A lot of what I do all day long is think about how to explain product management, outcomes, and processes to other people. Inherently, product adoption strategy is part of that as well.
It’s a bit meta to say I work at a product company, building a product for product people, and I’m also in product myself — but hey, it works!
I thought I’d write some of what I’ve learned around product adoption strategy in the last few years (and if you missed it, I also did a talk about this for Product-Led Summit!)
Before we even get started talking about how to create a product adoption strategy for your product or service, let’s take a step back first and define what product strategy even is.
There have been a lot of amazing presentations (particularly at PLG) about different ways of achieving retention, increasing adoption, and defining a great onboarding experience — but these are all outputs as happen as a result of strategy.
So if you’re planning on implementing any of these potential frameworks, you need to first define the following:
What are you hoping to achieve
Why are you doing any of it
How will you measure success
And that is what product strategy is.
It’s about taking a step back from all these different outputs and really digging down into understanding if what you want to do is worth doing, why, and how you will measure that success.
In other words, what you’re doing is deflecting the risk of business failure by defining this before you spend the time doing it.
With all of this in mind, you can convert the idea of ‘product adoption’ into an objective your team can meet — and by making it quantifiable and measurable, you’re then able to define success.
Product adoption then becomes an objective.
With product adoption as your north star objective, your entire team can now work towards it together.
Why is this important?
It happens at various points in the customer journey, and therefore not something that realistically only a single team is responsible for achieving.
This objective may be broken down into potential sub-objectives that will also have some key results that will allow you to measure progress.
For example, you might have the following setup:
Company objective: Increase Product Adoption
Product objective: Improve Onboarding Experience
Key result: Increase sign ups by 10%
This rolls up the product objective to the company objective with a measureable key result.
Now that we’ve set our north star objective, our next step is to understand and map out the customer journey.
There is no one-size fits all, disclaimer alert.
This will vary based on your particular product or service, but here’s an example of what that customer journey might look like:
You first have an initial awareness phase, where the user is just learning about your brand.
Then they may start a trial and start the education phase. This is where they’ll be learning about the benefits and services your product offers.
Next comes the trial conversion into activation when they become a customer.
The retention phase is their ongoing relationship with you, as they look to possibly renew their subscription with your product.
Product adoption happens on every single one of these phases.
When you think about this in the larger scheme of things, the first few phases are likely going to be led by your sales and marketing teams (this does not mean they are sales-led, by the way, just that the initiatives will be led by those teams!) while the later phases are more likely to be tackled by your product and success teams.
This is why increasing product adoption is an objective, so everyone knows how their work will have an impact.
Before you get into applying different methods of getting people to adopt your product, you need to add an extra layer on this, which are your user and buyer personas.
Every user’s journey to your product is going to be different.
You may be dealing with an advocate that has no power in making a purchasing decision, just like you may be dealing with someone who is making the purchasing decision but doesn’t really understand why they’re buying in the first place.
It’s important to cater to different types of user and buyer personas to make that transition from awareness to education to activation a lot easier.
Now that you have your objectives, understood what and why you are looking to do, and defined who you are doing it for, it’s time to tap into my personal favorite part of product management — discovery and experimentation.
There are a myriad of ways of outlining different experiments you might run. My favourite one is to use Teresa Torres’ Opportunity Solution Tree.
This framework allows you to look at all possible experiments with the view that there is no such thing as a ‘bad’ idea, just potential ideas and opportunities that will give you a desired outcome.
(source: https://www.joerinaldijohnson.com/posts/a-guide-to-using-opportunity-solution-trees-for-product-discovery) The Opportunity Solution Tree can then be translated into an outcome-based roadmap that helps you focus on solving the right problems.
Unlike the old school way of creating roadmaps that are feature-based and time-based, this type of roadmap focuses on aligning potential projects (initiatives) to objectives.
At the very beginning I talked about the different aspects of a strategy: what, why, and how you will measure success.
Below is an example of how to achieve that (in this case, set up with airfocus)
With every experiment you might choose to run, you’re keeping in mind what step of the customer journey it is impacting as well as who the user or buyer personas involved are.
Remember that a roadmap is not just for the product team, and you can set the same structure for your sales, success and marketing teams.
And because all groups are working together towards what are hopefully the same set of objectives ,even though you might have different roadmaps, you’re still aiming to impact and achieve the same thing.
And with that we’ve mapped out a solid product adoption strategy. 🎉🎉
1- Set up your north star objective to increase product adoption.
2- Map out sub-group objectives as necessary
3- Set key results for each objective so you know how work will have an impact.
4- Always keep in mind what, why, and who you are doing things for.
Thanks for reading!