The end of the year is a great time to reflect on what went well over the past 12 months. And, what went…not so well.

As teams gear up for 2023, it’s time for them to plot a course to keep rowing the ship in the right direction or readjust their course. In turn, it’s given us an opportunity to take part in their 2023 strategy planning sessions and hear what burning questions they need answered.

We’ll share with you some of the common challenges we keep hearing. And, and how we’ve suggested our clients consider answering them.

Typical 2023 Strategy Planning Questions

While not an exhaustive list, we’ve outlined four of the most common types of strategy planning questions we’ve heard recently. Because our speciality lies within the product and strategy world, you’ll note the questions generally sync to these key areas.

Question #1: Will Our Positioning Resonate With Customers?

This question tends to come up when organizations are in flux. It can be early stage start-ups still getting their feet wet. Or, it can be more established organizations reformulating their value propositions and customer targeting. Essentially, they need to know if the market is going to be excited about what they say they can do.

How To Answer This Question:

This question is nuanced since positioning is nuanced. Good positioning homes in on value propositions, benefits, and customer targeting. Landing on the right mix boosts marketing resonance, go-to-market success, and customer acquisition. We usually say a one-two punch approach is best to answer this question.

  • Customer Segmentation: Start off with customer segmentation. Whether done via surveys or interviews, it will help identify which types of customers in a given market are the right target. And, implicitly, it accepts that not everyone is your customer.
  • Brand Positioning Research: With the right target customer, you can now see if the positioning works. Consider running a brand positioning survey, a process of showing different target customers different positioning options. This will let you compare and contrast options and isolate the one with the greatest resonance.

Question #2: How Can We Improve Our Product To Get More Customers?

This question, no surprise, comes from lean, mean product teams. They have an ambitious list of features and capabilities they could build. But, they know they are bandwidth constrained and can’t do it all. With limited resources, they must isolate the features that get customers excited so that those features land on the roadmap.

How To Answer This Question:

At its core, this is a question about product and feature concepts. That leads us to two ways we can answer this question.

  • Feature Concept Screenings: This approach means talking to existing or prospective customers. Via interviews, you share a product or feature idea and then listen to feedback. You’ll spot trends in what types of features yield the most excitement. Additionally, you’ll identify common challenges across your customer set. This dual combo helps teams prioritize the features that best solve customer problems.
  • Feature Prioritization Studies: Sometimes you need hard and fast numbers over general trends. When that’s the case, we suggest a product prioritization study. This survey-based study forces respondents to select most and least preferred features. In doing so, you get very clear reads on what features truly impact purchase decisions and therefore what features should be on short-term roadmaps.

Question #3: Who Else Could Buy Our Product?

A massive jumpstart in revenue comes from increasing your addressable market. That is, finding a new set of customers to whom you could sell your product or service. This type of question often comes from more established organizations looking for ways to sustain strong growth cycles.

How To Answer This Question:

While not always possible, sometimes the same product meets multiple customer segments’ needs. However, you need to find out who those segments are. These leads to a few different ways to explore this question:

  • Buyer Persona Research: There are likely some ideas about who else might buy the product. Test that out via buyer persona research. In early, exploratory situations, use interviews to talk to different potential customers, learn their pain points, and gauge their interest in your product. You’ll quickly hear if the product aligns with other segments’ needs.
  • Product Concept Study: We could also enter into a product concept study as we mentioned earlier. However, this time around, we don’t test multiple products or features. Instead, we test the same exact product or feature with different audiences via a survey. This approach gives us a clean way to measure product interest and isolate additional customer segments.

Question #4: How Can We Make Sure We’re Offering A Differentiated Product / Service?

Both new category entrants and established players struggle with staying fresh and current. With no one wanting to be another “me too” product, teams regularly wonder how to stay one step ahead.

How To Answer This Question:

This question often surfaces two challenges. The first is understanding what competitors bring to the market. The second is then determining how to fully differentiate oneself. We typically use one of two approaches (if not both!).

  • Competitive Audit Research: It’s always valuable to get a lay of the land with competitive audit or landscape research. This covers exploring a wide set of dynamics across competitors including features, pricing, marketing, positioning, and customer journey experiences. It provides an apples-to-apples comparison to benchmark what the market is doing, and where you can carve a singular position.
  • Product Concept / Feature Studies: We won’t harp on this again. But, let’s always remember that testing new features with the market, and then building them, is a solid way to keep advancing and offering newness to the market.

Question #5: Where Is The Best Place For Us To Spend Our Marketing Budget?

This question tends to come from younger organizations with solid proofs of concept. Their product is already out in the market and they already have revenue. With solid market validation, they want to drive customer acquisition. But, they want to be thoughtful about how and where they spend their money.

How To Answer This Question:

This question is ultimately about marketing channels. We need to help our clients understand where customers spend their time or go to learn about a product category. We typically take one of two paths to explore this:

  • Exploratory Interviews: When we really have very few ideas going in, we suggest asking. Field dedicated interviews with clients and ask them about conference, events, newsletters, influencers or other places where they spend their time or do work-related activities.
  • Marketing Channel Surveys: The flip side of this is when we have initial ideas but want more certainty. For this, we suggest go-to-market surveys. You can quickly test several different channels across may customers and easily identify where they spend their time.

Prioritizing Your 2023 Strategy Planning Questions

We’ve now shared several of the big, hairy topics driving 2023 strategy planning sessions with our customers. No doubt, many (if not all) of these are on your radar too. However, even the largest organizations are resource constrained. How then, do you prioritize what to tackle? Follow the data, of course! Consider these metrics…

  • YoY new customer growth is declining….This likely means it’s time to start looking at new customer segments to build your addressable market or explore if competitors are taking away potential customers.
  • The “competitor” tag is appearing more often as a reason for losing deals…It’s time to understand how to better differentiate yourself to win more business and grow revenue. Start with an audit to get a better lay of the land.
  • Customer churn rate is increasing…This generally means the initial product promise was attractive, but it didn’t deliver enough value. Consider buyer persona research to identify underlying needs and where the product falls short.
  • Low Close Rates or Trial-To-Customer Conversion Rates…The product or brand promise is likely not strong enough. Look at your positioning to see how to adjust it.

This isn’t a complete list. Far from! But it gives you the idea. Use your business data to guide your 2023 strategy planning. And, if you haven’t historically collect historical benchmarks, now’s the time.