A product roadmap is a structured plan how to develop your product. It is often divided into sections – upgrades of existing features and new ones, and the timeline – what will be built in a week, month, quarter, or a year. The main purpose of a product roadmap is to show users (and also your team members) what are your product development plans on and what they can expect from you in the future.
The main challenges of building a product roadmap
The main challenge of building a product roadmap is prioritizing tasks as your ideas and customer requests usually outweigh your capacity. Existing customers threat to churn if you don’t add new features quickly. Potential customers need additional features to become paying customers. Your competition is still working on new features and you can’t lag behind. Market trends are constantly changing and something seen as a nice-to-have today can quickly become a must-have tomorrow (a simple example: support of mobile devices by analytical tools).
As you see, there’s so much to take into account when building a product roadmap. Making a mistake prioritizing new features can have a catastrophic influence on your company’s growth. What can help you prioritize is feedback from customers and website visitors.
How collecting feedback help build product roadmaps
Product teams often make a simple mistake – make decisions based on a few answers and not take into account all answers they don’t receive reasons. In fact, we all tend to make this mistake (read ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman if you don’t believe me). It means that the product team can push a certain decision considering product development because a few customers talked to the support team about it. Sounds to be a reasonable choice so where’s the mistake? In not listening to all the other existing and potential customers.
Lack of a different feature can cause 50 people not to become your customers but they won’t contact support to talk about it – they will simply leave your website and look for a more suitable alternative. In this scenario, what would be a reasonable choice what to build? I guess I don’t have to tell you. In order to make good product development decisions, you should take into account feedback from more sources than only angry customers.
How to prioritize
As already mentioned, setting priorities is the key. But how to do it? What you should look for is nothing else but money. Look at the potential outcome of decisions regarding product roadmap. Should you prioritize a new feature will help you potentially acquire 50 new users for or the one that will help you upgrade 30 current customers from basic to more expensive subscriptions? The key is their lifetime value. Also, take into account risk – the fact that people say they would buy a subscription if you add a feature or two doesn’t necessarily mean they will actually do it. Existing users are more reliable – for them, lack of a certain feature can be a real pain and will be happy to upgrade as soon as you add it.
But with revenue in mind, don’t forget about your vision. Focusing on urgent tasks only can blur your vision of a product, which can be dangerous in the long run. A simple rule to avoid it – divide time and resources and spend e.g. 30% of time building your long-term vision and the rest to introduce features that will help you maintain and acquire new customers now.
How to get feedback for your product roadmap
Collecting feedback from customers is easy – you can talk to them using chat, email, send surveys or even call them – it’s up to you what you choose. Just remember about creating information flows – support team should note all feature requests to make them available to the product team.
When it comes to collecting feedback from potential customers, website surveys are the most effective way of getting feedback from website visitors. Simply ask them:
‘Are we missing any features?’
And then a follow-up question ‘What features are we missing?’ if a person answers ‘Yes’ to the first question. To make the survey even more actionable, you can collect email addresses to be able to contact people once you implement requested features.
Tip: ask this question on a ‘features’ or ‘pricing’ pages or target registered users only. Otherwise, you’ll end up with many answers suggesting adding features you already offer. It only makes sense to ask this question to people who had a chance to familiarize with features your product already offers.
Another option worth considering is using email surveys to get feedback from existing customers. Ask them what features they would like to see built next or what is their main challenge in using your product. Answers will show you what to focus on. Plus, if you integrate surveys with your customer communication or marketing automation tool like Intercom, HubSpot or ActiveCampaign, you can see answers on profiles or customers so you can reach out to them with more questions about requested features or get back to them when you add features they need.
Tip: now you don’t need two separate tools for running website and email surveys, with Survicate you can do both with minimal effort.
Don’t forget to share your product roadmap
Building a product roadmap is worth the effort only if you share it. Product team will have no doubts what to focus on. Sales reps will be able to show it to potential customers to explain why building a certain custom feature is not possible in the near future. And, above all, potential customers will be able to make a more informed choice while choosing a provider. Your support team will also appreciate it – when people are familiar with the roadmap prior to signing up, they will have fewer requests and questions about new features.
Note: it’s not just talking, we’re working on a product roadmap at the moment and we’ll make it public as soon as we finish it.