Alli McKee
Nov 29, 2017 · 5 min read

Turning a Minimum Viable Product into a Sales Ready Product means you have a long way to go. And a short runway to get there.

Every day, you’re facing customers requesting features, brainstorming new ideas, and pointing out bugs that need fixing. If you try to incorporate it all, you’ll run out of time. If you ignore it, you’ll build something useless.

So how do you separate the signal from the noise?

We’ve learned from Intercom and others to develop our 6x6x6 Rolling Roadmap for building early-stage software: 6 Feature types, across 6 Stages, in Timelines of 6 days, weeks, months, years.

Here’s how it works.

Our 6x6x6 Rolling Roadmap, always evolving in Trello

What to Build? 6 Types of Product Features

At Stick, we come up with ideas from customer development interviews, regular feedback from our Customer Advisory Board, playing with competitor products, looking at product usage data, and even random thoughts that strike in the shower.

Ideas can come from anywhere. But to survive, every product feature idea needs an objective.

This is our 6-Type system, in which each idea (Trello card) has a label, attached to an objective:

1. We have a Hypothesis that …

Features to realize our product vision and what years of industry experience have shown us. Need: to validate with Customer conversations to move forward.

2. Customers asked us for…

Ideas to satisfy customers that come from conversations, whether customer development interviews, product feedback sessions, or sales conversations. Need: to align with product vision and company strategy to move forward.

3. Product usage Data says…

Improve the product by learning from unspoken feedback, like Rage Clicks or drop-offs, using tools like FullStory. Think of these as open questions rather than potential answers. Need: interviews to validate your proposed solution.

4. We can Grow by…

Spread your product to a wider audience (e.g. integrations with a partner product), or bake in virality (e.g. seamless sharing, or collaboration features). Need: to align with company strategy to move forward, as growth isn’t always the goal — especially in early stages.

5. We can improve Quality with…

Fix bugs. As a recovering perfectionist, I remind myself often that bugs are part of the game, and shouldn’t be stomped out one by one, because speed trumps quality right now. That said, when you’re selling into enterprise, there’s a bar to clear. Need: to confirm customer’s willingness to pay before building, and put ego aside.

6. What if we…

Energize yourself and your team by dreaming up new ideas — the oxygen that keeps you pushing through those seemingly endless bug fixes. Need: validation against customers, product vision, competitive strategy, and scoping engineering cost to move forward.

How to build it? 6 Stages of Product Pipeline

From left to right, feature ideas evolve from abstract concepts (Titles on a Trello Card) into concrete specs (Multi-leveled Checklists, attached Figma files).

If ideas stop or slow along the way? Great. You’re doing it right. Always be trimming the fat. The six stages of the product pipeline:

  1. Ideas: The imaginary pile of post-its that captures every input, across the 6 types. Don’t get hung up on scope — yet.
  2. Scoping: You’ve validated the idea needs to move by making the business case (who’s willing to pay?) and now it’s time to estimate development resources required. Paper prototypes wherever possible to pare the idea down to its simplest form.
  3. Prioritizing: You need to build it, you know how, and you need it now. It helps you meet your OKRs for the month. Now, make the spec even simpler (Do you really need that extra button?).
  4. Developing: You’re building it, unit testing along the way with an 80/20 approach. If you can simplify it, then simplify it. Goal: ship the simplest possible version as quickly as possible.

5. Features Implemented: The current state of your product, in all of its MVP glory. If you know a current feature is in progress, just label it as v.1 (or, if it’s that early, v.0).

6. “Los Muertos”: Or (if you’re boring) just “Graveyard.” But wouldn’t you rather “resurrect” those ideas you cut on a regular basis and celebrate?

When to Build it? The “6X” Timeline

The last element — and the most crucial — is the timeline. We love Intercom’s method of 6 months/6 weeks, so built on it:

Ideas — 6 Years. Vision-level thinking makes sure you keep thinking bigger.

Scoping — 6 Months. Long-term (for a startup) thinking ensures that you view these ideas as true investments rather than just the next to-do.

Prioritizing — 6 Weeks. What do you need now for your business? That’s the 6 week timeline. Should tie directly to your OKRs for the month and quarter.

Developing — 6 Days. Your current week. Enables you to break the week down into daily goals for your team and keep the heartbeat going.

I hope this helps you focus your efforts on whatever jaw-dropping products you’re working on. Or, even better, if you’re doing it a better way at your company and want to share — send some feedback to us at hi@stick.ai.

We’re always looking to learn from companies like you!


About the Author: Alli McKee is the Founder and Product Leader behind Stick. For go-to-market teams who need to earn customer attention quickly, Stick is a visual communication tool that builds more effective sales materials instantly. Unlike standard slide tools, Stick turns text into on-brand visual content automatically. Sign up for our beta at www.stick.ai.

Connect on LinkedIn to read more daily updates on startups, sales, and design.

Show and Sell

Storytelling is the new Selling. Show and Sell brings together the best of strategy, storytelling, and design to show companies how to sell more, faster with stories that stick. Brought to you by stick.ai.

Alli McKee

Written by

CEO and Founder, Stick.ai - Illustrating Ideas in real time with NLP + ML. Painting and Improv on the side. TEDx Stanford.

Show and Sell

Storytelling is the new Selling. Show and Sell brings together the best of strategy, storytelling, and design to show companies how to sell more, faster with stories that stick. Brought to you by stick.ai.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade