Use Beta Tests to Create Customer-Validated Roadmaps

An effective product launch is important to product success, but equally important is having a solid product roadmap that lays the groundwork for your team and the future of your product.

Building that roadmap, however, is one of the biggest struggles product management professionals face. How do you decide what goes on the roadmap? How do you prioritize features? How do you know you aren’t missing something critical? These are the types of difficult questions you must answer to build a viable roadmap.

At the same time, products are increasingly driven by the customer experience. In fact, according to Forrester, we’re in the “age of the customer,” where building an amazing customer experience is a key driver of revenue growth and product success. And the best way to develop a customer experience that delights your target market is to involve customers in the product development process. This means your product roadmap should be powered by feedback from real customers. 

But, too often, roadmaps are created in a vacuum. Product teams develop plans based on internal priorities, anecdotal feedback from vocal customers or what they believe their customers need. The result: roadmaps that miss the mark or don’t prioritize what customers truly want.

So, how do you create a roadmap driven by customer feedback? The answer is beta testing.

What Beta Brings to the Table

Beta testing offers unique insight into the complete customer experience with your product over a period of weeks or months and uncovers the true usage of your product in customer hands. It demonstrates whether your existing feature set meets customer expectations, the first step in building a good product roadmap.

Next, beta testing can uncover unmet needs and allow you to dig into those situations to understand the exact scenarios where new features are needed. You’ll gain a sense of the frequency of that need and the percentage of your customer base that has it. All of which you can use to build detailed use cases to create a solid foundation on which to develop future features.

You can also survey beta testers about existing roadmap plans to see whether the intended additions interest them. This will help validate, prioritize and flesh out the existing roadmap. Finally, testers will provide a pile of new ideas to inspire future iterations or additions to your roadmap.

Real customer feedback can be a gold mine of useful product information about the current—and future—versions of your product. But to make this trove of data reliable and actionable, you’ll need to run a beta test that’s specifically designed to help reach these goals.

To ensure that you focus on the right objectives and collect the right information from the right people to power your product roadmap, read the full article by Emily Hossellman in the Product Roadmaps issue of Pragmatic Marketer

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