If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
- Albert Einstein

Million dollar question: How do you market a product if you can’t explain what it does?

Answer: You don’t.

Even the most amazing ideas are dead in the water if they cannot be effectively communicated to potential buyers. The first step in any marketing strategy is to define what your product does, and the most common way of doing that is using a Product Requirements Document (PRD).

What Is PRD?

A Product Requirements Document (PRD) is, as the name suggests, a document that contains all the requirements a product needs to satisfy in order to accomplish certain goals. It exists simply to describe the problem your product is attempting to resolve, and how this will be achieved. PRDs are most frequently associated with software, but can be used for any product or service.

The most common components of a Product Requirements Document include:

  • Target demographics—who is the product for?
  • An objective—what is the intended goal from both a technical and business perspective?
  • Use cases—how will users interact with the product to achieve these goals?
  • Requirements—what requirements are needed to provide the ideal user experience?

Unlike product spec sheets, PRDs walk you through the entire process of how a product will work from a user’s point of view. It is both a marketing assessment and a how-to guide. Keep in mind, however, it is not intended to explain how the user experience will be implemented from a technical standpoint. It is better described as a “user’s journey” from target demographic to satisfied customer.

Who Writes the PRD?

Product Requirements Documents are generally written by a product manager with help from both the engineering and marketing teams.

They are often created after or alongside a Marketing Requirements Document (MRD), which demonstrates an understanding of the marketplace the product will satisfy.

  • What are your customer needs?
  • What solutions will your product provide?
  • How will your product provide the solution?

Without first answering these questions, your PRD has no introduction and nothing to prove.

Who Reads the PRD?

Like any marketing document, PRDs are intended to attract potential buyers or investors. They are designed to ensure that your product can meet the technical requirements to achieve the marketing goals that your Marketing Requirements Document proposes. In some cases, they are intended to satisfy stakeholder requirements for new products or features within the same company.

Most likely, however, it will end up in the hands of engineers with the talent and ability to scrutinize your proposal from a technical point of view. .

How is a PRD Used?

In the case of software products, engineers and designers use PRDs to assess the product’s viability and real-world potential. In their attempt to validate the PRDs claims, they scrutinize the PRD for incomplete, ambiguous, or contradictory requirements in the following areas:

  • Functionality
  • Usability
  • Interaction
  • Support

In their analysis, they will take into account assumptions about the product’s capabilities, as well as its potential constraints and dependencies. PRDs also help determine cost, as well as a timeline for product completion. Once it is properly vetted, it will move onto the next phase of the software development process, design and construction.

A bridge between marketers and engineers, a Product Requirements Document is one of the most important tools in any marketing strategy. Your big idea might just be the next unicorn, but without a PRD, your marketing efforts are over before they began.

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