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Everything You Need to Know for Guaranteed Product Success

An introduction to the fundamentals of product success and its five key principles.


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Tanguy Leborgne

2 years ago | 4 min read

© olly / Adobe Stock

One product success at a time

Recently, something strange and powerful happened to me. After more than twenty years working with, for, and within Corporate America, I grew frustrated about being stuck with only ONE company, stuck with helping just ONE corporation at a time with their product and business success.

OK, I’ve had a blast! I participated in the crazy growth of Adobe in the ’90s and early 2000s. I learned crisis and general management at Avid (the maker of Media Composer and Pro Tools) during troubled times. I genuinely enjoyed driving the turnaround of quarter-billion-dollar-businesses and M&A’s at Plantronics (yes, the headset company!) and Poly (the result of the merge between Plantronics and Polycom) in more recent years. I just loved it!

But always, did I feel this inconvenient reality of sticking to just one company and its internal dynamics (no matter how well they pay!). That’s why I founded The Product Sherpa.

On a mission to product performance

I’m on a mission. The time has come for me to provide massive value to many more, and there’s no shortage of help needed out there! Many businesses, so many products, end up failing. Despite undeniable talent and investments, their leaders and teams did not master the essential skills that matter.

Based on my leadership experience, we have tailored ultra-targeted consulting and coaching 60-Day Makeover Programs. They address a variety of topics, ranging from helping with business vision, product portfolio optimization, strategic pricing, to customer development. One thing is sure. Our focus is laser-sharp on finding the best ways to help business leaders achieve success and product performance. Call them entrepreneurs, general managers, business unit leaders, business-minded product people.

In today’s world, it’s hard to discern right from wrong. We have access to a plethora of information and data, but we lack insights. Most of us are falling short of product success, not prepared or lacking proper skills. But with a little help, a good dose of discipline and accountability, you can significantly increase your odds of product success.

After years spent distilling what worked and what didn’t, let me share with you for starters five principles that will help make the difference:

1 - It all starts (and ends) with the customer

At the heart of every successful company lies a passion, sometimes an obsession for the customer. Great! But it’s easier said than done. While some functions naturally gravitate around the customer, for many of us, when asked about being more customer-centric, it is raising questions on how to do it and what to do about it.

So, yes, you need to be methodical about market and customer research. You need to read your customers’ (or prospects) minds and genuinely understand their “big hairy problems.” You have to know that defining user or buyer personas is not about demographics and much more about understanding their motives, their influences, their mindset.

2 - Know WHY you are in business

Before you dig into your products’ unique value proposition, you should first and foremost understand your company’s unique attributes. What does make you so unique as a business, which skills, intellectual property, capabilities do you have that others don’t? Why does your business even exist in the first place?

The good news is that you don’t need to be a trained existentialist to answer the question. Just be wary of shiny corporate vision or mission statements. Focus instead on the authentic values that bring you and your colleagues to work, day after day. If you diligently do this, you’ll significantly augment your chances of product success.

3 - Identify and calibrate your opportunities, repeat

Many business leaders have heard this piece of advice: “Know your market!”. But what does that mean to “know” your market? It’s mastering the segment of the market you intend to target. You cannot afford to address everyone. For you to reach product performance you need to specifically go after a niche target and then expand into adjacent audiences.

Once you have adequately narrowed it down, you can dig deeper into the understanding of the key trends that impact your target market and study your competition.

4 - Know where to focus (and not to!)

That’s where Pareto comes into play. The 80/20 rule is the approach I have used with most success over the years to discern what would require our full attention vs. what was noise. The Pareto principle is, at best, a directional rule of thumb.

The main idea here is that most things in life are not distributed evenly. For instance, a relatively small percentage of your customers make the majority of your revenue (20% of customers making 80% of your income). It doesn’t need to be 80:20. It rarely is, but this has proved to be directionally true in most cases.

5 - Obsess over cause and effect

You might find me weird, but this is where much FUN is! Fascinating debates and discussions will probably take place among your team! To truly understand the root causes of a problem your customer is facing, you need to dig WAY beyond your initial question of why they experience it.

If you are struggling with problem resolution and root cause analysis, there are proven and effective methods to do this. Proper root cause analysis takes some practice, but it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Just beware of ultra-simplification schemes, put your investigative hat on, and make sure you involve the right talent at the right time!


From there, it’s up to you. Please give me your feedback. I want to hear “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” If you disagree or want to provide an alternative perspective, go for it, as it will only make for a richer dialog!

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Tanguy Leborgne

I’m a senior executive with deep expertise in general management. I’m particularly passionate about business, product, and marketing optimization.


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