When developing a new product, prioritizing customer needs is more than just a strategy—it’s the compass steering your startup to success. Successful products built by the best product teams often hinge on a deep understanding of the end-user. This requires a holistic approach, from direct customer engagement to data-driven decision-making.
Prioritization isn’t a one-time task; it’s continuous. Start by engaging customers directly through surveys, interviews, and feedback. These insights form the foundation of your product strategy.
In this article, we’ll explore several approaches to prioritizing customer needs with limited resources to develop a successful software product.
The Eisenhower Matrix
There’s a hidden problem in deciding “which customer needs to address first,” because it assumes it’s merely an issue of order. But the reality is you must get proficient at saying “no” to good things. You cannot do everything on your plate. Lesson 1 is that prioritization is about saying “yes” to a minority and “no” to the majority. Lesson 2 is how you prioritize the “yes” minority. The Eisenhower Matrix is a great way to focus on those things both urgent and important to meeting objectives.
The RICE Framework
In startups with limited resources, effective prioritization of customer needs is essential. The RICE framework is key. Reach: Evaluate the scope of users benefiting from the need. Impact: Assess the potential advantages for users and the business. Confidence: Determine your level of certainty in addressing the need. Effort: Analyze the resources required, considering constraints. Leverage this framework for optimal prioritization.
Prioritizing High-Impact, Low-Effort Tasks
With a balanced blend of professionalism, clarity, and persuasion, I prioritize customer needs by identifying and categorizing them. I then evaluate their impact and the resources needed to address them. This allows me to focus on high-impact, low-effort tasks that quickly enhance customer satisfaction while also planning for high-impact, high-effort improvements. These improvements will significantly elevate our product or service over time.
Weighing Impact and Severity of Needs
As the leader of a business in the legal industry, I’ve found that prioritizing customer needs can be challenging. Most businesses will find they do well by ordering new features based on how many customers each update will benefit. However, customer needs can have different levels of impact and severity. It’s important to weigh the widespread benefit of additional features over unseen infrastructures. Essential changes like security upgrades often go unnoticed by customers, so they might get impatient while waiting for a new tool or UX upgrade. Using this prioritization method can also ensure your company scales with its customer base, letting you anticipate their needs and exceed expectations.
Leveraging Market Research and Feedback
Detailed market research is paired with customer feedback. Developing integrations is a heavy workload for any SaaS solution, and we often find ourselves with more plans than resources. We solve this dilemma by interviewing our B2B partners and closely examining customer feedback. This helps us find out which platforms our target customers use most often. For example, we allocated significant resources to build integrations with key platforms. These include Sendgrid, AWS, Intercom, Microsoft Office 365, and Google Workspace. Our research-based approach helps us focus on meeting the most urgent customer needs and enhancing their overall experience.
Adopting the Jobs-to-Be-Done Framework
In our startup, we’ve found the Jobs-to-Be-Done (JTBD) framework to be highly effective. Instead of just looking at customer feedback on specific features, we focus on understanding the underlying jobs or tasks customers are trying to accomplish. By identifying the core jobs that are most critical to our target audience, we prioritize features and improvements that align with these jobs. This approach ensures that we’re addressing the most pressing customer needs first and not just reacting to feature requests.
Practicing Continuous Discovery and Validation
We practice continuous discovery and validation. Instead of making assumptions about customer needs, we regularly engage with our user base through interviews, surveys, and usability testing. This ongoing dialogue with customers helps us uncover emerging pain points and prioritize them in real-time. It ensures that our limited resources are always directed toward addressing the most current and pressing customer needs.
Prioritizing Based on Urgency
Prioritize based on the urgency of their needs. If you’re limited on resources, you may only be able to focus on one task at a time per client—so focus on the most time-sensitive issue. This should be your top priority because, essentially, it’s the client’s most pressing issue at the moment. A quick turnaround solution will position you as a reliable partner and earn you a long-term client. Once that’s out of the way, you can continue to address their needs down the line of urgency.
Using the MoSCoW Method
In a resource-constrained startup environment like dasFlow, prioritizing customer needs is crucial. One effective method is the MoSCoW method, where needs are categorized as “Must have,” “Should have,” “Could have,” or “Won’t have.” Engage with customers to gather feedback, then categorize and prioritize their needs accordingly. Addressing the “Must have” needs should be the priority as they are critical for customer satisfaction and retention. This method provides a structured approach to prioritization, ensuring that resources are allocated to addressing the most impactful customer needs first, thereby maximizing value and satisfaction with limited resources.
Applying the Feature Funnel Framework
To streamline our decision-making, we focus on something called the Feature Funnel Framework. We visualize customer needs as inputs into a funnel with three stages: Feasibility, Alignment, and Scalability (FAS).
In the Feasibility stage, we assess if the need is technically and financially viable for our startup. If it passes, it moves to the Alignment stage, where we check if addressing the need aligns with our startup’s vision and short-term goals. Finally, in the Scalability stage, we evaluate if solutions for the need can be scaled to benefit a larger segment of our user base. Only those needs that pass through all three stages get prioritized.
This helps us cut out anything that won’t have an impact, even if it seems useful on the surface. There are many instances where you’ll want to help, but can’t prove the actual scalability or alignment or even feasibility. By using this framework, you avoid wasting time and money in areas where there was no utility to begin with.
Resolving Queries in Order of Arrival
In a startup environment, one way to strategize customer priority is to resolve each query in the order they come in, unless it’s an emergency. As a small business, we pride ourselves on providing value and responsiveness to every client. It’s okay to reiterate this when you get busy. However, if an emergency arises with a customer who is emotionally upset or didn’t receive their order, this would be grounds for escalation.
Implementing Value Stream Mapping Technique
We’ve implemented the Value Stream Mapping (VSM) technique. This involves mapping the entire process from identifying a customer need to delivering a solution. By visualizing each step and associated lead times, we can pinpoint bottlenecks and delays in addressing specific needs, allowing us to streamline our response time.
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