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Strategic Planning

Uncover Market Opportunities With This Roadmapping Strategy

These five steps will help you chart a realistic journey forward and hold yourself accountable along the way.
Uncover Market Opportunities With This Roadmapping Strategy
Image credit: Joos Mind | Getty Images
Guest Writer
Co-founder at Arkenea
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Launching a tech startup or a product is a challenging task. As an entrepreneur, you might often feel as if you're grasping at straws because you can't predict the outcome. Roadmapping is a highly effective strategy for smoothing the bends in your entrepreneurial journey.

My company, Arkenea, specializes in helping owners create a product roadmap to visualize a product offering's direction over time. These strategic growth plans should include features and deliverables during a tentative time frame.

Here are five steps to cash in on existing market opportunities and ensure your startup's success.

1. Define the objectives.

The most successful products aren’t necessarily the most innovative solutions in their niche. They do have one thing in common, though: They invariably focus on solving a problem within their market. Your roadmap begins by defining your product's objectives and describing how your offering can meet the market's requirements.  

You'll garner greater consumer interest if you concentrate on defining the why behind your product instead of the what (features) and how (technicalities). Try posing and answering questions such as, "Why would the consumers be interested in this app?" or "Why are the market preferences the way they are?" Leading with challenge questions can help you understand the basis of customer motivation and market needs. Together, those factors provide the strategic guideline for laying down the product roadmap.

Related: Your Next Operating System Will Look Like You, Make You Laugh and Remember That You Hate Cilantro

2. Outline the time frame.

When it comes to a product roadmap, startups undoubtedly have less time to allocate than do established companies. Your map also must build in more flexibility so you can adapt to rapidly changing market scenarios. A number of now-successful startups started out on a totally different path before they pivoted. Your roadmap should allow you to make changes and adjust priorities according to market needs.

Roadmapping usually is a forward-looking exercise that incorporates new features and ideas to capture market attention. Focus on generating the maximum customer interest in the shortest amount of time possible. Implement only a select few elements in your initial product offering.

Related: Why You're Probably Failing at Innovation

3. Wireframe and prototype.

A wireframe is a low-fidelity mockup of the final app. It can be something as simple as a sketch on paper or a basic onscreen version -- the aim is to help visualize your app concept. Prototypes, on the other hand, are high-fidelity representations. They essentially contain the app's “must-have” features as well as the “nice-to-have” components you'll add later in the development process.  

Prototyping is an important aspect of product roadmapping. You'll discover numerous benefits by starting with a minimum viable product (MVP) prior to launching the fully fledged version. The MVP acts as a template for understanding the current market scenario and future market scope of your digital product. It also cuts down on pricing costs while allowing for that crucial flexibility.

Related: How a Minimum Viable Product Can Make or Break Startups

An interactive and clickable prototype is a great tool to validate your app before its actual launch. Prototyping gives absolute clarity in terms of user flow and interactions within the app. It has other positives, too. It can help you gauge the expected market response to your product and allows you to give MVP demonstrations when raising funds for your startup.

Using money effectively can make or break your entrepreneurial journey. Limited capital during the initial development stage makes prototyping even more valuable. Learning what works and what doesn’t will reveal the right direction. You can invest funds where they’ll make the biggest impact, instead of spending to develop bloated apps that may not meet market requirements or expectations.

4. Refine your product.

You’ll need to test your product early and evaluate the app’s performance according to a set of parameters. It’s the only way to determine whether your offering can be a success in its current form.  

Once you’ve prepared the prototype, you can start fine-tuning. This is the time to incorporate extra design elements, features and functionalities. Each time a new feature goes live, it's an opportunity to generate buzz for your app in the market. The product effectively becomes its own marketing tool.

Your strategic roadmap acts as a guide during this stage of the development process. It holds you accountable to the established timeline. It also gives your investors and partners insight into your plan. As such, the roadmap in instrumental in establishing trust and credibility within your network -- essential assets for any entrepreneur.

Related: Go Big or Go Home: A Roadmap For Building New Ventures

5. Find the product/market fit.

Product/market fit are golden keywords to ensure product success. Every product manufactured and every app launched has the same end goal: achieving fit with its customers. After all, a viable product markets itself through word of mouth among customers.

But product/market fit isn’t a mere destination. The customer-development process is an iterative circle with four continual phases: drawing the business process, testing the problem, hiring a developer and testing the solution through a prototype.

The dynamic process constantly is shifting and changing, and you need to bring a similar mindset. Be willing to pivot in a direction that may be different than the one you’d originally envisioned. And take comfort in knowing that if your product returns a robust performance, you’re definitely on the right track.

Related: How to Find the Holy Grail of Product/Market Fit

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