How can I start making a change in my organization to influence the roadmap based on consumer insights?
The only advice I can share is that customer insights (when shared in a clear and actionable way) are very hard to ignore. Survey users, talk to prospects, and bring customer insights to the product teams, even if they aren't solicited.
I thought I'd share a recent example from Stripe: a few months ago, one of my teammates was paired with a product group that was moving very quickly to deliver an MVP to the market. Because they were moving fast, they didn't invite marketing input. Synthesizing some of the challenges she was piecing together from members of the product group, my teammate was able to quickly survey dozens of prospective users via email and shared the results broadly. The team found it so valuable that they shifted their priorities, added features to the roadmap, and even asked to run more surveys.
It can be tough to change organizational culture, but the only way to earn a seat at the table is to have data or direct customer feedback that provide a unique perspective or that aren't otherwise available to the product group.
That can be very tough. Similar to another answer I wrote, I think a lot of this is interpersonal which makes specific feedback tough without more context. A few ideas to hopefully help:
1. Assume best intentions. Presumably product wants the same end outcome as marketing/research.
2. Given that, meet with the relevant counterparts or leaders in the product org to understand where the disconnect lies. Do they hear you and are not persuaded? Are they not hearing your input or is it synced with their timeline?
3. Solve for the disconnect product expresses above. For example, do they feel like they need more data? You could offer to run a survey or partner with data science to highlight trends based on the anecdotal feedback you've gotten. Or structure feedback like NPS or app store reviews in a way that feels more data driven which may persuade them while still highlighting the core feedback you've been hearing.
Feel free to message me directly and I'm happy to brainstorm solutions with more details on the problem.
I’d first ask what’s driving this – does the company/leadership not believe in customer insights, is there a lack of prioritization to do this or is it simply inertia of how the company operates today? Your approach may vary depending on the answer but here are some thoughts to consider.
- Make it a habit. PMMs should be as close to the customer as possible and distill those insights for their teams on an ongoing basis. This can be done thru feedback loops (sales and customer support, user interviews, surveys) and staying on top of reviews and forums where your customers frequent. By making customer insight top-of-mind, Product will come to value it when building their roadmap.
- Start early. Don’t wait until Product has defined the roadmap. Learn about what major issues the business is tackling, how that might impact the product roadmap, and partner with your Product counterpart early to discuss what insights are valuable. Especially if this is new process for the org, it’s important to seamlessly insert yourself early enough in the process so there are actionable takeaways that impact the roadmap.
- Find advocacy. Sometimes this is an issue of prioritization and a champion at the executive level or within the product org is key to change people’s behavior. I’d first start with your manager or your product counterpart. If you are comfortable, you can also discuss with senior product leaders where they can help you champion this and give you advice on how to approach this.
- Deliver value. Some folks roll their eyes at research and insights - it simply re-confirms what they already know or the feedback doesn’t lead to breakthrough ideas as the customer is simply reacting to what exists today. To overcome this, always ensure your methodology is sound or there's a large enough sample size so there’s no reason to question its validity. More importantly, you must decipher the “so what” and tie back to actionable takeaways that influence the product roadmap.
An Engineering leader at a previous company described this to me as a tripod--decisions made based on the intersection of PM, Eng and PMM. Here PMM is representing the customer, and to an effect, also Sales opportunities. In an ideal state, you'd have this. When you don't, you'll need to understand what is driving the decisions behind what makes it into the roadmap. Is it revenue? Is it usage? Is it a PM's pride in shipping what they ideated? If its the latter, then you may not be in a position to be happy at that company. If its one of the former, you'll want to uncover what that driving factor is and then formulate your strategy around what you need to showcase in order to surface consumer insights into the roadmap. How are the insights that you uncover making it easier for Product to solve their needs (indirect, upleveled value) and then let that funnel down into the actual roadmap decisions (direct value).
If your product team ignores product marketing, that can be fixed through better exec alignment, relationship building and proving out collaboration successes in smaller, low stake projects over time. If product is ignoring customer feedback & insights.... run the other direction.
Some teams have great intuition and make the right move without any customer feedback. It's rarely repeatable, let alone scalable.
Data is power! Feedback is everywhere, and as product marketers we can harness that voice of the customer data to influence product roadmap. Product Managers have to balance market needs with technical requirements, and you can help them immensely by providing quantitative data around what customers and prospects are asking for. Start with the places customers are giving feedback already: online reviews, sales opportunities, support tickets, NPS surveys. Analyze the product gaps coming out of that feedback, and extrapolate the impact to sales and retention.
Here is a whole playbook that breaks all of this down and more, no fancy tools required: https://www.loopvoc.com/product-playbook/
On top of everything that @Krithika Muthukumar , @Dan Laufer and @Lauren Culbertson have already mentioned, one actionable and practical approach would be to introduce a Marketing Requirement Document (MRD) to the product development planning process. Traditionally, a MRD should be the initial document created when proposing a new feature or product innovation, which is either based on user feedback, business needs or market analysis and data. The MRD is basically stating your idea, hypothesis, plan of action and measurement/KPIs to evaluate success. I have personally found them really helpful in striking "the deal" with product management throughout my career. If you are not familiar with the concept of a MRD, 280 group have a great piece on them.
@Vishal Naik I agree! In a former life as a B2B product manager, I struggled to get useful input on the needs of new buyers. Most of my time and attention was spent enhancing the current product for current customers. Input about new buyers was often in the form of "specials" for large deals. By providing a cohesive analysis of the new buyer's decision making PMM can definitely make it easier for Product. I think this would be a welcomed influence on the roadmap.