How Your Positioning Should Inform Your Product Roadmap
To have a great road trip, you need two things: a stellar destination that gets you excited to make the journey, and a map that will get you there.
Building a product is like a road trip in many ways. Just like friends about to drive cross-country, you can’t create your product without a guiding vision. And the choices you make along the way—twists, turns, detours and all—should be focused on your destination.
As a leader of a product company, you need strong positioning to name your company’s mission (the destination). But that’s just the beginning. To ensure your product reflects who you are, positioning needs to inform how you build the product itself.
What do we mean by positioning? All positioning begins with a foundational statement, which should say:
- Who you are
- What you do
- The benefits you offer
Fundamentally, strong foundational statements share two qualities:
1. It’s a true statement about who you are. Crafting your foundational statement is your moment to be real with yourself. This is because positioning sets the tone for the many other activities you’ll use to promote your product in the world. Without positioning you can stand behind, you risk crafting messaging and a brand that might speak about something you won’t (or can’t) deliver to your customers. Whether you want to or not, this creates a disconnection with your audience and can diminish trust in your product vision.
2. It’s a foundational statement that informs other areas of your work. Your foundational statement isn’t everything. But it should be a trigger that keeps your team thinking about every decision you make as you scale. Before you add a new feature, for example, you should test the feature addition against your foundation. You can ask yourself: is our statement still true if we expand our product in this way?
There are also several different kinds of positioning product companies need to consider, depending on their size and growth ambitions. There’s brand positioning, for example, which is concerned with how you position your company and brand relative to your competitors.
For the sake of this article, we will focus on product positioning: how you explain your product and its benefits to a chosen audience.
Positioning Is What You Make Of It
As the founder or company CEO, you can help your team most by remembering positioning is just the starting point. You need to visit it again and again as your company grows to decide what’s best for your product.
See your work on positioning as one part of a continuous cycle, not just something you need to start your company. But remember, it’s not a magic mirror—your positioning won’t have all the answers.
Instead, see positioning as a tool meant to be interpreted by the people who read it. When your foundational statement is in the hands of your product team, they should be empowered to make the right decisions based on it. Positioning is a catalyst that will help you brainstorm ideas AND filter out which ones are best for your product.
Applying Positioning To Your Product Roadmap
So, if you need to revisit your positioning again and again, how and where should you apply it?
One of the best ways you can use positioning to inform your work is by applying it to your product roadmap: the document that maps out what will be built in your product, such as feature additions, over a specific span of time.
By keeping your positioning front and center as your product team builds your roadmap, you give yourself the opportunity to ask—is this new feature true to who we are? Does it advance the benefits we’ve promised our audience in your positioning strategy?
Meghan Pfeifer of Innovatemap shows us how this idea applies when her team repositioned and rebranded the international scheduling tool, Doodle.
When Doodle started its rebrand journey, leaders at the company knew their main challenge in the next chapter of their existence: they needed to change perceptions to grow in the professional scheduling space. Doodle had already cemented its place as a leader for personal scheduling, but leaders recognized it had untapped potential in companies and professional teams.
With this need in mind, the Innovatemap and Doodle teams aligned on new positioning that clarified its power as a tool for professionals. But the journey didn’t stop there. Doodle proved its focus on professional scheduling by making subsequent updates to the product, too.
Positioning should inform everything because it reminds you, and your entire team, why you started the company in the first place. It keeps everyone focused on the destination, so you can make the right choices throughout the journey.