How to create a product or marketing roadmap that leads to customer loyalty

If you want to become a company that people love (hopefully, yes) you need to start building minimum loveable products (MLPs), instead of minimum viable products (MVPs).

Building an MLP can be broken down into sprints and plotted against a roadmap, in a similar way to an MVP, but with a few key differences.

I’ve written a simplified version of the strategic and focused process we take our clients through, to help you develop a roadmap that will win your clients over.

Before you start, ideally you need a team that’s on board with the idea of building products that connect with people emotionally. This should be straightforward. Send them these blog posts, explain the business sense (profit is an easy byproduct of running a company customers love) and most people will be excited — anyone who is passionate about what they do craves more scope to create things that they are proud of and people enjoy using.

There will always be skeptics. Ask them to give it a chance (or sneak it in into the project without their noticing) and I am sure that if you succeed in making a more loveable product, the evidence of its success will speak for itself.

So your team is mostly on-board and excited about creating a roadmap for building something that sparks a bit more emotion with your ideal user? These are the five steps to go through:

1. Start with positioning

Before you get into the detail of what you are going to build, it’s important to establish a clear why; a shared purpose that will position your brand, that the whole team can get behind and that will resonate with your users.

Getting everyone in the team to agree on a simple but powerful purpose as the ultimate goal, instead of fixed project requirements or even user stories, will give them flexibility to use all their creativity, resourcefulness and different expertise to achieve the purpose.

As for resonating with your users, it’s important to pick the right user. It needs to be someone that stands to gain the most from your product. Develop a persona as usual, but try and get a bit deeper under the skin. Paint a picture of their story. Not the one that demonstrates how they are going to use your product to solve a need, but the one that has lead up to them coming across your product, including their hopes and frustrations.

Then think about how you want to improve that person’s life or how you might exceed their expectations with your product (the 30 elements of value is a good tool for this). The more impactful the elements you choose, the more likely that person will love what you have to offer.

If you want all your stakeholders to be aligned with your purpose and user, then make sure they’re involved in the process. Allow and encourage people to contribute to and question any decisions that are made, that way every stakeholder will be invested in them.

Finally, before you move on, check that your purpose overlaps nicely with your user’s story. If it does you’re onto a winner.

2. Strategise

Make full use of the expertise and imagination of your stakeholders and team. Give everyone some time to go away to think, research and create before you start getting a solid design down on paper (or screen).

Depending on the product, you will require different expertise, but as a minimum you need to make sure you have these three vital elements covered: creative aesthetic appeal, user experience and functional requirements.

At this stage, allow everyone to explore tangents, have interesting conversations and get excited about incredible but potentially impractical ideas. Even if it’s just for a day.

Then get everyone to present their ideas back to all stakeholders. It needs to be in a tangible format but it mustn’t be a design for a finished product, as you don’t want to put a lid on people’s creativity by showing them a product design yet. As an example, for the creative element we create stylescapes or moodboards, for the UI element we create user flows and for the functional requirements I normally use post-it notes.

3. Design the thing that will make an impact

Once all stakeholders have seen all the ideas, get everyone to design the broad strokes of the product together — define all the things you want to build and give them a priority order.

This needs to be done in a workshop with something physical that people can contribute to, for example rapid hand-drawn wireframing or a list of deliverables.

In theory this bit should be easy, combining everyone’s great ideas to make something great. In practise, there is always conflict. But don’t be afraid of this, conflict is a sign that people are passionate about making this product truly great. They disagree on how this should be done because they have different interests and expertise. If you can successfully combine two or more ideas that initially appear to be pulling in different directions, it’s much more likely to be a new or innovative idea.

In order to keep you on track and avoid getting lost in disagreements, make sure that any conflict is about the design rather than the people. The thing you are physically creating (wireframes or post-its) will help you to do this. You should the shared purpose can be used to remind everyone that you’re all working towards the same goal.

Check back in with your purpose and user story regularly to ensure that you haven’t lost sight of what’s important and to help keep everyone aligned.

If you keep these things in mind, while following this process with a talented team, you should find that creating a product roadmap that will achieve your purpose and ultimately lead to a product or company that people love is straightforward.

Here’s a round-up of the main differences between a product roadmap for an MLP (rather than an MVP):

  1. Get a team purpose you’re all aligned with
  2. Understand your user’s story from before they come across your product, including their hopes and frustrations
  3. Agree how you want to improve the user’s life and exceed their expectations and check this fits in with your purpose
  4. Give people time to dream big and explore in order to come up with the creative ideas that will make your product special
  5. Get everyone back together to contribute to the broad strokes design and prioritisation of the solution
  6. Don’t avoid conflict during the process — embrace it in order to create something new and interesting
  7. Check back during the prioritisation and design process to ensure everything that’s been designed meets the company’s purpose and the user’s expectations