A framework that unlocks sustaining growth

September 20, 2021
Jennifer Paul
Brian Lee
Brian Lee
Jennifer Paul
An Associate Director of Product Development at Klook, Brian is a thought leader in creating, scaling, and optimizing products. Brian has scaled products from 200k users to 26m users.

It’s easy to say that one wants to expand the market and grow the product. The mindset of doing “business as usual,” even when things are going well, does not guarantee growth in the long run. We had the pleasure to chat with Brian Lee, Associate Director of Product Development at Klook, to gain insight into how he systematically find new ways to increase profit and plans strategies to reach new customers.

Everyone wants to grow, but not everyone gets there

While goals are great for setting the direction, they do not show the path. To achieve growth, you can develop new products or enter a new market; but deciding which approach can be a challenge! Brian shares a simple framework that brings clarity by evaluating the market condition and product/service at hand.

The Ansoff Matrix, developed in 1957 by H. Igor Ansoff, is extremely useful in helping determine your current status and offers four areas of growth opportunities. Brian brings the framework to life with his own experiences.

Ansoff Matrix
Source: sciencetheory.net

Market Penetration

Don’t just satisfy hunger; grow the appetite

You have a solid product, and the market has an appetite for it! The key question for market penetration strategy is how to increase your market share by selling more of the same product or service to the same customer base. Some of the tactics can be:

  • Lower prices to attract new customers
  • Boost promotion and distribution efforts
  • Create loyalty program schemes
  • Acquire a competitor in the same marketplace

Brian joined Lifehack, a global online platform that publishes productivity, health, and lifestyle content, in early 2010. Keep in mind that this was way before Medium was born! The online content space was free and less saturated. To boost readership, his strategy for market penetration was a beautiful seamless loop; find out what readers want and give it to them quickly.

Visitors are turned into subscribers with effective CTAs throughout the site, while quick and simple surveys allow Lifehack to segment subscribers based on their interests and goals.

Source: web archive http://lifehack.org/

Moreover, Lifehack established standardized templates to produce articles efficiently, minimizing editing efforts. At its peak, Lifehack published 50 pieces of articles a day, reaching 13 million page views per month! By determining what visitors want at the top of the funnel, Lifehack created and served a more targeted and personalized content experience to their readers.

Product Development

Keep doing the same thing, but differently

Despite having a killer product or service, there will come a time when usage plateaus. In such a situation, it is advantageous to leverage your thorough understanding of the current market and provide innovative solutions to meet the needs of the existing customers. You can formulate ideas for product development by:

  • Extending current product line with variants
  • Repackaging existing product
  • Redesigning product/service experience 
  • Developing related products/services

By 2016, although traffic was still growing, Brian felt the urge to forge a new stream of revenue instead of relying on ad monetization. Lifehack had accumulated a wealth of content. With its readers craving for more, developing a new product to satisfy its existing customers’ appetite was the next move for Lifehack.

Topics with the highest traffic were selected and transformed into online courses. The courses are constructed and designed thoughtfully. These courses are a 40-hour journey that introduces the big idea, shares research data, implements concept framework, builds habit through practices, and provides practical action items that subscribers can bring to the real world.

Source: Lifehack.org

Lifehack utilized CRM to target subscribers interested in those topics when launching. By tapping into their passions, Lifehack expanded its product and services to deepen engagement with core customers and successfully carved a new revenue stream.

Market Development

If you are confident in the product, the market (literally and figuratively) can be expansive

Sometimes growth becomes stagnant not because the product or service is undesirable but because the market is saturated. Be confident in your product and expand into new market territories. At the same time, remember to be humble to make adjustments to connect with the new market. Areas of opportunities for market development can be:

  • Entering into a new geographic market 
  • Connecting with a different demographic segment (gender, age)
  • Broadening sales channels (agent vs. direct, bottom-up vs. top-down)
  • Experimenting with product/service tiers (single vs. bundle)

Brian is currently an Associate Product Development Director at Klook, a travel and leisure booking platform that empowers and encourages travelers to discover experiences worldwide. Although not a project of his own, Brian illuminated a remarkable story of how Klook approached growth through market development during the pandemic in 2020.

Source: Klookcareers.com/blog

Despite international travel being paralyzed in 2020, consumers’ yearning to travel did not diminish. Klook quickly pivoted its growth strategy to cultivate domestic tourism to fulfill people’s longing for travel, experiences, celebrations, and gatherings. “Destination Staycation” was born! The concept of a “staycation” is nothing new; the magic is in bundling Klook’s existing restaurant deals, event tickets, and hotel promotions to create a complete experience. According to Klook’s data, 60% of its users in Hong Kong have been on a “Destination Staycation.” Not only was Klook able to persevere in a trying year, it also created a newfound appetite for domestic tourism.


It may be worthwhile to leap, as long as you’re not in the dark

Diversification is the riskiest strategy for growth as it focuses on entering a new market with a new product. Integrated efforts in market and product development are necessary to succeed. Diversification may offer the most significant growth; with a thorough understanding of the market and sharp insight into consumer needs, it opens up an entirely new revenue stream. Some ways to diversify are:

  • Vertical diversification (branch forward or backward within the current supply chain)
  • Horizontal diversification (develop a related offering that creates synergy to the current product/service)
  • Lateral diversification (enter a completely separate entity to existing product/service)

The pandemic has changed the way people travel, demanding increased assurance, inspiring Klook to work closely with insurers to create insurance products that target the pain points of travelers. Only announced in November 2021, Klook is partnering with ZA Tech to innovate insurance in travel; aiming to embed a full range of travel-related insurance products across multiple markets on Klook’s platform! This diversification synergy between travel experiences and travel insurance further elevates Klook’s innovative global travel and leisure industry leadership.

It’s important to stay hungry when thinking about growth. Businesses that have flourished and succeeded do not bask in the glory of a single accomplishment. It’s about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately, it is the commitment to constantly experimenting and adopting new and different strategies that unlocks sustaining growth.

More stories

6 steps to ace design questions in PM interviews - ½
August 9, 2022
Jennifer Paul

6 steps to ace design questions in PM interviews - ½

Product management interviews can be daunting as it feels like you have to dismantle a bomb by demonstrating your rational thinking while showcasing your innovative creativity. We were delighted to connect with Andrew Oh, a coach at Exponent, to learn how to skilfully structure design questions during product management interviews. Andrew shares 6 components to cover if you want to stand out in a PM interview.

Read more
Twelve months of agile startup product development ⅓ – team and mission
August 9, 2022
Christopher Hugentobler

Twelve months of agile startup product development ⅓ – team and mission

I had the great pleasure of leading digital product management and design in 2021 at a Hong Kong startup called Bowtie. In this three-part story, I hope to convince ambitious builders to join Bowtie. I will share with you my understanding of Bowtie’s mission and opportunity, our core beliefs and principles about product design and development, and examples of how we work to implement these beliefs and satisfy our customers.

Read more
Sounds like a good idea! But do your users care?
August 9, 2022
Jennifer Paul

Sounds like a good idea! But do your users care?

We live in a culture where we celebrate innovation and chase after “newness.” Ask any product manager, there is no shortage of ideas for what to do next. Then, why do 95% of new products fail? We had the opportunity to chat with Christopher Hugentobler, a passionate product leader, to learn 3 questions he challenges himself when building and improving products that will benefit the business and its customers.

Read more