Keeping the product pipeline primed and innovating great new features to existing products is the core function of most product development folks. Throw in a little ideation and product roadmapping you are now a product development specialist. Wait, one more thing, you need to make the company money and either grow existing revenue or create new top line. This is where the job gets tricky.

When you look at products through the lens of the customer, you are forced to be objective and quickly realize which bring value. Overlay the financials and you land on those that need to be augmented, revamped and killed. This is most often a pain point in product management. How do you kill a product that just isn’t selling?

The Plainview Group has performed a study for the 3rd time on product portfolio management. It is clear that sunsetting products is not an easy task. ” This year, 320 product development executives and managers across the globe shared their priorities, risks, and pain points around product portfolio management (PPM). Because this is the third study on PPM, we were able to identify some encouraging trends, show patterns in corporate behavior, and see small movements towards maturity within the discipline”.

Once you have come to grips with the necessity to sunset a product, you have to develop a strategy to do so with the least amount of customer stress. Any good strategy involves solid customer communication and resolution paths. Here are few key steps:

  • Segment the customers into buckets
    • Customers likely to churn
    • Customers likely to stay and can be upsold
    • Customers likely to stay and will need a sweetener to buy the upsold product
  • Determine what if any churn is acceptable
  • Develop customer communications on product sunset with any upsell or sweetener messaging including dates for force sunset if applicable
  • Create sub-channel or online link to complete first responders and converters
  • Sunset product

It is important that customers see you have put yourself in their shoes as a user and have pre-defined paths that each customer can take before they lose access to the product. This should make them respond more favorably to your messaging. It is important to execute correctly to retain and even grow revenue. A product that is not performing in the market is simply an unneeded drag on support and sales forces that could be used promoting and supporting high revenue producing products.