These are uncertain times. As a startup, you could have started off March with a clear vision on what you want to do over the next couple of quarters, only to find that everything’s turned topsy-turvy in a few weeks.

Your teams are probably already brainstorming about the impact of the changes, and wondering what to do next.

Two key elements to review should be your product strategy and product marketing.

Product strategy review

Your customers and prospects are dealing with the same uncertainty as you. It’s difficult making predictions at times like this, but there are certain broad trends to consider.

  • Will there be a change in their buying patterns? It’s likely companies put off discretionary expenses for now, and focus on products/solutions that are core to their business.
  • Will there be a change in business models/contracts? As customers try and get a sense of future revenues, they may reconsider existing business models. Larger customers may also look to rewrite contracts if the terms are not in favour.
  • Are there industry trends that may change? For instance, an advertising led model might change if firms decide to increase spends on digital marketing as OTT and mobile media consumption increases, but industries that have been large spenders on advertising might drastically reduce spends if they don’t see business.

Getting a sense of these will help see if the corresponding product strategy needs to change as well. If your business model was a one-time payment with yearly AMC, are there chances of the model moving to short term subscription services? Does this affect how you’d prioritize your product roadmap?

In times of uncertainty, the best bet is to ‘follow the money’ – sit closely with the business to see understand different revenue scenarios and factor that into the product roadmap. Be flexible on the short term product roadmap so you can factor in changes that might have a huge impact on your runway.

Product marketing review

Till there is some stabilization, it’s unlikely prospects will take any major decisions, and may delay signing contracts.

Use the time to review your marketing messages. Is your product a must-have or a nice-to-have? Does it help with reducing cost for the customer? Is your message around increasing revenues?

A good check is to see whether buyers will believe the message and whether it may lead to challenges during the contract negotiation stage. For instance, if you claim to see a product to increase revenues, the prospect may ask you for a revenue share agreement instead of a fixed price. In ordinary times, this may have been a good deal, but you’d now have to consider if this will fit into your larger business plan and cash flows.

It would be useful to sit with sales teams and put together a list of questions that may come up in discussions, which you can craft answers to in advance. As a team, this will also help you prepare better for when the market turns.

Revenues, cash flows, profits and expenses – at times like these, it’s good to give enough weight to these in your product decisions.