Having had built and sold software products, I recently decided re-visit some structured material to reflect upon my experience – and while reflecting, write something as a guide to re-visit for next time. By doing so, I hope to be following the “forever learning” theme of this blog – where I reflect during and after the experience (e.g experiments) to grow instead of just going through life.
To have a holistic approach in this blueprint for building software products, I will be using the pragmatic marketing framework as an overview and then I would supplement sections of this framework with specialized books that provide a deep-dive of a particular part of of the pragmatic framework.
Why the Pragmatic Marketing Framework?
First, I have no paid affiliation with Pragmatic Marketing – or have ever purchased their products. I have truly studied their material from what is available for free on the web and from my friends who have taken their courses.
Lastly, the reason I choose this framework is simply because it was the best overview or blueprint that I could find that can serve as a guide to building software products. Thus, I decided to use the framework and supplement it with my practical projects and specialized books.
Let’s start by appreciating the official definition of the pragmatic marketing framework,
“Pragmatic Marketing Framework provides a standard language for your entire product team and a blueprint of key activities needed to bring profitable, problem oriented products to market.”
By its nature of being a blueprint, it has some weaknesses when it comes to deep-diving into one of its parts – just like how a map can’t tell you the local tips and tricks to navigate the area.
Shortcomings of the Pragmatic Marketing Framework
From my experience, the framework falls short when it comes to deep diving in a certain part of building the product. For example, “Market Problems” is a behemoth on its own that requires focused and dedication from the entrepreneur to get this right. However, the framework itself lacks the content or specialized authors that only focus in this domain.
To solve this, I have combined the pragmatic marketing framework with specialized resources of books that I have used to dig further into that topic. Furthermore, there are some topics that even I have yet not explored – such as “Specialty Calls” for which I hope to add to it later point in time.
How to work with Pragmatic Marketing Framework
Before I explain the framework, I would like to point out some fundamental principles that must be followed when using this framework to build products;
- Understand that the individual factors don’t add – they multiply! For example, a poor definition of the market (“Market Problems”) will result in a poor product (“Market Definition”). This principle is inspired by Steve Pavlina in his essay about amateur vs profession.
- Having the intuition to know where to focus in this framework is more important than the knowledge of all the working parts. For example, in early stage of building your product, know that you must spend significant time in “Market” and “Focus” before you crystalize what your “Business” will be about.
- Finally, building products is a high-risk venture with failure rates of greater than 85%, thus, always triple check your plan and assumptions against experience entrepreneurs as it will allow you to be a little more fail-proof.
With those as our guiding principles, lets deep dive into the framework itself.
Explaining the Pragmatic Marketing Framework
On the highest level, the framework is broken into the following components:
Understand market problems and your organizations unique ability to address them.
1. Market Problems
Discover problems in the market by interviewing customers, recent evaluators and untapped potential customers. Validate urgent problems to show their pervasiveness in the market.
Recommended Resources for Market Problems:
- Bonus: Experience of trying to solve real market problems by finding a problem and solving it by asking for money in exchange.
2. Win and Loss Analysis
Understand why recent evaluators of the product did or did not buy, and what steps they took in the buying process.
Recommended Resources for Win and Loss Analysis:
3. Distinctive Competencies
Articulate and leverage the organizations unique abilities to deliver value to the market
You can’t do this in one go, you have to do it in steps;
Use Win interviews for Strengths, Loss to Mitigate Weaknesses, do 20-30 and then continue
Each quarter. (Source: Discover your competencies with buyer interviews)
- You can Win on Usability – if you focus sales and demos on buyer-centric use cases.
- Listen for use cases will help you discover clear market segmentation
Recommended Resources for Distinctive Competencies:
4. Competitive Landscape
Identify competitive and alternative offerings in the market. Assess their strengths & weaknesses to develop a strategy for winning against competition.
Recommended Resources for Competitive Landscape:
5. Asset Assessment
Inventory your assets (technical, skills, patents, services etc) and determine ways that they can be leveraged.
Recommended Resources for Asset Assessment
- Workbook: Asset Assessment Template
Focus – Filter opportunities and focus on those with the greatest potential to your organization.
1. Market Definition
Map needs with target markets and analyze the market segments to actively pursue. Ensure that the targeted segments are large enough to support the current and future business of the product.
Here you want to:
- Clearly Define the Industry (and don’t confuse it with your Market)
- Clearly Define the Market
- From the Market, breakdown your segments
- Re-visit and test your Industry, Market, and Segment atleast once a quarter and more often if you are a startup
2. Distribution Strategy
Determine which channels align with your markets’ buying preferences.
Recommended Resources for Distribution Strategy
- Article: Distribution Model by Ben Horowitz
3. Product Portfolio
Integrate products into a coherent portfolio of products focused on the market. Manage the “portfolio” like a product (business plan, positioning, buying process, market requirements and marketing plan)
Note: I have yet to practise and experience this skill, thus, I will not post any recommended resources yet.
4. Product Roadmap
Illustrate a vision and key phases of your deliverables for the product. The roadmap is a plan not a commitment.
Note: I am currently practising this skill at Checkout 51 and will post my learnings here shortly.
In conclusion, I hope to re-visit this page and improve on my learnings of each building block of building great products. If you happen to have insights to add to my learnings, please comment below.