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How do you determine how much of your roadmap should be focused on existing customers vs prospects?

13 Answers
Krishna Panicker
Krishna Panicker
Airbase VP ProductMarch 8

The answer lies in the breakdown of how the organisation intends to hit it's goals.

See this answer for context - https://sharebird.com/h/product-management/q/how-do-you-handle-exec-input-in-the-roadmap-and-convey-a-point-of-view-while-also-accommodating-1

To take an extreme example, if 70% of the organisations revenue target is based on the acquisition of new customers then that's a good guideline for your investment levels, eg
65% - Prospects
25% - Existing customers
10% - Tech debt

743 Views
Jacqueline Porter
Jacqueline Porter
GitLab Director of Product ManagementApril 13

I typically start from what are the annual business targets set by the company to answer this question. Oftentimes, the sales organization, CEO, and professional services organizations have targets around expansion, new logo acquisition, and win rate which will help portion out what the backlog needs to be to support the business goals. 

In absence of these targets set by leadership, I would use a RICE framework (https://www.intercom.com/blog/rice-simple-prioritization-for-product-managers/) to establish what is the highest value driver for the business. That way I am not really focused on driving whitespace or greenfield, rather on what will drive the most business results in total. 

602 Views
Aleks Bass
Aleks Bass
Typeform Vice President Product ManagementJune 16

I find that this type of division can be misleading. In many industries, there is little difference between what an existing customer would want vs what a prospect would want. Many times, the two would like to see the same kinds of capabilities built (but their priorities might be different). I think more about the buying centers I’m targeting, the use cases they have that my product can solve, and prioritize the roadmap based on the importance of those.

518 Views
Marvin Green
Marvin Green
Splunk Director, Product ManagementSeptember 13

Great question! This is something most product teams wrestle with when only looking at the roadmap from a features perspective to balance what to build for existing vs prospective customers. What I’ve found very useful to address this is to revisit the product strategy and business drivers for the product and align the roadmap accordingly. For example, if you assess your product strategy and look at the data for your business drivers, you may see a trend that customers really start adopting your product in years 2-3 with 10x revenue from their initial purchase, what decisions would you make? One decision could be to build more features to get more prospects because you know it will pay off in years 2-3. OR, you could decide to focus on existing customers but learn from your customers why adoption is lagging and then focus on solving your customers needs to speed up adoption so they get value earlier from onboarding or within the first year and shift that 10x revenue earlier in the cycle for your business.

In short, I found it best to revisit the product strategy, and leverage data from customers and business drivers to make an informed decision on how to position the roadmap for existing vs prospective customers. Once you identify the customer or business outcome you want to drive, use the roadmap to deliver that outcome.

2098 Views
Kara Gillis
Kara Gillis
Splunk Sr. Director of Product Management, ObservabilityOctober 31

In a perfect world, you want at least 80% of your roadmap to be applicable to both! But, we don't live in a perfect world, do we? 

Some startups focus on a small number of customers and really customize the product to the desired features of those early users, but I like to first go broad in appeal, and then deep into a few features that are highly impactful to as many users as possible.

If you want to reach a new type of user, solve a new use case, or enter a new market, you will have enough of a reason to build something exclusively for prospects. This is a strategic decision to expand your business or market footprint. 

A great way to determine if your roadmap is mostly applicable to both prospects and existing customers is to build a way for existing customers to submit ideas for the roadmap, and let your entire customer base upvote their favorite ideas. The more votes, the more likely both existing and new customers will benefit from the roadmap idea.

Sometimes, however, you'll have a big customer needing something specific, and there will be many reasons to build something unique, often influenced by the size/revenue impact of the customer. I don't usually let more than 5-10% of the roadmapa focus on one-off, custom features.

520 Views
Richard Shum
Richard Shum
Splunk Director of Product ManagementJanuary 10

Who to focus on often depends on the maturity of the product. At the beginning stages of the product, we focus heavily on prospective users. When the product is mature, we focus heavily on existing customers (the thinking is -- if you can deliver impact to existing customers then prospective customers will likely find the same features useful).

Additionally, who to focus on can depend on whether your company is driving to satisfy existing customers vs working to attract new customers. 

472 Views
Ashwin Arun Poothatta
Ashwin Arun Poothatta
Green Dot Corporation Principal Product ManagerApril 4

In general, a product roadmap should be shaped by product strategy, vision, and goals rather than prioritizing initiatives or features based on whether they benefit existing customers or prospects. However, there are scenarios where a focus on existing customers may be justified.

  • High-value customers at risk of churn, which could threaten the company or product's survival. In such cases, addressing the needs of these customers may take precedence over other priorities.
  • Early-stage companies building a product with feedback from their customers. In this scenario, a focus on existing customers can help build out a product that is well-received by prospects and the broader market.
598 Views
Lukas Pleva
Lukas Pleva
HubSpot Group Product ManagerJune 8

Most roadmaps indeed focus on both. The balance of prioritizing prospects versus existing customers will depend on the business objectives your product roadmap is designed to support. For instance, if the business leadership team is leaning on you to improve customer retention or promote edition upgrades, it might be necessary to prioritize existing users.

On the other hand, if the goal is net-new user acquisition (in other words, the aim is to build a larger customer base), it might be more beneficial to focus on prospects.

705 Views
Mike Flouton
Mike Flouton
GitLab VP, ProductOctober 25

This question is impossible to answer in the abstract. It depends entirely on where you are in the technology adoption lifecycle. If you haven't read "Crossing the Chasm" and "Inside the Tornado," go get them immediately and work your way through them. They are relatively short reads and timeless classics you will want to re-read throughout your career.

As you will learn, at some points in the lifecycle you might focus 90% on new customers, at others 90% on your existing base (and no, it's not as simple as early=new, late=existing). The real trick is understanding the strategic context of where your product sits in the market at any given time.

2107 Views
Abhiroop Basu
Abhiroop Basu
Square Product ManagerOctober 24

This is an interesting question, but it's rarely a decision an individual product manager makes. Even if you're the only PM in your company, there will be PMMs, business development, sales, not to mention your leadership team who are all part of setting the priority/direction for the company. There isn't any point in you building a feature for existing customers if sales is focused on signing up new users.

If you're company is new or young, customer acquisition is likely the bigger priority. In this case, you should focus on building new features to sign up new customers.

In contrast, if your organization is more well established prioritizing existing customers will be the goal.

Ultimately, though, it won't be you making this decision in isolation. Look to your organizations leadership to see who the target segment(s) should be.

2531 Views
Tom Alterman
Tom Alterman
Notable Head of ProductOctober 26

When prioritizing your roadmap, focus on the initiatives that will have the biggest impact on your strategy and goals.

If you have a retention problem, focus on improving that before worrying about new prospects. And if there is a lot of opportunity to expand with your current customers, focus on that as well. It's generally easier to expand existing accounts than land new ones.

It's usually a warning sign if you need to build a very different set of features to meet the needs of prospects vs existing customers. That's usually a sign they are not the same audience. Not a problem in itself but be deliberate if you are pivoting your target audience

2237 Views
Poorvi Shrivastav
Poorvi Shrivastav
Meta Senior Director of Product ManagementOctober 24

I think it depends on whether the product has a market fit or not. If it's pre market fit, then we'd want to lean towards prospects to ideally find a core group of sticky users. If it's post market fit, then you balance customers and prospects to both drive engagement and adoption.

2208 Views
Ashka Vakil
Ashka Vakil
strongDM Sr. Director, Product ManagementMarch 20

The short answer is it depends. There is no magic formula that you can apply to determine what percentage of your roadmap you should dedicate to existing customer needs versus prospects. You have to strike a balance generally speaking between keeping existing customers happy and attracting new ones. The only exception where your roadmap is likely skewed toward the prospect's needs is when your ideal customer profile is shifting away from the current customer base and leaning toward the prospects you are trying to attract and retain. This typically happens when startups are looking to move upmarket from SMB to large enterprises or you are adding functionality for new customer segments.

A few key considerations to keep in mind when building a roadmap while keeping customer and prospect's needs in mind are:

  • Business Goals: What are your company's top priorities? Is it growing your customer base (new logo acquisition) or increasing revenue from existing customers (upselling, cross-selling)? Align your roadmap with these goals. For example, if your target for the year or quarter is new customer acquisition, the roadmap might lean more toward features that attract new users.

  • Market Opportunity: Is there a significant untapped market for your product? Are there new features that could open doors to entirely new customer segments? If the market potential is high, allocating some roadmap space to explore these opportunities could be beneficial.

  • Competition: Are there features that your competitors have that are missing from your product? Is that resulting in your company losing out to competitors? Identifying those table stakes and prioritizing them on the roadmap can help win new logos.

  • Customer Health: How satisfied are your existing customers? Are they churning at a high rate? If customer retention is a concern, roadmap items that address their needs and pain points might take priority.

  • Customer Feedback: Listen closely to what your existing customers are saying. What features are they requesting? What pain points do they have? Addressing these issues through the roadmap can improve customer satisfaction and potentially unlock upselling/cross-selling opportunities.

  • Feature Overlap: Often features that benefit existing customers can also be attractive to prospects. Look for opportunities to develop features with a broad appeal that serve both segments. This will be the sweet spot and high-value features to build as they will likely help with existing customer retention, upsell as well, and securing new logos.

371 Views
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