Product briefs can be one of the most important parts of pitching and planning out your product vision. But while they’re incredibly helpful to everyone on your team, they can also be complicated and thus intimidating to tackle—especially for the first time.
That’s why we’re here to tell you everything you need to know about product briefs and all the tips and tricks you need to best to maximize your briefs.
What is a Product Brief?
First off, let’s discuss what a product brief is.
A product brief or product spec refers to a document that outlines the goals, benefits and scope of your product. Essentially, it explains your product’s vision and highlights why you are creating it. While product briefs can also be surface level and focus more on basic goals, some can go more in-depth to include contextual analysis and specific data.
Product briefs are critical to any business because they can be used by everyone in your company to help guide the product, build interest, and refine your marketing strategies. You can use them to keep your team on track, convince potential shareholders to invest, and figure out what points to highlight when you take your product to market. You can even use it to build potential customer profiles and target your user base. It’s a great tool for anyone to have.
Benefits of Creating a Product Brief
Though we’ve talked vaguely about why it’s good to have a product brief, let’s discuss some other important benefits.
Deliver Outcomes on Time
Using a product brief to plan your products growth and development can help you stay on track and deliver outcomes on time. It can also help give you an idea of how long you’ll need to spend in product discovery and research and therefore give yourself a greater sense of accountability.
Reduce Wasted Time
Going through the steps of creating a product brief can help you flesh out your product and, in the process, discover whether or not your ideas are viable. You may also be able to foresee some roadblocks and problem areas before you encounter them in development, further saving yourself time and resources.
Give Clear Documentation
Having a product brief as a shared resource for your team and for other people in the company can help give everyone direction and allow input from other sources you might not have thought of otherwise.
On top of giving your product a clear direction, your brief can also provide context for your development team by keeping everyone on the same page and explaining your end goals, so everyone is working towards the same objectives. This also allows you to eliminate some assumptions and misunderstandings before they happen.
Steps to Writing the Perfect Product Brief
Now that we’ve gone over what a product brief is and how it can help you, let’s discuss the steps you need to take to write your perfect brief.
Define Your Product
First and foremost, you’ll need to define what your product is. What does it do? What’s its objective or end goal? What gap in your industry does it fill? You can answer these questions with simple bullet points, or write a couple sentences. You will need to have a strong sense of your product before moving forward.
Define Your Audience
Once you’ve laid out what your product is, you’ll need to discuss who it’s for. What’s your target audience? What size company would it work best for? Who’s your ideal user base? All of these answers will help you better understand who your potential audience is and how best to market towards them and keep them in your user base.
Furthermore, it’s important to fine-tune what problem you want your product to solve. This, in addition to your information about your audience base, will help you create user stories that can help draw in further customers.
Set Success Metrics
The next step in creating your product brief is to define how you want to measure your product’s success. Without these, you will not be able to properly identify your product’s growth or reach its fullest potential; instead, you can lose your way and weigh down your project.
Success measures can help you identify which features are helping you work towards your goals and as such, what to prioritize going forward.
Discuss Risks and Assumptions
Once you’ve outlined what your product is, identified your target market, and set your metrics of success, you’ll need to figure out what the risks and assumptions involved in developing your product are. This is one of the most important parts of your brief, as it can help streamline your future workflow and anticipate problems before they happen so you can better prepare for them. This can mean better impact and faster product development with less effort.
Furthermore, if your product isn’t quite ready for market, this stage will help you realize any complications that could make it less viable. You need to have strong confidence in your product, and figuring out and dealing with any potential risks before they happen can help you boost that.
For this section, summarize any potential risks to look into for your product and any problems that you think may arise. It’s also a good idea to detail any assumptions you have made surrounding your product that may need to be looked at or gotten rid of. You can then rate each risk or assumption on their potential impact on your product to better understand which ones your team should tackle first. If you find your summary getting long, it might be a good idea to categorize risks and assumptions as well (e.g. value, usability, interface, etc.).
Once you have all of these risks and assumptions in front of you, you’ll need to decide how to deal with or address them properly. You don’t need to fully explain your solutions, just create a short plan of attack.
Questions to Ask
Your product brief will need to address a few specific questions in order to be successful. Let’s go over them now.
What’s Your Product Name?
This one is a little obvious, but you’ll have to decide on a name for your product—even if you don’t end up keeping it. But it’s a good idea to have a starting point and a name to refer to when talking to outsiders or other teams.
What’s Your Product’s Purpose? What Does it Solve?
Simply put: what does your product do? Try to summarize your product’s purpose in a paragraph or so. Focus on the main details in a way that everyone can understand, regardless of title or occupation. This is also known as an elevator pitch or boilerplate description, and can become a great tool for talking about and promoting your product.
Once you’ve discussed your product’s purpose, you’ll need to outline what problem this product solves for its users. This is the crucial part in explaining why your product exists and is important—and why people should use it.
What Are Your Product’s Benefits and Features? What Makes It Unique?
This question helps you delve deeper into your product and help expand on how it can help customers. How does it work? What do you offer to your industry?
While you should still stick to high-level details here, it’s a place to explain exactly what users will get out of your product and how they can best use it. This can include any of your product’s strengths and opportunities as well as anything else you think is important.
Furthermore, this is where you should explain any unique features or capabilities your product has. How are you different from the competition? Why is it better? This will help you stand out from competitors and show potential customers why they should choose your product or explain to shareholders why they should invest in you.
Who Is Your Audience?
It’s important to clearly identify your intended audience in your product brief, both to help you better understand your customers pool’s needs and to better market to them later on. Knowing your product’s features and the problem it solves can help you figure out your broader client base, but you may need to narrow down this group into subcategories for targeting as well.
Who Are Your Competitors?
Finally, you’ll have to include information on your competitors in your product brief. Industry research is incredibly important when creating and launching your own product, and knowing about other companies in your industry is especially crucial to your success. Why are these products successful? How does your product measure up and where does it fall short or do better?
One way to do this is to put together a competitive analysis table so you can easily compare your product to others and see how it differs.
When Is Your Proposed Release Date?
If you’re still in production, it’s important to set a targeted release date so shareholders and other teams can know what deadlines to look forward to. It will also help keep your own product teams on track as they can work backwards and figure out when to have work finished by in order to meet their deadlines.
Depending on your product or company, you might have several different release dates; for instance, you might have an early-access beta release for certain users, and then a general release later. In this case, make sure you have defined both release dates.
How Will You Price Your Product?
You’ll need to figure out your pricing scheme for your product pretty early on, as it’s an important factor in sales and profit viability. Will you offer a free trial period? If so, how long will your trial last? Likewise, will you offer a flat fee or a monthly subscription fee? Will your pricing be tiered depending on user/team size, or just one singular rate?
While you can definitely make changes to your pricing later on or even after launch, it’s good to have a decent idea of what you want to do going into production.
In addition to questions you should ask, let’s go over some best practices for your product.
Be Succinct and Precise
It’s easy to go on too long about your product, especially if you’re excited about it. But your brief is meant to educate outsiders on your product and help guide your team, and bogging them down with too much unnecessary information can get them off track or lower interest.
Likewise, you’ll need to make sure the language you’re using can be understood by everyone, not just those on your team with technical backgrounds. This will make sure everyone stays in the loop and there are fewer misunderstandings.
Your product brief is not meant to be set in stone. While you should be outlining plans for the future and use it as a guide as you develop your product, you’re going to run into situations or problems that shift the course of your development. Likewise, you may get feature requests from shareholders and outsiders that change your objectives.
As your product changes, your brief will need to as well. Keep updating it as your product grows in order to keep everyone on the same page.
Ask For Feedback
Feedback is important to incorporate into every step of your product’s growth and development—including your product brief. Include your team members or other teams in your product brief, and ask them what they think. Let shareholders give their own opinions. And later, when you get into beta testing and launch, you can publicize your product brief and gather feedback from customers to help refine your public launch.
One of the easiest ways to gather this feedback is with UserVitals. We are an all-in-one feedback management platform to help you collect information from your users and keep them up-to-date on your product’s growth. We help you pull in pieces of feedback, known as Insights, into our platform via a customer portal, feedback widget, Google Chrome extension and many different integrations. This allows you to easily gather customer opinions and figure out what’s working well and what needs to be changed.
Furthermore, we also allow you to create and update a roadmap (based off of your chosen Stories) and changelog, so your users can stay up-to-date with any changes and future updates to your product.
Download UserVitals today and get started.