How to Use Customer Needs to Prioritize Product Ideas for Development

Prioritize Product Ideas

Every product, in theory, is designed to address a number of needs that exist in the market. Innovation frameworks like Strategyn’s Jobs to be Done argue that consumers do not buy products; rather they hire the products to do some job for them (or address a need they have). But how do you go about ensuring that the product we are going to develop will, indeed, satisfy the needs of your customers? Or, if your company has a number of potential products, how do you figure out which of those products should be developed, given the needs that exist in the market? 

In this post we will look at concrete steps we can take in order to analytically arrive at a prioritized list of ideas, using the customer needs as selection criteria. (Note, I’m going to assume that the customer needs are known and a list of product ideas already exists. I know these are major assumptions, but the discovery of market needs is not the point of this post) 

Step 1: Get a prioritized list of customer needs

This first step packs a lot in it. There are a gazillion approaches and frameworks on how to talk to customers and quantify their needs. But this is not the point of this post. Here we assume that we already have a number of customer needs that exist in the market and we will use those as a starting point. We also assume that we have a decent understanding of the intensity of those needs, i.e. not all needs are the same – some are more important to your customers than others.

The idea is to organize and prioritize the main needs of the customer segment for which you are building the product. 

  • Input: customer interviews and secondary market research
  • Output: numbered/ranked list of customer needs

Step 2: Ideate product concepts around the needs you have identified (or get your existing list of product ideas)

Again, I’m not going to dive into any specific ideation frameworks that exist out there. The idea here is to arrive at a list of product ideas that you are potentially interested in developing. 

  • Input: list of customer needs
  • Output: list of product ideas

Step 3: Use the customer needs and product ideas as inputs into a decision matrix

If you need a primer on what is a decision matrix (also known as grid analysis or MCDA), check out our guide on evaluating ideas using a decision matrix. Or consider just using the Rationalize app to guide you through the process of building and evaluating a decision matrix. The basic process, however, is as follows

  1. Use customer needs as your criteria
  2. Weight the criteria based on how important each need is
  3. Use ideas and concepts you are evaluating
  4. Evaluate product concepts using the customer needs as the criteria
  • Input: ranked list of customer needs and unranked product concepts
  • Output: ranked list of product concepts ready for development

Step 4 (OPTIONAL): Involve additional stakeholders in order to get a more rounded perspective

Involving others in the evaluation process can be critical to the eventual success of the product. In the process of selling your idea within the organization, it is important to generate buy-in on the idea. Many good ideas go nowhere, involving others in the decision-making process, can help avoid that kind of outcome. 

While building the product, it is crucial to get a shared understanding of what you are building and why. 

Finally, the group perspective might be important to ensure you don’t overlook some major flaws in the product causing it to flop. 

For more insight on group decision-making using grid analysis, read our blog on the topic.

  • Input: decision matrix 
  • Output: ranked list of product ideas that the organization can say “yes” to.

Above is a graphic outlining how the process of translating an unordered list of ideas into a collaboratively ranked list would work. I hope this brief guide is useful for those looking to take a more analytical approach to rank and prioritize product ideas for development.

A decision matrix is a great way to rationally think through these kinds of problems, especially in fields like new product development and innovation. Furthermore, Rationalize app, can help you facilitate the group decision-making process. 

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