Suzanne Begley

Product Director

Product Strategy is Mission-Critical

Related post categories Digital products
4 mins read

Product strategy can help increase revenue, drive supporter loyalty and improve service delivery. But ultimately it’s about making sure we invest time and effort where they can have the greatest impact.


Strategy session

While product strategy might seem to belong to technology innovators like Uber and Amazon - businesses constantly shipping new products to stay competitive - it is equally relevant to mission-oriented charities. How can digital help to deliver your vision and improve the lives of people you support? How do you respond to customer expectations of service delivery which challenge finite resources and how can charities create supporter experiences that deliver value and build loyalty?

Product strategy in a nutshell

Product strategy is a plan that describes how a product will help your organisation. It describes the issues it will solve and how it will benefit users, deliver organisational goals and ultimately further the charity’s mission. The strategy can exist in lots of formats - a slide deck, lean canvas, trello board. The format is less essential than making sure it asks four essential questions:

  1. Who is the audience for this product?
  2. What problems does it solve for them?
  3. Why would they choose our product over a competitor’s?
  4. What will success look like? And how will it further our impact?

How can it help us solve some common challenges?

Challenge one: Delivering features not results

Completing tasks is a great feeling but it might be wasted effort if it doesn’t contribute to the outcome you’re trying to achieve. Digital strategies and product roadmaps often start with good strategic intentions but frequently become a list of features to deliver with little understanding of how and whether they deliver value for a charity and its beneficiaries.

“If you did all your tasks and nothing improved, that is not success”

Felipe Castro, Product Guru

Example of activity vs value-based results

Activity-based results
Measure the completion of tasks and project milestones

  • Launch a new self-help content section
  • Develop a new online giving campaign for a younger audience
  • Deliver product enhancements for a volunteer assessment tool

Value-based results
Measure the delivery of value to the organisation (mission/users/beneficiaries etc)

  • Increase content engagement by x% to support self-help behaviour
  • Recruit x new supporters to increase awareness and engagement with 18-30 audience
  • Increase customer satisfaction rating to 8+ for the volunteer assessment tool

Solution: Set clear goals and measure them

We know that goals provide direction and focus, increase accountability and improve motivation but setting them isn’t always easy. There are lots of frameworks and methods you can use: OKRs, SMART goals, and Goal Pyramid to name just a few!

Whilst the formats differ many of the principles remain the same:

  • They need to be clear and well-defined
  • They should be challenging but realistic - too low and they don’t motivate
  • They need to have commitment and buy in from the whole team
  • They need to be measurable - how will we know if we’ve achieved this goal?
  • They need to create value for your customers and your organisation

Once you’ve set some goals it’s important to track, evaluate and refine regularly. There are times when it will be necessary to adjust goals based on previous performance and any new circumstances or insights: they are a tool to monitor and motivate rather than stick to beat ourselves with!


“If it does not have a number, it is not a Key Result”

Marissa Mayer, Former Google Vice President

Challenge two: Strategy is defined by our competitors

Everyone with an idea has good reasons why we should do it and that reason is too often because it’s what the competition is doing. The market leader in the sector launches a self-help app - or a new supporter engagement approach - and everyone follows them. Instead of being driven by fear of missing out, organisations need to be clear about their competitive advantage - sometimes called the unique value proposition or the unfair advantage.

If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete

Jack Welch, Business Executive, Chemical Engineer, and Writer

Solution: Know your unfair advantage

You have one! What do you have or do that can’t be easily copied or bought by your competitors? It might be the community you've built around your brand or your in-depth subject knowledge. Understanding your unfair advantage means you understand the ways in which you are unique and where you add value.

Challenge three: Services don’t meet the needs of people who need them most

The biggest challenge! To be confident that digital is helping us improve the lives of our audiences we first need to know them and understand their challenges. Whose problems are we solving and what do we really know about those problems? With answers to those questions we know how we’d like to grow and where we need to innovate and invest.

The only way to find out if we’re delivering real value to our audiences is to talk to them - regularly. Whether that is through customer satisfaction surveys, voice panels, focus groups and testing will depend on the circumstances, but again the format matters less than building relationships and having honest conversations.

Solution: Really know your customers

  • Identify your customer segments
  • Know their top three challenges
  • Use data to understand how they currently behave
  • Regularly involve people with lived experience
  • Understand the context in which your product exists

Find ways to improve your service with a roadmapping session

If you're struggling to overcome challenges like prioritising work, showing progress to stakeholders or managing multiple projects in parallel, our Product Directors can facilitate a roadmapping session with you and your team. It would be over four hours and you’ll leave armed with a prioritised strategic roadmap for your service offering.

If you’re interested in finding out more, pop your details here, and we can arrange a no-strings initial exploratory call.