Bringing dormant products to life

Life insurance products can be complicated and like any other product, go through a lifecycle – Introduction, Growth, Maturity, and Decline. Be it protection or savings and investments, life insurance products are long-term products and offer delayed gratification, so people generally do not queue up to buy it. Despite being good for the customer, you may find that a product struggles to hit the growth phase or find the product-market fit. The sales figure trudges along, and there is a growing call for retiring the product.

Suppose you have multiple products in the portfolio and the management wants to drive a specific product mix. In that case, you may find that the most important product from a bottom-line perspective is not bringing in the supposed numbers.

Or your most important product in terms of topline while still doing good numbers has plateaued because the market segment it is playing in, is getting saturated.

Or the product is struggling to get repeat customers or top-ups; or is not meeting retention targets.

As life insurance product managers, we often hear statements like- Oh, the product doesn’t sell! we need something new; If you give us a new product/feature the numbers will go through the roof; There is nothing to talk about in this product; The product is complicated, the market segment doesnt understand it; This product is only for a specific market segment’. ‘Give us some fresh collaterals and so on.

Or there is genuine fatigue within the distribution, i.e. they are tired of selling the same old story for so long. The distributors may not realise it because of the comfort factor with the existing product features, but trust me, there is fatigue. The distributor activity would show, and it would not change unless somebody makes them realise it.

While the financials, product design, marketing collaterals, everything looks positive, the sentiments around it do not. The product is tagged as “doesn’t sell” and one look at the year on year sales figures seals its fate unless you as the product manager do something about it.

The choice is either write the product withdrawal paper or revive the product because you believe it (even if you did not design it) works for the customer.

How might we bring dormant products to life or jumpstart a product? Maybe a little tweak to the product or proposition or the message, or the market segment? It can be in the form of a training program, marketing collateral, new product feature, a new service feature, or something else. The design question here is ‘How might we make the customers (new or existing) realise the true value of this product?’ In the end, it is all about customers. Whatever we do, we do it to help our customers.

This is the time for us as product managers to wear our multiple hats- part matchmaker, technologist, marketeer, trainer, designer, financial planner, and a full-time storyteller, and start the process.

It is time to ‘RESET’. It is the acronym I use for – Revisit, Establish, Execute and TomTom.

The steps of RESET are:

  1. Step 1: Revisit and rewrite the story
  2. Step 2: Establish that the new story works
  3. Step 3: Execute, i.e. take to market
  4. Step 4: TomTom about it (meaning beat the drum)

Step1: Revisit and rewrite the story

Basically, to see the product with new eyes by putting the customer at the heart of the storyboard. To do this, we need –

  1. The Opportunity assessment paper prepared during the design phase of the product to understand the customer-need it was meant to address.
  2. The current customer insights, to understand the motivation and the change in behaviour since the launch and understand what matters to customers today triggers their frustration and what provides ease, what brings grief, and what sparks joy.
  3. The product specification document to understand all the features of the product. Over the years some features get forgotten but may be relevant today. Also, a product is a bundle of features, and not all features appeal to all customers. To find the perfect fit for most customers, a thorough revisit of the product specification is crucial. No features should be left behind!
  4. Customer feedback, adviser feedback, internal sales team feedback, and customer service team feedback to understand where the product does well for the customer and where it lacks.
  5. MIS data for analysis. Basically, to understand the factual numbers and agree on your success criteria for whatever you will do to get the product to jumpstart.
  6. And an open mind for ideation


When we come to ideation, the idea is to go for quantity over quality. The more ideas we come up with, the better the chance of a truly brilliant story. It is essential to let the ideas flow and stop judging them. The ideation phase is not for critical thinking.

Just keep noting down whatever ideas you think of on a piece of paper or a post-it. I usually use a blank piece of paper and then transfer each idea to post-its and stick them to the wall. One thing I have learned over the years is that ideation is like opening an old tap; first, the dirty water comes out followed by usable water. Our mind is like that old tap, the more the water flows the cleaner the water will be and useful. We need to keep pushing ourselves to write as many ideas as we can.

Working within constraints helps generate more ideas, such as putting a time limit to the ideation phase, say 1 hour. Or product constraint, i.e. think of the product you want to jumpstart as being the only product in your product suite. It will help you to be more creative in finding a brilliant solution specific to that product.

Also, go for outrageous ideas, do not limit yourself. I will repeat, we do not have to judge the ideas during this phase; we must aim for the maximum number of ideas, and quickly. Even if an idea sounds ridiculous, keep it on the list. How you are going to implement those ideas will come later. 

Innovation is filled with a lot of ambiguity. If you do not feel any discomfort during the design process, that may be a sign that the approach is not embracing enough risk.


Getting more people involved in ideation helps, especially if you have a diverse crowd from operations, sales, distributors, etc. The frontline sales or advisers are a goldmine of ideas as they keep meeting customers; they are the customers’ voice. However, they need to be guided because their own bias and preconceived notions can be a hindrance in coming up with a truly brilliant idea. The ‘old tap’ analogy applies to them as well. We should coax them until the clear water starts flowing.

Look for inspiration from different industries to get fresh perspectives. For example, airline ticketing websites or the fast-food industry sell attachments/upsell easily and simplified. I am sure we can use it in our industry.  

Once you have the ideas on your ‘Idea wall’, it is time for ‘converging’. Facing the wall take a step back and focus your energy to narrow down options. Some ideas will have similarities, cluster them together to get a theme. If you have more people with you, ask them to vote for the best ideas.

Even if you have zeroed in on your five best ideas, it does not mean all others are a waste. No, look again, the others can be a subset of the five main ideas. Use the power of ‘and’, and you will find a compelling story.

Innovation Ambition Matrix

All the ideas can also be clustered into the Innovation Ambition Matrix by Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff. It is a simple tool for innovation. The first time I read about this was in Roman Pichler’s book ‘Strategize’. I would suggest reading the book; it has some useful insights on product management.

Source: ‘Strategize’ by Roman Pichler

Remember, in the clarion call to close the product, you may not get a decent budget to do anything disruptive, but then disruptive does not always mean cost, it takes time as well, which we product managers seldom have.

Once we have completed the Ideation and converging, the next steps from RESET are Establish, Execute, and TomTom which I will cover in my next article.

Stay tuned! Stay safe!

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