It's Time to Kill Your Product
One of the more interesting exercises a start-up (or scale-up) will do on occasion is to brainstorm how to “kill the company”. It’s a little bit like a SWOT analysis that a more established company would hire a consulting firm to do, but done in-house by the folks who understand the product and market context intimately based on their day-to-day role (e.g. PM or CSM).
In my side endeavors as an advisor and mentor to B2B companies, I’ve noticed more and more that the Head of (whatever department) that I’m speaking with is asking in a round-about way whether their current / proposed strategy results in a viable business in ~ 1 year. The 1st and 2nd order questions that go into “am I building a real B2B SaaS product business?” are very much how I think about the “kill the company” exercise, so I thought I’d share them today.
For each department, there’s a decision point that I think pressure (via customers, competitors, or investors) brings to the surface:
R&D (product + engineering + design): what is the state of the core workflow?
Marketing: do I have a structured way to get new prospects to my doorstep?
GTM (pre / post sales): how do I showcase ROI and get customer there ASAP?
Stepping back, if you can start to answer these questions, you can get a read on both your internal business and the broader customer base. From a business perspective, it’s about figuring out if you need to prove value while surviving, or recoup value while consolidating. And when looking at your customer base wholistically, you need to figure out who’s leaning into you as a vendor vs looking elsewhere.
The visual above shows both the 1st and 2nd order questions I’ve been using to guide folks. The answers to these questions can inform not only your overall company strategy, but help determine the bets you want to make as a product and GTM team to create a business that sustains.
As always, I’d also love to hear from readers on the questions they’re asking to evaluate company strategy - please chime in via comments👇 or join the chat via the Substack app.
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further reading / references
Death and Taxes is another framework for thinking about the hurdles that prevent your company from providing value to your customers
Illuminating Product Strategy provides a different set of questions that will help you broadcast and socialize a strategy once you’ve established it’s sound-ness
if you’re struggling with crafting a coherent strategy, you might be dealing with a Garbage In, Garbage Out scenario
childish drawing / interpretation
Great article and prompts. Product strategy is a derivative of (and animates) the business model, which must balance flexibility with a firmly held opinion about the market. Same for the strategy - be sure of the destination, and be prepared for alternate routes to get there. 🛣️
Product leaders need to align hypotheses and milestones with decision points so the strategy can be adjusted, and the team re-focused, based on the reality. Adaptability is key. I often reflect on the expression that it's not as useful to predict the future as being really in touch with the here and now. Need to dig up that tweet...