If there’s anything we’ve learned over the years, it’s that creating a plan that is openly communicated across teams is the key to success. No team should be a silo of information; what you’re working on and why you’re working on it should be widely available to anyone across the company. This helps not only with transparency into your team’s projects, but also with accountability. It’s really easy for things to slip through the cracks and important items to get left behind if there isn’t open communication within your team and your company, so having a dedicated channel of communication is crucial.

This is where product briefs come in. Whether it’s just to keep your team on track with what’s to be worked on and when or if it’s to help the rest of your company understand what you’re prioritizing and why, product briefs open up that line of communication and help you clearly articulate what your team is focusing on.

What is a Product Brief?

Although they can go by a dozen different names, product briefs typically refer to those summary documents that outline the goals, benefits, and entire scope of a product. They articulate the vision and plan of the product, and highlights why it’s important to build. Depending on the depth of the product brief, they can include anything from basic goals and objectives to specific data points and contextual analysis.

Product briefs are critical because they will be used across the entire company and will likely be seen by everybody. Executive teams will review it to develop a value proposition, marketing teams will develop sales materials and messaging based off of it,  sales teams will utilize it to identify target customer profiles and prospects. Developing a concise and thorough product brief will strengthen the efficiency and clarity of your teams across the board.

How to Write a Product Brief (9 Key Questions to Answer)

To help you draft the best possible product brief, let’s walk through the 10 most important questions to address inside the document. We’ll be using Parlor as an example throughout to give you a better idea of what it’ll look like.

What is the product name?

The first, and possibly most obvious, thing to include in your product brief is the name of your product! What’s it called? Do you have a sub-heading as well? Often times, especially in the early days of a product, you may internally refer to your product, or different aspects of your product, differently. Developing a product brief gives you a good excuse to develop what you want to externally refer to your product.

For example, Parlor is the name of our product, but we also have a sub-heading of “All-in-One Feedback Management System” that gives a better idea of what our product does than just solely the word ‘Parlor’.

What is the purpose of the product?

After you’ve named your product in the brief, it’s time to explain exactly what your product does. Now, it can be tempting to give an in-depth, three page explanation of your product here. After all, you’ve probably spent months, or at the very least weeks, coming up with this idea. But this is not the place for that. Describing the purpose of your product should be a two to three sentence  of your product that is easy to digest and can be understood at a glance. Don’t worry; there will be time later on in the product brief to dive deep on all the awesome aspects of your product. But in the beginning, when giving the description, take some time to develop a short elevator pitch that can succinctly describe your product in just a few sentences.

Using Parlor as the example, here’s a quick description of our product to give you an idea of what this should look like:

“Parlor is a Feedback Management System designed to optimize the entire feedback lifecycle. Parlor organizes all feedback into a single system of record, quantifies the highest impact needs, and automatically closes the loop with your users. Plus, Parlor connects directly to the tools that matter, including live chat, ticketing systems, CRMs, JIRA, and Slack, and is entirely customizable, so your users won’t know the difference between your product and ours.”

What problem does the product solve for the end user?

Being able to articulate the problem that your product solves in a straightforward way is absolutely crucial to developing your product, and should be a key component of your product brief. After all, if you don’t have a way to clearly explain the problem that your product fixes, how is your marketing team supposed to position your product in the market? How is your sales team supposed to sell the need for your product? 

For your product brief, take a couple sentences to describe the specific problem that your product addresses. Here’s an example for Parlor:

“The feedback lifecycle is broken. Today, teams bury feedback across dozens of ticketing systems, live chat tools, CRM’s, and Excel spreadsheets. Product teams and customer teams end up arguing over the priority of new items because customer teams want to solve issues that they’re hearing from their users, and product teams want more than anecdotal feedback. Then, teams have to manually follow up with users and their requests to let them know what’s getting built next, if they follow up with them at all. Parlor fixes this; all of this.”

What are the specific product benefits and features?

This is where you’ll want to get specific and go deep on your product to explain the features your product has that help you solve this problem you’ve identified. What does your product offer? How does it work? How does it solve your proposed issue? You’ll want to keep this section high-level enough that anyone scanning through your product brief will be able to understand your product’s features, but in-depth enough that they get a solid understanding of exactly how your product works.

For example, here’s a quick glance at how we would describe Parlor’s specific benefits and features in a product brief:

“Parlor is composed of two main components. The first is a central feedback management system; essentially, your Parlor dashboard. This is where all your feedback gets stored into one singular system of record and helps you identify the most pervasive user needs. The second aspect is a collection of in-product, end user facing components that allow you to collect feedback from your users and communicate back to them. 

Within your Parlor dashboard, there are three main sections that will help you optimize your entire feedback lifecycle. 

1. Collect & Organize Feedback: Parlor helps you collect feedback directly inside your product, and aggregate existing feedback from any source – product, support, or sales – into a single system of record to catalogue critical feedback trends.

        Popular features:

  • Customizable in-moment surveys
  • In-product feature requests & bug reports
  • Live chat, Slack, and support ticketing integrations

2. Validate & Prioritize Feedback: Parlor helps you identify the most pervasive and impactful user needs, prioritized by request volume, revenue, and customer sentiment.

        Popular features:

  • User voting on requests
  • Salesforce and JIRA integrations
  • Merge similar feedback to clearly quantify impact.

3. Communicate & Educate your users: Parlor closes the loop by automatically communicating progress and improvements back to users as their individual needs are addressed.

        Popular features:

  • In-app release notes
  • Dynamically segmented user cohorts
  • Automatic status updates on user requests

Lastly, Parlor helps you to streamline your tools, simplify your workflow, and unite your teams around your users’ needs by integrating directly to the tools that matter the most to you, including live chat, ticketing systems, CRMs, JIRA, and Slack. So, all important customer information can be used to measure the impact of collected feedback, which allows your PMs to prioritize their work.

Who is the product designed for?

Alright, so you’ve explained what your product is, what problem it addresses, and how it addresses that problem.  The next step is articulating who your product is designed for. What is your ideal customer persona? Who do you want purchasing your product? Figuring this out and clearly articulating it will help keep your teams focused and aligned.

Using our Parlor example, we can describe our target audience as, “Small to Mid-Size B2B SaaS Product and Customer-Facing teams. We should be focusing on Product Managers and Customer Success Managers (or similar title), with additional buy in from Directors of Product or Customer Success.”

When is the proposed release date?

If your product is not yet live, it’s important to specify a target proposed release date. That way, if you’ve got an executive team or important stakeholders reviewing the document, they are on the same page as you in terms of approximately when your product will be released to the general public.

If you’re planning to do a special early release to specific people or companies with a general release later on, you should specify that here as well. For example, we here at Parlor invited some early-access Beta users to test out our product, then released it to the general public later. Be sure to be very clear either way about the timeline of your product launch. 

How will we price the product?

One of the most important aspects of your product brief is describing exactly how you plan on pricing your product. Are you going to offer a trial period? If so, for how long will the trial last and how do potential customers gain access to your product? Are you going to offer a free version of your product, or are you going to do tiered pricing? Will you offer a flat fee with add-on options, or will there be just a singular price offered? Answering these questions will answer how you plan to price your product.

It’s important to keep in mind that your pricing plans will likely change as your product grows and you add additional features and functionality. So just remember that however you set up pricing in the beginning is not set in stone forever; you can always update your pricing model to reflect what your product is worth as you grow.

For example, here at Parlor, we offer the “Feedback Management Essentials” as the core product, which gives you access to all the basic features of Parlor that will help you manage your entire feedback lifecycle. Then, we offer a myriad of additional features that you can choose “a la carte” style based on what you’re looking to accomplish. So, if you want to use our in-product announcements tool, but don’t need to use our survey functionality? Totally up to. Our pricing model allows you to pick and choose exactly what you need.

Who are the competitors/ alternatives?

While you shouldn’t let your competitors influence your product and what you decide to build, you should be aware of who your competitors are and how they’re positioning themselves in the marketplace. This will give you better understanding of what’s working in your space and who you’ll be competing against when pitching to potential customers. You may want to take some time to put together a Competitive Analysis Table so that you can compare your product against your competitors and better understand how your product differs, which we’ll cover in the next topic.

Working with our Parlor example, our biggest competitors differ depending what people are looking to use Parlor to help with. ProductBoard is one we tend to her quite often, but ProductBoard is typically used more as a roadmap management tool, while Parlor focuses on the entire feedback lifecycle, from collection to communication. Understanding how ProductBoard works, and how our potential customers utilize ProductBoard, gives us a better idea of how to position ourselves against it.

What differentiates your product?

In tandem with analyzing your competitors, you should be outlining how your product is different. You want to be able to quickly and explicitly articulate exactly what your product does better than your competitors. Specifically, what aspects of your product are better than your competitors? What is it that makes your product unique? Sometimes, completing a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis of your product can be super helpful here to help you pinpoint what exactly makes your product stand out from the rest.

For example, there are a million feedback collection tools on the market today. What makes Parlor different from all of those is that we don’t just focus on feedback collection; instead, we assist in everything that happens after you’ve collected feedback. We help you organize, manage, prioritize, validate, and analyze customer feedback, and we help communicate any and all product updates to your users so that they’re never in the dark about what you’re working on.


Product Brief Best Practices

Now you know what goes into building a great product brief! Before you go, check out a couple of our favorite tips and tricks to making your product brief as fool-proof as possible.

Be succinct.

We know you’re passionate about your product, and it can be easy to go off on tangents about all the amazing things your product does. But the reality is, your product brief should be a succinct and digestible document that shouldn’t take an expert in your field to understand. Keep it brief (1-3 pages), keep it straightforward, and keep it user-friendly.

Frame with problem statements & questions.

The easiest way to understand the goal that your product is aiming to accomplish is to specify the exact problems and questions your product is addressing. A great way to outline a product brief is to frame everything into a painpoint or question, and articulate how your product solves it.

Treat the brief as an agreement.

Your product brief is likely going to be shared with your entire company, and potentially with important stakeholders or investors. Viewing the product brief as an agreement between you all allows you to make sure everyone is on the same page about what you’re building, why you’re building, and who it helps. Transparency and open communication is key, and treating the product brief as an agreement helps you achieve that.

Keep as a live document.

As much as we’d all like to think we can predict the future, nobody actually can (as far as I know!). It’s very likely that your product is giong to shift and change as you learn more about your customers and the market, and that means the goals and objectives of your product are going to change. Your product brief should not be set in stone, but rather a living document that can be edited and updated as you grow the company and learn new things.

Conclusion

The key to a healthy and successful company is transparency and ensuring that everyone is working towards the same goal. Developing a succinct and strong product brief helps you achieve that, and allows you to better understand and communicate your objectives to everyone involved with your product. If you can clearly articulate your goals and objectives of your product, you’re well on your way to creating a successful product.