Are you ready to transition a product into new markets or define next generations of a solution? Knowing in which direction to take your product and marketing strategy can be difficult to determine, taking many months and using significant resources.

But by taking the following six steps you can jumpstart your strategy-planning efforts with a streamlined and effective approach in developing a targeted product and market strategy.

Step 1: Define the decision-making criteria

Begin by defining the decision-making criteria that the strategy options will be evaluated against. This is your scorecard with which to compare the strategy options against your preset company priorities. Areas to consider include these:

  • Market size
  • High customer pain
  • Immediate customer need/want
  • Customer-allocated IT budget
  • Clear problem-owner/executive
  • Competitive advantage-strategic initiative for customers
  • "Fit" with current product line

After you've completed step one, evaluate each option against the decision-making criteria to weed out options that rank lower against the criteria you've determined. This process will allow you to narrow the field down to the strongest strategic options to choose from. You will want to follow this process after each step is completed.

Step 2: Identify strategy options

Your second step is to brainstorm all potential strategy options being considered. Identify the product and solution as well as target markets, verticals, company size, and the targeted executive within a market. You will typically have several possibilities.

Step 3: Define target markets and competition

Begin with identifying what you already know within each area, then further define the target markets for each strategic option. Areas to further define include these:

  • Market size and growth (if known)
  • Company business model
  • Company size
  • Verticals
  • Target executive
  • Executive pain point
  • Value to target market of solving pain point

You'll then want to identify possible competition for each strategy option. Define the competitors and products, and identify substitute offerings and in-house developed solutions.

Step 4: Investigate/research the markets and competition

In this step, you will conduct a "deep-dive" investigation on the markets and competition. Areas to research include these:

  • Quantifying the target market size and growth rates
  • Identifying the number of target companies
  • Learning about the market and industry characteristics
  • Conducting competitive analysis

There are many free and fee-based sources where you can go for this information. Great resources are available at university libraries, public libraries, and, of course, the Internet.

Step 5: Target customer interviews

After all of the secondary research is collected and understood, you need to set up 5-10 target customer interviews for each market or solution you are still considering as options. You'll want to target who you would consider a great customer if you were to break into this market segment, and then identify the target executive.

But remember, this is not a sales call! You'll want to focus on market research questioning to gather information. We recommend developing a discussion guide to cover key questions and to keep all interviews consistent. We also recommend using an objective third party to conduct the interviews so that conclusions are not skewed by company internal biases.

Step 6: Develop strategy recommendation

Now that you've completed all of this information gathering, go back to your decision-making criteria and compare them against all of the options and research you've pulled together. Rank each strategic option against each decision making criterion as low, medium, or high. For the highest-ranking strategy option, evaluate the pros, cons and risks associated with that option. This analysis will result in a top strategic choice to pursue—though there are risks and unknowns associated with any strategy.

Your final step is to develop your strategy recommendation and document the strategy in a marketing requirements document. Define the recommended strategy by including solution capabilities and features, the value proposition and benefits to customers, target market and executives, the competition and competitive advantage, price, and distribution and sales channels.

* * *

Remember that these six targeted steps can be executed against with minimal resources and time, but they require a focused effort to successfully jumpstart your marketing strategy.

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Niti Agrawal is the principal and founder of Stage 4 Solutions, which can be contacted via or