Understanding customer, team & market demand will drive the growth of your SaaS business

All you need to know about SaaS Product Demand Intelligence

Everyone loves a cookie pie

In a recent webinar we looked at how to create an awesome SaaS product roadmap for 2017. We’re about to start taking a closer look at each of the 3 inputs into a product roadmap - demand from customers, internal teams and the market.

Now more than ever, product teams are being pushed forward as many SaaS CEOs and investors move towards a growth model, yet numerous research projects have shown that over half of Enterprise product teams are still using spreadsheets or no data at all.

In 2017 the need for specialized tools is more important that ever as Mixpanel and Forrester explored in The State of Product Analytics:

Segments have emerged in the analytics space, most notably product analytics…product managers have become front and center because for more businesses the app, or the product, IS is the business…

Stu Aaron, COO at Mixpanel

There are many amazing product analytics systems for understanding feature usage, user journeys and behaviour (we love Hotjar & Mixpanel) but there’s also a huge need for product teams to be able to gather and understand data to inform which features to build in the first place.

What is product demand?

It’s surprisingly difficult for SaaS business to collect, measure and understand demand data. Demand is any piece of information which shapes how people want your product or business to behave to better solve a problem for them. You’ll find demand is most commonly expressed in the following ways:

Feature requests  - Can your product do X? Please can that button be blue? (note: feature requests often hide pain points. Always ask why. More on that here)

Feedback - General feedback which tends to be less specific than a request for a new piece of functionality. Often an expression of emotion or opinion.

Ideas  - High level feature request and bigger projects. e.g., “I have this great idea to totally revamping our UI”

Insights  -  An observation into behaviour, a market opportunity or new product direction e.g., “I’ve noticed all our prospects are starting to use Zendesk”.

For many SaaS business, this data is received ad-hoc, across systems and in spreadsheets or forums which quickly become out-of-date and irrelevant. However, if you harness this data effectively the rewards are huge.

Why are the 3 inputs important?

Getting prioritized demand data from customers, internal teams and the market gives you the complete picture so you can make data-driven decisions which align with the company strategy —it does not mean building every feature/idea that is being requested (see more here: building a SaaS product is not a democracy. .

Without understanding all 3 inputs, you won’t have the data you need to make informed decisions.

Here’s a brief overview of each input:

Customer demand

Customers are the people who actually use your product. They will see things differently to you. They have pain points and problems they expect your product to solve for them and they are an amazing source of insight. However, not all customer feedback is created equally. A key part of Product Demand Intelligence is data segmentation. The size of your customer account, upsell opportunities, the market they are in, how many users they have… are just a few examples of things which will affect how important their demand is to you. For example, if your quarterly company goal is to close more Enterprise deals, then I can guarantee you won’t want feedback, ideas & features requests from free triallers or tiny accounts getting in the way of what your current Enterprise users and prospects are requesting.

Internal team demand

Internal teams will have different demands on product too. Sales teams focus on new opportunities and ways to realise more revenue, customer success care about retention and upsell, leadership want to know features are being developed and improved inline with strategy…and these are just a few examples. By gathering internal team demand with customer demand you can see overlap, spot opportunities and ensure the customer voice doesn’t become the HiPPO in the room.

Market demand

Market demand comes in two main flavours — demand from prospects and wider market changes which could have an influence on your product and direction. Prospect demand tends to be the domain on the sales teams who work closely with prospects to understand what they need and why. Wider market demand can be very broad and come from a range of sources but especially the leadership team.

Product Demand Intelligence - the other half of the coin

Image credit: Giphy

So how is Product Demand Intelligence (PDI) different to product analytics?

Quite simply PDI is about having the data to know what to build, product analytics is about measuring the results — both work in harmony together ensuring you aren’t wasting precious time, effort and money building features that don’t drive growth or align with you company strategy.

PDI gives SaaS companies the power to know what they are building, why they are building it and who it is for.

More on the 3 inputs

We’ll be writing up the Roadmap Fuel Webinar Series and exploring each input in more detail in the coming weeks so watch this space.

If you have any thoughts or questions on PDI, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or contact me direct:

hannah@receptive.io

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