One of the critical components that can make or break a new product's journey from ideation to reality is executive sponsorship. Whether you’re intrapreneur inside a larger organization or part of a team tasked with launching new products, you still need stakeholder buy-in to get a project off and running. It's often the invisible hand that steers the ship of innovation, providing resources, strategic direction, and organizational support. For engineering teams and product managers who are on the cusp of turning their creative ideas into tangible products, securing executive sponsorship can be pivotal. In this eBook, we offer actionable insights to help these innovators convince internal leaders to back their new digital product initiatives.
This eBook is for product leaders, engineers, and innovators looking to launch a new product from inside their organization. From a tool to improve internal workflows to a new application for customers and contacts, this guide will show the reader how to earn the support of leadership. This support will enable the continued development of the product and, with a little luck, the eventual successful launch of it.
A strong business case serves as the foundation for securing executive sponsorship for a new product. It demonstrates the strategic value of your product and its alignment with the organization's goals. Here's how to effectively articulate the business case for your product:
Begin by showcasing how your product aligns with your organization's overarching goals and strategic objectives. This could involve highlighting how the product will drive revenue growth, increase market share, or enhance customer satisfaction. Establishing this alignment ensures that your product is seen as a valuable contributor to the organization's success.
Next, emphasize the market opportunity your product addresses. This involves presenting a clear understanding of the target market, the problem your product solves, and the potential size of the market. A well-defined market opportunity can help build confidence in the product's potential for success.
Provide an assessment of the competitive landscape, including existing and potential competitors. Identify the unique selling points and differentiators of your product that set it apart from the competition. By demonstrating a strong competitive advantage, you can reinforce the belief that your product will succeed in the market.
Financial projections are a key component of the business case. Estimate the potential revenue or savings your product could generate, as well as the costs associated with its development, marketing, and distribution. Include a clear return on investment (ROI) calculation to demonstrate the financial benefits of the project. If you need help building out a financial model, our free template provides a starting point for defining the financial projections described here.
No new product venture is without risks. Be transparent about the potential risks and challenges associated with your product, and outline the steps you'll take to mitigate these risks. This demonstrates your ability to proactively manage risks and further strengthens your business case. Even the skeptics within your business will start to be won over when you demonstrate that you’ve considered the potential risks and planned ahead for how to address them. Doing so will disarm many of the objections that you might encounter.
Finally, provide a clear and achievable plan for bringing your product to market. This includes outlining key milestones, timelines, and the resources required. A well-defined path to execution helps executives understand what's needed for the product's success and reinforces the feasibility of the project.
When presenting your business case, use persuasive storytelling techniques to engage your audience (in this case, key stakeholders) and make your case more compelling. Frame your product's story in a way that highlights the problem, the solution, and the impact it will have on the organization and its customers. Paint a picture of a satisfied and happy user.
Articulating a clear business case for your product is crucial to securing executive sponsorship. By aligning your product with organizational goals, demonstrating market opportunity, assessing the competitive landscape, outlining financial projections, addressing risks, and establishing a clear path to execution, you can make a strong case for your product's strategic value. When executives see the potential impact of your product on the organization and the market, they are more likely to provide the support you need to bring your product to life.
Identifying and demonstrating a clear market need for your product is fundamental to securing executive sponsorship. Without a real, addressable market need, the chances of product success are greatly diminished. Here's how you can effectively highlight the market need for your product:
Start by conducting thorough market research to understand the dynamics of your target market. This includes identifying key trends, understanding consumer behavior, and analyzing the competitive landscape. Use both quantitative data and qualitative insights to build a comprehensive picture of the market.
Once you understand the market, the next step is to identify a specific problem that your target audience faces. This problem should be significant enough to warrant a new product solution. Detail this problem in your pitch, demonstrating your understanding of the audience's pain points.
Having identified the problem, you should then present your product as the solution. Explain how your product addresses the identified problem and why it's superior to existing solutions on the market. Be as specific as possible, using data and examples to illustrate your product's effectiveness.
To add credibility to your claims, validate the market need with evidence. This could be in the form of market survey results, customer testimonials, or case studies. Evidence that shows real people experiencing the problem your product solves can be very compelling.
Finally, estimate the size of the market that your product could potentially address. This involves quantifying the number of people who experience the problem your product solves and are willing to pay for a solution. A large addressable market can indicate a high potential for returns, making your product a more attractive investment.
Remember that market needs can change over time. Stay attuned to market shifts and be prepared to adapt your product to meet evolving needs. This might involve regularly reassessing your target market, analyzing consumer trends, and seeking feedback from customers. Demonstrating your ability to stay agile and responsive to market changes can further instill confidence in your product's long-term viability.
If your product is addressing a need that is currently unmet or underserved in the market, highlight this in your pitch. Showcasing a unique solution to a significant problem not only emphasizes the market need but also positions your product as a pioneering solution in the space.
By thoroughly demonstrating the market need for your product, you can effectively illustrate the potential value your product brings to consumers and to the organization. This is a critical component of securing executive sponsorship, as it directly ties the success of your product to the success of the market it serves. When executives see the clear demand and potential return from your product, they are more likely to provide the support you need to make your product a reality.
Remember, your role is not just to build a product, but to solve a problem for your core customer. By focusing on the market need, you place the problem—and your solution—at the forefront, making a compelling case for executive sponsorship.
A project plan is a comprehensive guide that outlines the steps needed to take your product from concept to reality. It serves as a roadmap for your team and provides executives with a clear vision of the path ahead, which can build their confidence in your product's feasibility. Here's how to develop a robust project plan:
Start by clearly defining the objectives of your project. What are you trying to achieve with your product? What problem does it solve, and how does it do so? These objectives should align with the organization's broader goals, ensuring that your product contributes to the overall strategic direction.
Your project plan should include key milestones that mark significant stages in the product development process. This could include completing the product design, testing the prototype, or launching the product.
Along with these milestones, provide realistic timelines for when you expect to reach them. This helps create a sense of progress and keeps everyone on the same page regarding expectations and deadlines.
Outline the resources you'll need to develop your product. This could include personnel, equipment, software, or funding. Be as specific as possible, and justify why each resource is necessary. This shows executives that you've thought through the logistics of your project and understand what it will take to make it successful.
A clear governance structure is crucial for efficient project execution. Detail the roles and responsibilities of each team member involved in the project. This not only ensures that everyone knows what's expected of them but also makes it clear who is accountable for each aspect of the project.
Finally, establish criteria for evaluating the success of your product. This could be specific performance metrics, customer feedback, or market penetration rates. By setting these criteria upfront, you'll have a clear benchmark against which to measure your progress and demonstrate the product's success to your executives.
In conjunction with your Evaluation Criteria, your project plan should highlight key off-ramps: moments where efforts could be easily shut down or where a pivot could be executed should the evaluation criteria not be met. Outlining these off-ramps will give key stakeholders confidence that your project won’t be an unending resource consumption machine.
Developing a robust project plan requires careful thought and planning. But the effort is well worth it. A well-structured project plan can instill confidence in your executives about your product's viability and your team's ability to execute it. It can serve as a powerful tool in securing executive sponsorship and guiding your product to success.
Return on Investment, or ROI, is a critical measure that executives look at when considering whether to invest in a new product. It essentially evaluates the profitability of an investment compared to its cost, offering a clear picture of the financial benefits that the organization stands to gain.
Here's how you can effectively showcase the potential ROI of your product:
Start by presenting a realistic projection of the financial returns your product could generate. This could involve sales projections based on your understanding of the target market, the pricing strategy you plan to adopt, and the potential market share you aim to capture.
However, these projections should not be plucked out of thin air. They need to be grounded in thorough market research and supported by sound assumptions. Be sure to explain the methodology behind your projections to instill confidence in their accuracy.
Simultaneously, you need to outline the costs associated with developing and marketing your product. This includes everything from design and development costs to marketing and distribution expenses.
Keep in mind that these costs are not static and may evolve as your product progresses from the ideation to the launch phase. Therefore, it's essential to maintain a degree of flexibility in your cost estimates, with contingencies in place for unexpected expenses.
Once you have a clear picture of both the potential returns and costs, you can calculate the projected ROI. This is typically expressed as a percentage and is calculated by subtracting the investment cost from the return, dividing the result by the cost, and then multiplying by 100.
While the final figure is important, equally important is your explanation of how you arrived at it. Be prepared to justify your calculations and assumptions, as executives will likely scrutinize these.
While financial ROI is paramount, don't overlook the qualitative benefits of your product. These can often resonate strongly with executives and provide a more holistic view of your product's potential impact.
Qualitative benefits could include improved customer satisfaction, heightened brand reputation, increased market visibility, or enhanced competitive positioning. In some cases, these benefits could also translate into tangible financial gains in the longer term, such as customer loyalty leading to repeat purchases.
Showcasing the potential ROI of your product requires a balanced mix of hard data, sound assumptions, and compelling storytelling. It's about painting a picture of a future where the investment in your product pays off, both financially and strategically. This compelling image, backed by solid numbers and a clear understanding of the market, can be a powerful tool in securing executive sponsorship for your product.
The way you communicate your product idea to executives can significantly influence the outcome of your pitch. Passion and conviction are infectious, and demonstrating these traits can sway executives in your favor.
In your conversations with leadership or potential executive sponsors, tell a compelling story about your product. Your narrative should present facts and figures but should also resonate emotionally. Highlight how your product can make a difference in the lives of customers or how it could disrupt the market. Be open to questions and feedback, and respond with thoughtful, well-considered answers. Remember, your goal is not just to inform, but to inspire and persuade.
Effective communication also involves active listening. Understand the concerns or reservations of your executives and address them head-on. This shows that you value their input and are committed to a collaborative approach.
Securing initial executive sponsorship is only the beginning of your product journey. To maintain momentum and ensure your sponsors remain committed, it's essential to keep them engaged throughout the product development process. Here are some ways to achieve continuous engagement:
Keep your sponsors informed about the progress of the project by providing regular updates and progress reports. These updates should highlight key milestones achieved, challenges encountered, and any adjustments made to the project plan. By sharing these insights, you'll demonstrate accountability and transparency, which can strengthen your sponsors' trust and commitment.
At Apollo 21, we have seen far too many great ideas stall entirely because of poor communication between the champion and leadership. Don’t let a lack of communication bet the death knell for your new digital product.
Establish open channels of communication with your sponsors. Encourage them to provide feedback, ask questions, or share concerns. This not only keeps them involved but also allows you to address any potential issues early on, preventing misalignment or misunderstandings from escalating.
Invite your sponsors to participate in critical decision-making processes, especially when it comes to strategic decisions that may impact the project's direction or success. By involving your sponsors in these discussions, you'll demonstrate that you value their expertise and insights, fostering a sense of shared ownership and commitment to the project.
Keep in mind that this involvement is not just to placate those whose support you are counting on. Different people have different points of view that can help inform the product you’re building and the direction you are hoping to go.
Acknowledge and celebrate the milestones and successes of your project with your sponsors. Recognizing these achievements can boost morale and reinforce the positive impact of the executive’s sponsorship. This can also serve as an opportunity to reaffirm the project's alignment with the organization's broader goals and objectives.
No product development journey is without its challenges. Be prepared to face obstacles and setbacks along the way. When these challenges arise, communicate them openly with your sponsors and involve them in developing solutions. Demonstrating resilience and adaptability can further strengthen your sponsors' confidence in your project.
Finally, promote a culture of continuous learning and improvement within your team and with your sponsors. Encourage open discussions about lessons learned, best practices, and areas for improvement. By fostering this mindset, you'll help ensure that your product development process remains agile and responsive to the ever-evolving market landscape.
Securing executive sponsorship is often a nuanced and challenging process, but it's also an opportunity to drive your new product idea forward with the full backing of your organization's leadership. By articulating a compelling business case, demonstrating a clear market need, developing a robust project plan, showcasing potential ROI, and communicating with conviction, you can significantly increase your chances of securing the executive buy-in you need.
These tips provide a useful framework, but remember that each organization and executive team is unique, so it's crucial to tailor your approach accordingly. And remember, securing executive sponsorship is just the first step in your product's journey. The principles of thorough research, strategic planning, and effective communication will continue to serve you well throughout the product development process.
At Apollo21, we're passionate about fostering innovation and helping product ideas come to life. We hope this post provides valuable insights to help you secure the executive sponsorship your product deserves. Together, let's continue to push the boundaries of what's possible and drive digital innovation forward.