Is It Time You ‘Steve’ Your Product Catalog?

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Is it time You ‘Steve’ your product catalog?

Most companies sell too many products. They tweak feature sets, speed and feeds and accidentally create a new product. Or, they don’t want to miss out on sales opportunities, and so create products to cater for every possible customer possibility.

Over time, product catalogs become bloated.  They become filled with niche products that nobody buys. Value propositions become less and less compelling and valuable sales and marketing dollars are increasingly thinly spread in an attempt to sell something, rather than focused on the most likely sellers.

It’s time to Steve your product catalogue?

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in early 1997 he cut more than 70 percent of the company’s hardware and software products. From desktops (Performa, LC and a host of Apple clones), printers (Silentype, ImageWriter, StyleWriter), Monitors and peripherals, Steve was relentless. Oh, and the Apple Newton. Steve nixed the Newton. 

Focus & simplicity

The argument – one I agree with – is that the smaller the product catalog, the easier it is to create and communicate both differentiation and value.

Steve Jobs famously created the four squared Apple product matrix that had Desktop and Notebook on the Y axis; Consumer and Pro lines on the X axis.  If a product didn’t fit within the matrix it wasn’t an Apple product.

Notebook has been replaced by portable in the last few years but, almost 20 years on, the fundamentals of the matrix remains a guiding principle for the company.  In recent years the Apple product portfolio has become bloated again, with product differentiation based on feeds and speeds, but compared to most technology companies of its size its catalog remains unbelievably small.

How to ‘Steve’ your product catalogue

In order to ‘Steve’ your product catalogue you need to ask yourself the following questions:

What do you sell?  I mean what do you really sell?

What the four key problems that your products solve for customers?

Which products don’t directly address one of the four key problems faced by your customers?

Now create a product matrix.

Once you’re removed all of the products that don’t sell and don’t add value to your customers you’ll have a core product set that matches Apple’s in 1997 after it had been ‘Steve’d’