How to Nail Down a Winning Product Strategy in 4 Easy Steps

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According to data gathered from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, roughly half of all businesses fail within the first five years.

One sure way of dooming your business is starting with a product that has no audience. It may be the best idea in the world; But, if customers don't feel an emotional connection to your service, or if it doesn't solve a need of theirs, you'll find yourself among the statistics.

How do you create a solid product strategy to minimize the risk of failure? Read on to find out.

1. Get 20/20 Vision

It all starts with having a crystal clear vision about your product and the path you'll need to take to get there.

Every product manager's goal is to build great products, but it's rare to find one who is driven by an alluring vision and a mapped out journey.

If you need to define or redefine your product vision, Radical Product has a free toolkit with worksheets you can use. It may be best to do the exercises with your team, so everyone is invested in the product's mission.

Here's what the Radical Vision printable looks like:

Putting their worksheet in Mad Lib form, here's what it reads:

Today, when (customer/user segment) want to (desirable activity/outcome), they have to (current solution(s)). This is unacceptable, because (shortcomings of current solutions). We envision a world where (shortcomings resolved). We are bringing this world about through (broad technology/approach).

2. Find Real Pain Points

Once your vision's done, it's vital to verify you're hitting the right pain points with customers.

In other words, it's time to bring in the humans.

Talking with potential customers will verify their pain point is real and that your solution is something they'd be willing to pay for.

Another crucial element you'll discover is if the customer problem is actually the symptom of another, more important, issue—the one you should be focusing on instead.

Josh Enzer, founder of a marketing platform called Swell, put it best when he said, "...You think you understand what people want, and you have this great solution for it. And you go out into the market, and people say, 'eh, well, maybe. What about this other thing?"

For example, the company Odoro initially set out to create an inventory optimization tool that would let business owners know how much inventory they should carry, based on demand. The idea stemmed from an issue one of their clients was having in their business.

Once they started talking to other business owners, Naruby—the founder—discovered most owners didn't even know how much inventory they had on hand. What was really painful was printing shipping labels.

The Odoro team realized their target pain point was actually much earlier in the merchant's fulfilment process.

And that's how Odoro became an app that prints shipping labels, later also expanding to help businesses keep their inventory in sync.

Market validation is crucial to avoid going down the wrong rabbit hole. As a product manager, you need to get as much feedback as you can within your target demographic.

But how to do that? Two words: Customer feedback.

3. Collect Feedback

One way to collect and manage feedback is with Makerkit's customer feedback platform. Instead of wasting time trying to track customer feedback through multiple portals like email and Trello, we make it easy by centralizing everything in one place.

Having your project link visible and accessible makes it effortless for customers to leave feedback, request features, report bugs, or mention anything else that might lead to priceless insight. Links can be embedded or added to a variety of places including website footers and email signatures.

Best of all, when users leave a piece of feedback, you can start a conversation with them to pinpoint the root of the problem.

4. Prioritize Your List

Once you're sure what your target audience is begging you for, the next to-do is figuring out what's going in the pipeline, and in what order. Because, that final prioritized list is what's going to give you a winning strategy to tackle product developments. It'll keep the focus on what's essential while aligning your team to the same goals and objectives.

When it comes to sorting features to implement, you'll find the biggest bang for your time with the RICE method. RICE stands for the four most common factors used to rank features. These are:

  1. Reach: Within an estimated time frame, how many people will be affected by this feature? Example: 1,250 people
  2. Impact: How close is this project to our goals and vision? Use a scale of 0.25 (nominal impact), 0.5, 1, 2, or, 3 (massive impact). Example: 2
  3. Confidence: Based on the information we have, how confident are we this feature will be a slam dunk? Use 1 for high, 0.8 for medium, and 0.5 for low. Example: 0.8
  4. Effort: How much time will bringing this feature to fruition require from our different teams? Measure time by estimating the amount of work that one team member can do in a month. Use whole numbers except when the work takes well under one month. In that case, use 0.5. Example: 4

Go through the same process with each potential project. Then multiply the first three scores (R*I*C), and divide by the "E" score to get your final RICE score. In our scenario that would be 1,250*2*0.8/4, giving us a RICE score of 500.

Finally, sort your list and don't be afraid to adjust your individual RICE values for projects where your instinct tells you final scores are too high or low.

Projects with the highest RICE scores will give you the best ROI.

Where to Go From Here?

Congratulations, you now have a reliable product strategy. But don't leave your customers out in the cold! Give them a chance to anticipate and crave the features you plan to implement. Also, consider how much more exciting it will be for them to see an upcoming feature is something they specifically requested.

While you're at it, letting them know where you are in the process will keep them from getting antsy. It'll also save you from having to answer multiple inquiries regarding status updates.

This can all be done with Makerkit's product road map that shows your clients what you have planned, are working on, and have completed. They can even vote or add comments to what's on the board, giving you an up-to-date picture of what's still the most critical features.

Another benefit of voting is there aren't multiple tickets for the same bug, feature, or suggestion.

Wrapping up

Developing a product strategy starts by articulating your product vision and then validating it by the market you're serving. After that, you're ready to begin ranking features in order of importance and creating your public road map, so your audience can journey together with you.

(Feature image via Rawpixel)

Makerkit is lightweight tool for collecting, and managing feature requests from your customers to build products that your users actually want. Designed for product managers 💖
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Lorraine Roberte is a freelance writer for hire who offers blogging and article writing services. Her specialities include creating personal finance and digital marketing content for businesses and startups. She uses her expert knowledge, skills, and experience to draft content that gets attention on social media and visibility on search engines.