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How can you influence the immediate product roadmap if the pre-launch customer research revealed to you that the MVP would not add significant value to your customers?

5 Answers
Sunny Manivannan
Sunny Manivannan
Braze Vice President & GM, Global SMBJune 17

The first time this happens at your company (assuming the MVP is already built), you have to let the product launch and (likely) fail in the market. There's likely too much internal momentum around this MVP and you won't be able to stop the runaway train, no matter how loudly you yell. Now, you should absolutely share the customer research and your perspective on the MVP's dim prospects in a clearly worded email to the Product leadership team (and perhaps the CEO, depending your company size). But it won't really matter - you're likely too late. And one miss is OK - no company is perfect when it comes to releasing products - even the best of us have launched a dud or two. 

The second time this happens at your company, you should speak up more loudly. Reference the other time this happened, and pound the table harder. Ask for a seat at the table when early-stage roadmap planning discussions happen, where your job will be to bring in hard data on what your customers actually want from your company. 

The third time this happens, start looking for a new job. The reason is simple. Any strong Product team will be talking to customers all the time anyway, and on top of that, they'll be getting direct feedback from the Sales and Success teams. If Product Marketing is the only voice of reason when it comes to the near-term roadmap, that means all these other teams have failed to talk to each other and/or talk to customers, both of which are disaster scenarios for a company. 

1403 Views
Anna Wiggins
Anna Wiggins
Bluevine Sr. Director of Product Marketing, Content, Customer ResearchAugust 12

Great question and tough but interesting situation. Ideally this research is not coming in right before launch and you have time to adjust.

I would want to understand if as a result of the research we know what a compelling MVP would look like - ideally a few versions - and work with the PM team to scope out what it would take to implement different variants. Hopefully you can find a solution that is not materially different than the original scope and timelines for the project.

The key way to position your conversation with the PM team is that you are advocating for the most meaningful experience for your customers and come to the conversation with options for the team to explore along with a recommendation that shows you’ve done the work in assessing impact to changing course.

563 Views
Abhiroop Basu
Abhiroop Basu
Square Product ManagerJanuary 13

This happens a lot more than you might think. The Product team looks at the market and decides to build a feature. The feature is rolled out as an early alpha and customers are disappointed. What do you do? This is actually one of the easier scenarios in which to influence the roadmap.

A few years ago we rolled out an integration with a 3rd party instant messaging service. The integration worked without a problem, but we noticed that not many customers were signing upto the Alpha (even though they had committed to using it). I was tasked to gather feedback on what was going on. After conducting a few customer interviews it became clear that while the integration was solid, customers were looking for more than just a basic connector. They needed reporting, routing, and a whole host of other features. I put a roadmap outlining the features, the customer's making the requests, as well as the revenue associated with each opportunity. This was one of the more straightforward examples in my career where I was able to influence the roadmap and it was because the issue was discovered as the product was being built and the roadmap was being constructed.

948 Views
Vishal Naik
Vishal Naik
Google Product Marketing LeadDecember 7

For your sake, I'd hope that if your research shows that MVP doesnt equate to a value add for your customers, that causes your product team to make a full stop and push. That said, at this point I think you need to put your PM hat on and think about what features might make users see value in your product and opportunity size those features for what could be the easiest to deliver in a meaningful way. Have that conversation with your PM team and also reiterate the cost to launching a non valuable product: no adoption, no usage, no revenue, but time spent building marketing and shipping that product. 

And if that doesnt work and your product team still insists on launching, measure everything. If adoption really isnt there, then use it as a case study that you can take into future conversations to help steer the roadmap in the right direction. It's a long game, you have many years in your career and many products to launch--sometimes the experience and clarity that comes from a failure teaches you more than any other work experience you'll have. 

540 Views
Scott Swigart
Scott Swigart
Shapiro+Raj SVP, Technology GroupAugust 12

Oh man, the most impactful thing an organization can do is accept bad news. Think of how lucky you are. If you can stop the train, you've only wasted a lot of money on product development. You now have the opportunity to save a ton on launch, ongoing marketing, sales training, sales hours, partner enablement, and more - all of which is doomed to fail if there's no product / market fit.

Now it's time for some important questions:

  1. What made people think this was a good idea? Something led the product team to think that customers wanted this. Go back to the start and figure out what that kernel was. Is there some merit in the initial idea, just the wrong product development execution?

  2. What was the Job to Be Done? The customer likely has a real need, but your MVP just isn't the answer. Understand the need that the MVP was supposed to solve for, because that need is still there?

  3. Pivot? It's very common that plans need to pivot. While it's unfortunate that the MVP is almost done, can anything be salvaged from the effort.

Disagree and commit. There's no value in sitting on the bad news or sweeping it under the rug. Tactfully and professionally lay out what you've learned, to the people that matter. The goal isn't to shame anyone or put anyone on the defensive but go on record with someone senior (the CEO potentially), about what you've found, and collaborate with them on what to do about it. Even if the MVP moves forward, you've shown you're someone who can be trusted to give what every leader craves - the truth.

If the launch moves forward, use the effort to learn as much as you can. Customers are rarely upset that you tried, and they will likely be eager to help you hit the mark in V2.

And I don't envy you.

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