Product leader Sharon Feldstein talks about building nice-to-have products and features as our main product offering – why we need to avoid it, especially in times of financial uncertainty.
Is this going to be another post about the importance of the value your product gives to the users? Absolutely. And why? Because in times of uncertainty, like the recession that we are currently facing, it’s those must-have products that will survive, and you need to make sure you are leading your company and product to that place.
Finding your core value feature
Think about the following scenario: You are working on a new product, the signals from the market look promising and you think you are on to something really big. So you start building your MVP, but when you do the market validation, you find out that your product is just nice. It gives some value but not a lot, and your potential users might use it, but they can do without it. Oh.
What sometimes happens in this case, is that companies start to expand their offering around this “nice to have” use case, and add more features to it, hoping that something will catch.
In most cases, it will not.
It’s really important to remember that in the case of value, having many nice-to-have features do not equal one must-have feature. You need to build your product around this one thing that you know is extremely valuable and users will be willing to pay for. Only then do you expand your offering to try and find new ways to generate value for your users. You need to understand what your core value is – something that when pitching to your targeted personas, they immediately understand, and you don’t need to work hard to explain how this can be beneficial for them.
If you haven’t found this core value feature, you need to keep looking. You may want to redefine your value proposition, find a new use case, or target a different persona that this product might give value to. I’ve seen many startups that have started building their product thinking that they will give value to one persona. However they end up selling their product to a different persona that found value in it. Many other startups think that they found their killer feature, only to pivot to a different use case that really solved a pain for their targeted clients.
I was in the same situation when working in a startup company. We had a product that was selling well and providing value to our users, and we wanted to expand to new markets. We started marketing and selling this product to new types of personas, thinking that they would gain the same value. The problem was that it wasn’t as valuable to them as we thought it would be. To counter this,we started developing small features to sweeten the deal, however we ended up investing many product and development resources into building a product that was just “nice to have”. In the end, we decided it was no longer valuable to the company to continue with this direction., Instead, we returned to focus on the persona we knew it was valuable to, while continuing our market research – searching for new expansion opportunities.
Why do many nice-to-have features are not enough?
Let’s talk about building nice-to-have features as our main product, and why I think we should avoid it:
The most important reason is that your hold in the client’s organization (for B2B products) or on the user itself (for B2C products) is just not strong enough – when departments are asked to cut their budget, it’s those kinds of products that will be cut first. When there’s new management in the organization you’d need to explain to them why your product is necessary, and if you fail to do so they will churn, and in general, you don’t have really strong evangelists for your product in the organization to promise that you will be able to retain the customer and to expand your offering there.
Can you sell such a product? Yes. Should it be your main line of business? No.
We need better certainty.
Most of us probably experienced this when the pandemic hit the world back in 2020 – I think about the actions the company I was working at took – We invested in tools that offered solutions for better team communication – Zoom, a new HR system and a remote learning platform. The rest of the systems and tools, we had to examine and try to cut – only the most needed ones remained- so we switched our BI platform to one that offered a better value for money for us, we didn’t want to pay extra for features that were not necessary (yes, transitioning to a new system is not trivial and required resources, but it was still worth it). We were paying both for a ticketing management system and a Project Management system, though we could have fit all our processes into the Ticketing Management system – so we stayed only with it.
The Project Management system was good, but it was nice-to-have for us. Overall, we took a thorough approach to reviewing our tools and processes, resulting in increased efficiency and cost savings. This is something we had to do, which meant that we only kept those tools that provided great (and demonstrable) value for us.
Cost for your organization
Developing many nice-to-have features also have a negative impact on your organization – It means that you are probably not working with a clear product strategy and it usually means that you are supporting many different flows without a clear value proposition. It impairs the ability of the Sales team to do their job, the Product team to delight the customers and continue to give them value, and the R&D to build a proper infrastructure that would serve the product needs.
Making hard decisions
If this situation is familiar to you, and you feel that you are working on many nice-to-have features, it is time to stop and rethink your product.
You have to give yourself and your team enough time to do proper market research, user discovery sessions, and to invest in your learning until you find your core-value feature.
It is OK to run experiments that will help you understand the potential value of a feature, but once you start building it and selling it, the value has to be clear to everybody (internally and externally) in order for the product to be successful.
As Product Leaders, it is our job to make sure that we always understand what are we building and why –
- Do a proper validation for new ideas before and after you start developing them
- Understand the value that you give to your users:
- How does your solution fit with their day-2-day?
- Is it a must-have for them? What would they do if they didn’t have it?
- How much time do we save them by having it, or do we give them access to an ability they could not have had before?
- If your product is not valuable enough, continue to research until you find a way to give user value, even if it means to target a new persona, or to do a pivot and work on new use cases.
- And as always – continue with the learning process, even after you have found your core-value feature, you have to stay alert to the changes in the market and find new ways to delight your customers to remain competitive and relevant.