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Why Market Research is Essential to Your Product Roadmap Process

Market research isn’t just about hearing from your customers after they’ve purchased your product. It’s also about anticipating customer needs and market trends to help you create a plan of action for how you’ll evolve your product to meet them.

One way companies plan for the future is with a product roadmap. A product roadmap is a tool that lays out any new features, enhancements, and extensions you plan to make to your existing product, as well as a timeline detailing when these new elements will be delivered.

Product roadmaps are a great tool for prioritizing your customers’ never-ending “wishlist,” and creating one will help align your team’s vision and keep everyone on track towards the same business goals.

What Goes into Creating a Product Roadmap?

If you work in sales, marketing, or the product organization at your company, you likely know a great deal about your product. It’s tempting to plan the next stages based on your own and other internal stakeholders’ opinions and beliefs.

However, it’s vital you build a product roadmap with information gathered through customer research rather than just using your own hypotheses. When it comes to product development, you may think you know best, but the truth is only your customers can tell you what will impact them most.

There are a lot of positives that come from product roadmapping based on customer research. Let’s break down three of the biggest benefits you’ll gain in building customer research into your product roadmap planning process:

1) Uncover unexpected customer insights

When you work with your product(s) day-in and day-out, you might forget some customers aren’t as familiar with everything it offers as you are. It’s not uncommon for companies to survey a user only to find they’re asking for product add-ons or updates that already exist. This is a valuable opportunity for an immediate win.

Even if the answer to the customers’ questions is not “We already offer that!” reaching out during the roadmap planning phase will absolutely uncover what’s important to your customers. For example, you might be investing in an entirely new product module or add-on, when what your customers really want is investment in the existing product for improved optimization and efficiency.

2) Gain competitive intelligence

Product roadmap planning allows you to gain competitive intelligence without specifically soliciting it. When customers answer questions, they almost always compare and contrast what they’re using now to other options in the marketplace (whether they have actively sought out another solution or not). Thus, the research you conduct can help you understand where you currently stand in relation to competitors, even if that’s not the primary goal. Keeping a pulse on the problems your competitors are working to solve is important, even if it differs from what your company is going after.

Through your market research you may also uncover additional buyer needs none of your competitors are currently working to meet, giving you an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage by being the first to bring a new offering to market.

3) Invest your money where it matters

Investing in product development can feel like throwing your money into a bottomless pit. Developing a roadmap will give your business a sense of direction so you can start investing money where it really matters. Your customers will tell you what they want and your product roadmap will lay out a budget and timeline for you to achieve it. Doing research is one of the best ways to ensure the features you add to your roadmap are the ones that matter most to your customers so you continue down the right path and make course corrections if you are spending in the wrong places.

As you can see, customer research is a crucial part of creating a product roadmap. But wait, there’s more! One of the first things you’ll need to decide when you begin product roadmap planning is who you want to target. You can target either existing customers, potential customers, or both.

Why Target Existing Customers in Product Roadmap Research?

If you’re looking for a snapshot of your current state, your product roadmap planning should target existing customers. Your customers will tell you what they like best about your product as it stands and what they feel is missing. This includes anything from features and enhancements they would like added to the product, to errors and bugs they would like fixed or changed.

Targeting existing customers will help you answer questions like:

How is our company doing today in terms of the overall product and features?

What are we currently missing that we should be investing in?

Should we focus on enhancing current product features or new development?

Why Target Potential Customers in Product Roadmap Research?

If you’re more interested in addressing your company’s place in the market, you’ll want to target potential customers and personas. These respondents can give you insights on gaps in the industry your company can then develop offerings and enhancements to fill. Targeting potential customers can also help you validate new product ideas and gain a better understanding of where your company stands in comparison to competitors.

Targeting prospective customers will help you answer questions like:

What are the current pain points in the market and how can we address them?

What products/features are missing from the current market?

If we sold X would you be interested in buying it?

What are our competitors doing that we are not?

Conducting research on either your current customers, potential customers, or both will ensure your time and money is not being wasted developing products your customers aren’t even interested in.

After deciding who you will target and conducting customer research, you’ll end up with a lot of important feedback and insights. It’s important to prioritize how you’ll implement these findings into your product roadmap while also taking into consideration your budget, timeline, and available resources. If you’re unsure how to even begin, a third-party marketing consultant can help you get the best bang for your buck.

To summarize: A product roadmap is an extremely helpful tool in ensuring your products stay relevant and essential to your customers. It’s smart to begin your product roadmap planning toward the middle of the year or around the beginning of the third quarter. Often, companies get busy and end up pushing their product roadmap planning to the end of the year. By starting earlier, you’ll have enough time to make revisions throughout the remainder of the year and stay ahead of the competition.

Interested in learning more about how customer research can benefit your organization? Whether you’re planning your product roadmap, or focusing on other initiatives, Spailey Solutions can show you the importance of customer research. Get in touch with us today!

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