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, or – in some cases – can even make your business vanish from the face of earth altogether.
What can help you prioritize is feedback from customers and website visitors. Let’s take a look.
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 to. 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 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 that will help you potentially acquire 50 new users, or 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 – the support team should note all feature requests to make them available to the product team.
As far as surveys are concerned, here are the digital touchpoints that are most effective for collecting significant numbers of insights.
When it comes to collecting feedback from potential customers, website surveys are the most effective way of getting feedback from website visitors. Here’s an example of a simple question that can be displayed on the visited webpage:
‘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 ‘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 the chance to familiarize themselves with features your product already offers.
Mobile app surveys
Similarly to website targeted surveys, mobile app surveys are a great way of asking your audience to answer while they’re in the middle of interacting with your product. If, for instance, you own a food delivery app, you might catch a user right after he/she dealt with an obstacle, or thought of an immensely useful feature that would skyrocket your product.
Similarly to website surveys, follow-up on the answers that indicate missing features or services. Nevertheless, bear in mind that your mobile device respondents won’t have the convenience of a keyboard to write long answers, or to answer to many open-ended questions.
Another option worth considering is using email surveys to get feedback from all existing customers. It’s a great way to reach those members of your audience, who hadn’t interacted with your product since you’ve launched your website and mobile app questionnaires.
As in the previous cases, ask your email respondents what features they would like to see built next or what their main challenge is in using your product. Answers will show you what to focus on. Plus, if you integrate your 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: you don’t need separate tools for running website, mobile app, and email surveys – with Survicate you can do both with minimal effort. You can also run a link survey, which lets you paste your survey to a whole plethora of other marketing and communication tools.
Other product roadmap questions to consider
Let’s take a quick recap.
We’ve just reviewed the ways you can reach your audience to quickly collect responses. Now, what other questions, apart from the above mentioned general Yes/No inquiry, are worth asking?
If your customer service team provided you with a list of feature requests from customers (not leads!), then you’ll likely want to verify which of them are truly “on popular demand”, and which are isolated cases. You’ll also want to make sure that you prioritize features in the roadmap not only because they’re most popular, but also because they’re requested by avid users of your product, likely to upgrade on a higher plan. Remember – lifetime value of customers over gambling for potential leads with new product features.
Here are some question examples:
‘How often do you use our product?’
‘Which features do you use the most?’
‘Which features or product changes would you like to see the most?’
Tip: It is best to ask these questions in an open-ended format so that you’re not suggesting any answers by displaying a list. Otherwise, your respondents might upvote features that are more of a nice-to-have, and not critically-needed, list.
Don’t forget to share your product roadmap
Building a product roadmap is worth the effort only if you share it. If defined on the basis of thorough customer feedback, it can do real wonders for your entire organization. Just think of it:
The product team will have no doubts about 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. On the other hand, if you know you’re already developing a specific feature, such as integration with an external partner is on its way and anticipated by many customers, you’ll already be able to collect emails for early access!
Now, let’s look at those leads. Potential customers, being presented with a product roadmap, will be able to make a more informed choice while choosing a provider. Think of the positive influence it will have on lowering churn rates.
Last, but not least, 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.