The Market Prioritization Framework (Part 1: Product Values)
Mike Lattiak, Senior Product Manager
As anyone in the product world can tell you, mastering the art and science of prioritization can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. Depending on the size and organization of your company, you might already be approaching this from different angles. From voting sessions, to breaking down ROI, to going with your gut, each method has pros and cons that will quickly define the relationship between you and your market.
No matter the framework you’ve chosen, it will only be a matter of time before you become burdened with requests, whether it be from upset users or sales opportunities. As these competing requests clash with internal priorities, various trade-offs will always leave someone feeling burned. Even worse, a mismanaged or poorly selected framework can cause your user base to feel frustrated and disappointed that their pains are not being addressed.
When developing a framework, one of the top questions you might have is: “What are the priorities of my market?”. While answering this question is a pretty common practice for teams, how it gets answered can widely vary from company to company. Struggles like confirmation bias, focusing too heavily on short-term gains, and receiving feedback from only a single source can distract from understanding the bigger picture. To make things more difficult, your market is destined to evolve over time, as new technologies emerge and competitors step up.
So how can you bring order to the tides of change? The following prioritization framework can help get you there. Initially inspired by the Pragmatic Marketing Framework and evolved over the course of a decade, we will take you through the steps needed to prioritize your backlog based on the needs of an ever-changing market. This will allow you to then focus on features that achieve the largest impact on your user base.
This is done by:
Using a Proposition Canvas to identify your Product Values
Establishing a solid pipeline for how you process incoming feature requests.
Learning how to dissect a feature request and understand its market value.
Over the course of this three-part series, we'll be diving into each category so you can leave feeling confident in your framework. However, before we begin we must address a somewhat painful reality: No prioritization framework represents the “end-all be-all” solution for managing your backlog. Various other factors that help you make strategic decisions, such as complexity and business value, are not covered in this framework. Instead, this methodology allows you to focus on a single but very powerful piece of the decision making puzzle.
When building the foundation for our framework, we need to take a step back and understand what makes our product so impactful. This will be an important decoder when breaking down each request that comes in, allowing you to see how each feature overlaps with your values.
We recommend using a Value Proposition Canvas for this process, a tool that allows you to visualize the value that your product creates. You’ll want to create one proposition canvas for each market segment your product accounts for. For example, if you have a product line that services both B2C and B2B needs, you’ll want a canvas for each.
A canvas will look like this:
This activity is designed to be completed with a group, particularly those in product, design, engineering and/or marketing. Doing so allows the entire team to develop empathy for the customer. This also has an added benefit of informing how they work long after the exercise is over. You’ll want to jump on a whiteboard or virtual tool and begin filling out each section as a team.
You’ll begin by approaching the customer profile.
Customer Jobs: What jobs are your customers attempting to accomplish? These can be functional (like getting from point A to point B) social (like communicating and showing off to peers) or emotional (like reducing stress). These tasks are all in pursuit of the customer’s goals.
Pains: What troubles will the customer experience when trying to get the job done? List out negative experiences, risks, frustrations, and other hurdles that might exist when using current solutions.
Gains: How will the customer measure the success of a job well done? These can be concrete results or simply positive emotions. The customer will expect or need these when a purchase of your product is made - otherwise they will continue experiencing the pains above.
Let’s say you are working at a company that produces air purifiers and companion mobile apps. When looking at where to expand next, the team decides to start by building out a customer profile on the canvas:
In this example, the team begins to see a story of a customer who emphasizes safety and comfort, something the product team had not focused on before.
Now, the next step is to fill out the value proposition canvas.
Products & Services: List out all the products and services that your proposition builds on. What do you offer to the customer?
Pain Relievers: Outline all the ways in which your product addresses the customer pains you’ve previously identified. Don’t try to force a 1:1 connection with each pain point. Instead focus on the pain relievers you deliver on exceptionally well.
Gain Creators: Outline all the ways in which your product increases or maximizes the benefits your customers expect/desire. This can include added values that your customer might not be expecting in the first place. Similar to the pain relievers, only focus on what you excel at.
Continuing with the air purifier example - here is how the same team began to outline how their current hardware/software solution handles the customer profile:
The final step in this process is to map the market fit. This is done by connecting your pain relievers / gain creators on the proposition canvas to the appropriate sections on the customer profile. While you won’t have a perfect 1:1 match-up, the goal is to see exactly where you are addressing the customer profile. In the air purifier canvas, for example, there is a strong market fit in communicating air quality and scheduling out filter replacements.
Now that you have your market fit, it’s time to have some fun and figure out your product values. These are single-word values that summarize your market fit. Your aim is to come up with words that have a lot of power to them. Imagine creating a commercial or single-page ad for your product and having to limit the amount of words you can use.
Some examples of product values can be:
Accuracy: Products that provide accurate data to their customers, commonly seen in financial tech or inventory management systems.
Communication: A lot of B2B products thrive on making sure users are connected to one another.
Community: Very popular B2C products give users a sense of belonging and collaboration.
Efficiency: Products that make a user’s job a lot easier, like project management software.
Transparency: Products that expose complex processes and make them easy to follow for a common user.
The goal is to brainstorm 5-7 of these if possible. Try to avoid product values that are too broad - like ‘usability’ and ‘performance’ unless you can make a strong case on why those values are important to your product. Remember to use the proposition canvas as your guide. For example, in the air purifier example the team can see that accuracy, efficiency, and transparency are some key product values.
Once you have this list, it is time to look at the gaps in your proposition canvas. What pains / gains have not been solved / provided? Run the same thought exercise as before, only this time make a list of product values you are striving for. Moving forward, we will refer to these as your aspirational product values.
Now that you have your product values (both current and aspirational), you’ll need to assess how you are gathering requests for your product line. If you are confident in the strength of your backlog, feel free to skip to part three (Calculating Market Value). Otherwise, if you find yourself lacking data or need to make improvements to how you receive feedback, jump to part two (Managing Your Pipeline).