentacles piece is the uniqueness. It was really easy to rip HipChat out because it wasn’t attached to very much stuff – maybe just a Github plug-in or something like that. But to rip Slack out today, it would be so many cords pulling it back in again so that when you let go it would just clip straight back. So that’s what makes it harder to rip out. (Please don’t increase our bill Slack!)

Ensure a cohesive approach

Paul: So that’s the second thing. Similar activities. The third thing is actually connecting these things together in that all the activities should be coherent. They should fit together. And this actually is one of the most common mistakes I think people make (and we’ve made them and I’ve made them certainly in my career over the years). Where you’re doing certain activities and you see a new opportunity emerge where you realize people are using your product in this way you hadn’t realized before, but there’s very little coherence. Going back to the Ikea example or even Airbnb, which is actually a great example because they are moving into these new types of businesses and they all quite obviously connect together. Treating travel as a broad industry…

Des: Experiences and that sort of stuff.

Paul: Yeah. They all connect together.

Des: But if they did a dentistry thing on the side where they are uniquely differentiated, it wouldn’t make sense.

“The sum should always be greater than the parts. These activities, because they’re coherent and they fit together, then they build on top of each other”

Paul: Exactly. It’s very easy to fall into this trap because you can make money doing this. You can make money with these little other parts of the strategy but they don’t fit together and you can’t tell a simple story to tie it all.

Des: You end up with a position that has a lot of “ands” in it – “we’re blah, blah, blah and we also do blah, blah, blah.” You’ve told yourself that each of those “ands” is a differentiator, but in practice they’re differentiators that have nothing to do with the thing you actually are. So it makes you different, but not in a good way.

Paul: I think a great way to think about this is that the sum should always be greater than the parts. These activities, because they’re coherent and they fit together, then they build on top of each other. A lot of the great logistics companies, like Ikea (which you could argue is a logistics business in a whole bunch of ways) do things that benefit their other things. So when you get these elements that are out on the side, not only are they like distracting, but they’re also not really helping anything else.

Des: It’s almost like running a separate business alongside your primary business and somehow claiming that’s your differentiator. Okay. So far you’ve got your unique activities, you’ve got similar activities and you’ve got coherence leading to self-support. What else are you looking for?

Paul: I think that’s the first half of a great product strategy. The second half is a different set of things. So firstly, I’d look to the great post you wrote Product Strategy Means Saying No.’

Des: Thank you, 5 years ago–

Paul: You should read it.

Des: I’m still dining out off that.

Trade-offs and learning to say ‘no’

Paul: Which brings me to the next thing. Trade-offs. You can’t do everything and you need to say no. This is something that’s very easy to say but very hard to do because a lot of these ideas and activities look good and offer a potential revenue stream and or user type.

So the trade-offs are really important. Saying “no”, saying “we are going to do this and we’re not going to do that.” So our product strategy here at Intercom for example, very clearly states what we’re not doing. There’s no ambiguity.

Des: Why do we need to state that? Because a counterargument here will be that anything that’s not in the strategy is stuff we’re not doing. Right? For example, we’re also not going to open kennels and start a playground, etc. So there’s loads of stuff we’re not doing that we also haven’t documented. So is it the stuff at the margins that we have to be careful of?

“The trade-offs are like the walls of the garden basically. We’re not going to go past this point”

Paul: Exactly. I think (although I’m sure you’ll prove me wrong with a million examples in a second) that with any business it’s the boundary of that business that’s fuzzy. Always fuzzy, right?

Des: The trade-offs are like the walls of the garden basically. We’re not going to go past this point.

Paul: Yeah. The Airbnb one’s a good example. The experience is about going to a place and renting out someone’s home. But then, if you’re Airbnb and you’re expanding you might think about experiences while they’re in the place which is clearly adjacent. But how far do you go?

Des: I’m going to start doing restaurant bookings. Like where does it stop?

Paul: Exactly. Or are you going to start doing restaurants? Someone will make the case that “Hey, that’s going to be a great business for us because we get people to go to our chain of restaurants.”

Des: Brex, the finance startup, recently opened a restaurant and I thought that was the most random move ever. Anyway, that’s a side point.

I think that’s really interesting, do you have to effectively define the walls of your product? It’s like that quote, “Thus far you shall come, but no farther”. I think you need a conceptual way to say why that wall exists. I do think over time you see businesses where their mission statements get blurrier and blurrier. You might start off by saying you want to “put a computer on every desk and in every home” and by the end of the year the mission statement has become “be awesome” or “we help people be” or some shit like that, right?

“Suddenly the garden starts to become overgrown and it’s bleeding into the woods and the plants are now taking over the woodland because you didn’t define where the wall was”

I think that’s the nature of this because success expands the walls of the garden until before you know it, it’s not just book the place, it’s dating to find somebody in the city. It’s restaurants, it’s childcare, it’s marriage, it’s just live your life. But that’s what creep is – as long as you’re succeeding every step of the way it works I guess?

Paul: I do think it’s dangerous though. I don’t know exactly what the phase is, but you should try and put something concrete on it for people who are listening.

Maybe at some point between series B or a C or a D, there’s a danger period where many companies go to the wall. And what happens here is that their success led them to fail.

To try and build on the analogy of the garden. It’s blooming and more stuff is growing and the walls haven’t been very defined and suddenly the garden starts to become overgrown and it’s bleeding into the woods and the plants are now taking over the woodland because you didn’t define where the wall was, where the boundary was. So, as a result you are spread too thin and get pulled in all directions.

Des: There’s also a sense that you should lock in the success with the garden. Get your horticulturists in and make sure that it’s in good nick. Then, you can put a gate in the back wall and decide the time is right to go into the next property and start doing a new thing.

But I think one danger I see with a lot of startups is that they raise their C or D round on some new broad area that they’re going to go into, having not really guaranteed the success in what has got them to that point. So they still have a lot of problems in their current garden and yet here they are trying to claim that are going to open four more so they get a large valuation, and that’s a danger. So, that’s trade-offs. Lastly, practically, what else do you want to see?

Timeframe and measurability

Paul: There’s probably two other things I’d mention and these are very obvious things. A timeframe. So a great product strategy and a great company strategy has a clear timeframe. It can be a year. People have this problem with the word “vision” where they think “Oh it must be really big and long.” And “We’re reinventing how humanity does X and Y.” But a great product strategy can be 12 months long. That’s totally fine. As long as it’s 12 months long and you understand why it is, and that six months later you’re making a strategy for the following period.

“These all connect together: your timeframe, that it’s outcome-focused, and it’s measurable”

Des: And what do you consider to be the conclusion of the strategy? Is it that you’ve executed the activities?

Paul: Yeah, that’s a great question. The next thing on the list here is that it’s measurable – actually that it’s outcome-focused and measurable. So these all connect together: your timeframe; that it’s outcome-focused; and it’s measurable.

A great project strategy should say something like, “over the next three years we’re going to do X and Y” and they’re specific outcomes. They’re not “we’re going to ship a new product” or “we’re going to ship an updated version of this product.” The outcome should be something more centered around the business health, or customer value, or growth. Right? So it’s very outcome-focused and measurable. And so a great strategy, to answer your question a different way, shouldn’t require that question. It would just be obvious.

Des: So it’s clear when we’ve hit this, we need to move on to strategy two or strategy five or whatever it is. So from the top that’s:

  1. Unique activities: Which is your differentiator.
  2. Similar activities: Which makes you competitive.
  3. Coherent: They should fit together, they can’t be totally different things.

And then in terms of execution:

  1. There should be clear trade-offs, so the walls of the garden should be clear.
  2. You need a rough timeframe that you’re working within and which should should include the outcomes.
  3. All of these elements should be measurable in some way.

That all makes sense. Not to change topics entirely, but Google Buzz, Google Wave, Google Latitude, Google Plus. These are all products that Paul Adams has worked on and I’m not going to say that they were all home runs … I’ll stop just short of that. My question to you is unrelated, can you spot a bad strategy?

Paul: Yeah, I was just a researcher in most of those projects, you know?

Des: Did you research? Did the research inform the strategy?

Paul: Can you have a bad strategy? Absolutely. Of course. Yeah, you can. And in many ways, like we said earlier, if you take it from the top, you can have a great company strategy and a bad product strategy and the inverse is true too.

And so you can obviously have a bad strategy. I guess an implied question is – how do you spot it? Yeah, that’s a good question. I’m trying to imagine how would we do this in a fictional world.

Des: If I dropped you into a different company and asked you to evaluate their strategy?

How to spot a bad product strategy

Paul: Maybe this is what I’ll do when I retire in 20 years. The first thing I’d do is actually just talk to people and interview people because a great strategy is only great if it’s communicated properly.

So the first thing I’d do is actually ask everyone in the company “what’s your strategy?” And they should be able to tell me elevator pitch style, in a two or three minute version, dead simple. And they should mostly all say the same thing. That’s it. That implies to me that there is a strategy, that’s a good start, and that people know what it is. And then you get into what, specifically, is the strategy and whether it’s a bad strategy? One, it wouldn’t have the things we just talked about.

Des: Nothing unique or no timeframe?

Paul: Exactly. So, not measurable, no timeframe. I think the thing that I’ve commonly seen in the past talking to different companies here and there about their strategy is that they’re obsessed with competitors.

“If you’re obviously competing with a certain amount of companies, then you need to understand what’s wrong with those companies’ products”

Where if you think about the unique activities and similar activities – they are completely overindexed on the similar activities. They’re focused on feature X or feature Y rather than looking for unique value. But if you’re obviously competing with a certain amount of companies, then you need to understand what’s wrong with those companies’ products. Why would people swap to you, to your new product that you’re building?

Des: I see, so one part of evaluating strategies is does it have the six things so are there differentiators, are there the timeframe, trade-offs, etc.? And then separately, let’s say we check all those boxes, then you’re down into the evaluation of each of these things. So maybe I’ll give you a hypothetical. Let’s say Joey Whizzkid walks in the door and they want Paul to advise them and they’re willing to take a check from you and they’re good to go.

They’re after hiring all the hottest designers off Dribble, they’ve got all the top UX professionals in the industry and all those people are off giving conference talks – that Joey Whizzkid is paying for of course – and Joey Whizzkid says to you…

Paul: Sounds like a dream team so far.

Des: The dream team is assembling. It’s like the Avengers, right? There’s a load of open source engineers who are busy working on frameworks. I guess if the strategy sounds something like “We’re going to kill Workday, Workday is a big bloated piece of product that no one likes. We’re going to kill it. Here’s what we’re going to do. Years one and two we’re going to absolutely be feature competitive with Workday in every core thing. For the first two years, that’s that’s going to see us through. Then we’re going to differentiate in terms of visual design. We’re going to have the strongest visual design that HRIS systems have ever known and we’re going to do with a grassroots adoption mechanism. We’re going to go in at the very bottom of the market, to the most junior person in the HR org and we’re going to follow that Dropbox-like model and crawl all the way up to the org.”

Are you getting any bad smells here? Are you putting your checkbook away?

Paul: I absolutely am. I think, I think Workday is brilliant because on one hand, people do often say, “Oh Workday, someone is going to come and displace Workday.” I mean I was guilty of this years ago. When I worked at Facebook, we used Workday as our HRIS system and at the time, five or six years ago, it was built in Flash…

Des: Oh right!

“There are problems that customers and users of products have and what really matters how much they care about the problem”

Paul: Yeah! This is five or six years ago. And it was incomprehensible to me, that it was a database-oriented product with the frontend all in Flash. But having said that, Workday are a phenomenally successful company. And so it is a great example.

So the point I’d raise with Joey Whizzkid is “Do you know what are the real problems with Workday or problems people care about?” And this is another interesting and subtle distinction – because there are problems that customers and users of products have and what really matters is how much they care about the problem. So that front end is a great example of this – when I used it it was built in Flash, which I thought was a bit, out of date, let’s say.

Des: Well it’s just tasteless rather than actually a problem. Right?

Paul: Yeah, did it stop me? No.

Des: It offended you like a bad cologne, but at the same time, it hasn’t actually changed you, you’re still using it to request your days off.

Paul: Exactly. And it still worked, ultimately. Was it the most pleasant experience? Probably not, but it’s fine, and so this beautiful new frontend that this dream team is going to build.

Des: Like Superhuman for Workday sort of thinking?

Paul: Yes, and so two questions. One is how much do the users of the product actually care?

Des: Can they actually do anything different in their life because of this?

Paul: Yeah, and do they care enough to switch, care enough to learn a new product, learn a new UI? And then secondly, and more importantly for a company like Workday, is do the buyers of the product care? Because the buyers and users are different people. And I bet you they do not care. They’re not using the product. They’re looking for all the different features and the bells and whistles. So does this thing do this, is it security compliant, etc.?

“The differentiators aren’t really things that people care about, the similar activities are exhaustive, and if there are problems, you’re probably likely to recreate the problems by copying them”

Des: So I guess if I was to throw back to the sort of ingredients that you’d want to see in the strategy. What offends here is that differentiators aren’t really things that people care about, the similar activities are exhaustive, and if there are problems, you’re probably likely to recreate the problems by copying them. That timeframe seems pretty diluted – two years before you get market reality is pretty long.

I think there’s also a core assumption about bottoms-up adoption, which probably doesn’t actually hold up. Most teams don’t have Workday until they’re a few hundred people, which means it will be the director of such and such who makes that decision. And, much like say Salesforce or similar, Workday is probably an autocomplete in their browser when they type “w”. Basically, they’re not that open-minded about what they use. So I think you could probably diagnose a strategy based on your qualitative evaluation of these six core ingredients.

We are coming towards the end here and we’ve talked a lot about strategy. We know ourselves the listeners of this podcast range from two people in a garage to 2,000-person companies. What would be one good takeaway that you think would resonate with a chunk of them?

Paul: I’d go back to what we were saying at the very start.

Des: That Michael Porter paper?

Paul: Yeah. Honestly, that Michael Porter paper is phenomenal. It’s the kind of thing a lot of people read in university and granted when you were in university you didn’t know anything about anything almost.

Des: You didn’t have the relevant problems to the solutions offered.

Paul: Yeah, or the experience to actually think of that. The Michael Porter paper is really inspirational and people should read it and really internalize it.

Des: It’s 30 or 40 years old now as well, right?

Paul: Yeah, it’s the 80s-

Des: Incredible.

Paul: It’s a bit jargony, but it’s incredible and people should take the time to read it. Honestly. If you don’t do anything else after this, you should do that.

Des: We’ll link it in the show notes, which I guess is the common thing to say in a podcast. I think you have to pay for it, but whatever it’s worth it.

Paul: Yeah, that’s right actually, you do. Then I think other things you need to think about is to make the distinction between the company strategy and the product strategy. Don’t conflate the two.

Des: Step one is build the product.

Paul: Getting product-market fit was step one. And then once you have that, you can pull them apart and go, okay, how do we grow the market, how has the product evolved.

Des: Intercom Inc, versus Intercom, the product, right?

Paul: Exactly. A better sales team, marketing team, and so on. So that’s a really important distinction. If you work in a product team today and feel like you have a reasonably good product strategy and do not have a company strategy or it doesn’t feel like it’s a good one, well then that’s where you should start.

Des: I think circulation is probably an important thing. It should be easy to find, it should be in everyone’s minds, but if it’s not it should definitely be easy for them to get. If it’s updated, as it should be, everyone should be informed immediately. Because these things will die on a vine unless you keep refreshing them and recirculating them. Right?

“The strategy should evolve in little small ways, but for a three-year strategy you might tweak it every six months or every 12 months”

Paul: That’s actually a really, really good point. You know, administration is the thing here. The strategy should evolve in little small ways, but for a three-year strategy you might tweak it every six months or every 12 months. If it’s going well, it’s just small tweaks and if it’s not going well, it could be changes. But it should be a living thing and it should be kept up-to-date. The date on it shouldn’t be 12 months old. Then you should repeat your mission and your vision. At Intercom we repeat them over and over again at our All Hands.

Paul: Same for strategy, it’s about repetition. There’s someone smarter than me who said something along the lines of, “The best leaders repeat themselves over and over and over.”

Des: I feel like you definitely do that.

Paul: Was that a compliment or not?

Des: I don’t know. Okay. That is it for today’s episode, tune in next week where we’ll have Joey Whizzkid who’s working on our Workday killer…

Paul: Talk to Joe.

Des: We’ll talk to Joey here, hear how he’s getting on. Thanks for listening.

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