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5 mistakes startups make when designing their product roadmap

Updated: Feb 7, 2022

When designing a product roadmap (whether for an MVP or for the evolution of an already well-marketed solution) choosing the features to be included in the next release is a complex exercise that will have a major impact on market adoption.

This is a point not to be overlooked as it takes a long time to realize mistakes in the selection of features and just as long to understand why and how to correct them.

That's why it's best to avoid them :-)

Here are the 5 mistakes we see regularly made by the start-ups we work with and invest in.

Mistake #1: Build the roadmap (and hence the product) without having first identified what is the key customer priority to address

Who would want to ride a bike without handlebars? When you put it like that, it sounds absurd, yet it's a problem that many startups face without realizing it.

If your solution does not meet a priority market objective, no matter how well you pitch it, no one will be interested in your solution. Or worse, many people will let you listen to your arguments, tell you it's interesting even if they don't see the point but won't buy it.

To give you an example, when one of us created Foodette (a ready to cook basket solution) we started by proposing our solution to prepare a dinner one evening. To make our solution known, we spent several weekends doing street marketing in the shopping streets of Paris.

We told more than 200 people about our solution, most of them told us it was great but nobody bought in the days that followed.

It took us several months to realize that a service that allows you to order a ready-to cook basket for a single evening was like a bicycle without handlebars for our target market. To become a must-have, Foodette had to address what turned out to be the top priority of its potential customers: being able to order for all evenings of the week in one go.

Mistake #2: Starting with the fastest features to develop

It is better to spend 5 months developing a new version of your solution that solves priority problems for your market than to launch a version in 3 months that does not do the job. Indeed, the time spent developing a new version weighs less than the time wasted trying to sell a solution that doesn't solve any useful problems.

The real metric is not how long it takes to develop a release, it's how long it takes to develop a solution that satisfies your potential customers, and how many iterations you have to do on your solution before it starts to meet your market's objectives. This is the main criticism we have for iterative methods like Lean Startup.

Mistake #3: Meeting more needs than necessary

The best clue to identify this mistake is when many of your prospects tell you that they find your solution too complex. The mistake is to interpret this as complexity of use, when in fact the problem is that your solution has a lot of features that your customers don't need to achieve their primary goal.

"Less is more”. In UI/UX, we try to remove all actions that are not useful to achieve a site visitor's goal, so why not adopt the same logic in product development?

A study conducted a few years ago by a famous brand of baby diapers shows how adding unnecessary features reduces the value of a solution. The brand tested two offers: a pack of conventional diapers at the usual price, and a pack of diapers at the same price, but with a free golf course,

Even though the golf course was totally free, customers preferred to buy the regular package rather than the package with the promotional offer.

The reason is this: Going to a golf course is usually not a priority for the parents of a newborn child. When we buy an offer made up of several products, our brain perceives the value of the offer through the average value of each product that makes up the offer. When one of the components has no value in the eyes of the buyer, but is nevertheless included in the offer and is therefore part of the price, then the perceived value of the other components is diminished.

For example, in the case of the diapers, the perceived value of the conventional package was higher than the perceived value of the package sold with the promotional offer, because even though the golf course was free, the fact that it was superfluous for its target customers lowered the value of the package.

Mistake #4: Partially meeting everyone's needs (and meeting no one's need)

We recently spoke with an entrepreneur of a startup that has reached one million euros of annual turnover. As part of his development, he had identified that there were 3 main types of problems that his solution would need to solve to have a better product-fit. So he started developing new features that partially addressed each of these problems, until he realised that solving these problems corresponded to the needs of 3 different targets in his market: a first target whose priority was to solve problem 1, a second target problem 2 and so on.

By sprinkling features on all 3 types of problems, he was not adequately addressing the priority of any of the targets, thus postponing the time when his solution would reach the fit with at least one of them.

Mistake #5: Not getting a segmented view of the problems in your market

Once again, the important metric is not the time it takes to get a first version of your solution to market, but the time it takes for it to start being adopted by several customers for the same reason. This is how you should understand the meaning of viable in Minimum Viable Product.

For every feature you develop you will always meet prospects who will tell you that some of them are useful. But do these prospects all belong to the same market segment?

The answer is probably no.

Moreover there is usually one segment that is much more willing to pay to solve problems solved by your solution than other segments.

Once you have identified this segment, it is easy to focus on the features that matter to this segment without regret because you know that this is the best choice. However, until you have a segmented vision, it is very difficult to give up on developing a feature because you are afraid of missing an opportunity.

At hyperGROWTH, we have developed a unique method for segmenting a market by the different types of priorities. We call this use case segmentation.

It allows our clients to avoid finding themselves in the situation of most startups after 2-3 years with a product :

  • which ⅓ of the functionalities are not of interest to its target

  • where it lacks ⅓ of the features needed to be a must have for its target

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