July 24, 2015

CCP's Four Product Problem

Let's say you're a company with four products in your product line.  Let's call those four products Product H, Product L, Product W, and Product N.  The market used to love Product N, but now tastes are shifting and more and more customers are moving to Product L or buying a competitors product.  Overall customers are slightly down.  Do you invest heavily to try to revitalize Product N, do you capitalize on the popularity of Product L, or do you try to boost the overall product line and brand name and hope all four products rise?

That's what CCP is facing now.  I've often written on the success of the Gal/Cal FW zone, even just yesterday.  Today we heard from Nosy Gamer that even EveUni is now moving into the greater Gal/Cal warzone, changing their HQ to Slays in Placid.  That means in additional to the actual FW corps and long-standing pirates, we have the recent additions of RvB, Brave, and EveUni all in systems just outside of the warzone.  But back to our entirely hypothetical four products.

So if you are our product manager, let's look at the lineup:

Product H: A stable product which provides a good entry point to the product line and to the brand.  Almost all customers start with Product H, and many will keep some seats of H even as they move on to other products, but by itself it is not a powerhouse in the market.

Product N: This top-end product historically has been the shining beacon of the brand, allowing customers the most customization and ownership.  However, over the past years the customers have become dissatisfied with its relative performance.  Indeed, customer complaints about Product N are significantly tarnishing the brand now and are turning away prospective customers from the other products.  Customer lobby groups have a huge role in Product N, but these have not been positively contributing to the brand over the past few years.  Some analysts have termed these customer lobby groups as "toxic", and point to how some now promote competing products. Major investments have been made in Product N to try to reboot it, but the established customer base has not had a good initial reaction to the reboot.  Some customers are leaving for Product L.

Product L: This product is a natural next step from Product H for many customers.  It has languished in the past, but investment a few years ago combined with some dynamic customer advocates has caused a high growth curve.  Network effects have been very beneficial, though favoring the GC subproduct more than the AM subproduct despite the fact that these two subproducts are functionally identical.  Product L appears to particularly appeal to customers who cannot dedicate the long hours that were characteristic of Product N customers.

Product W: This is the youngest of the products, appealing to a dedicated niche group of hardcore customers.  However it seems to waver back and forth in success, and is currently on a slight downward swing either because of or despite recent substantial investment in expanded features for this product.

So what do you do as product manager?  How much more investment do you want to make in Product N?  How much case you engage with the lobby groups that are so influential and yet so damaging to your brand?  At some point do you need to "fire the customer" and jettison Product N to focus on your more successful products?  If you do any of these things, how do you plan to sell your proposal to the CEO and the Executive Board?

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