PMMs & the Roadmap: Part 1

Your customers are motivated and curious about aligning their plans and yours. The product roadmap is the *best* way to drive this discussion, and a huge opportunity for product marketers. I do a lot of work on product roadmaps, and thought I’d start this discussion on roadmaps with tips on understanding the roadmap’s place in your product marketing role. 

The product roadmap discussion is ⅓ product development roadmap, ⅔ discussion. 

Key things to know about a product roadmap:

  1. The roadmap is a tool to articulate how your company will prioritize – and re-prioritize – over time, what you’ll build
    It is NOT a fixed list of the development backlog. That could be shared in an email, and would only lead to grief
  2. The roadmap starts a year ago
    Your customers haven’t used everything you’ve built, and don’t even know what you’ve shipped recently. Tell them
  3. The roadmap is a tool to create a discovery discussion
    If you share the roadmap without learning something new about the customer’s priorities, you did it wrong
  4. The roadmap should be oriented around customer examples
    Customers drive your roadmap, and sending this message is a big win for how your company is perceived. Customers see themselves in every story you tell
  5. The roadmap should be thematic
    If you don’t have 3 top themes driving your focus, you look tactical and hidebound, and won’t get the rich business discussion it is your job to create
  6. The roadmap is an invitation to influence
    Here’s what we’re doing, deal with it” is a lousy message to send. “What do you wish we were doing sooner, and why?” is a great question to ask
  7. Roadmaps are open, and humble
    The roadmap is not a fixed truth, and you should have ears open to hear factors you should be valuing higher. Doesn’t mean you’ll make a new commitment in the meeting (you shouldn’t), but it does mean you’re sharing this in a spirit of feedback. “I’ll talk with that product manager about your concern and get back to you” is a great example of a customerdriven attitude
  8. Roadmaps are fraught.
    If your product team is anxious about you presenting the roadmap, find out why. You need to earn the product team’s trust before you can unleash the roadmap in your toolkit. Shadow them. Ask them to train you. Go slow. Be conservative. The future is unknowable and probabilistic, that’s not just okay, but a positive, but product managers need to know they can trust you to not misstep when telling *their* story
  9. Roadmap discussions give you amazing data to influence the product roadmap.
    Most PMMs want to influence development. What you learn in product roadmap discussions is your entree to influence product managers

When I think back to the no-holds-barred discussions Leyle Seka and I led with our customers in 2001, it was the most inspiring thing I’d ever done. The best part of product marketing, and the best example of influencing the business I’d ever had. 

Have opinions about PMMs and the roadmap? I welcome your insights and feedback

The Front Porch
Moss Beach, CA

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