Startups - take note: Sometimes More Features Aren't Better
“The real reason we’re not successful or getting a bunch of sales, is because we’re missing feature X, Y and Z! Add them immediately!”
I’ve worked in enough start-ups (and own a minority stake in one myself) to tell you that the above is a common thought process. But I don’t know why. Let me tell you straight out:
Do not add more features.
Let me break it down - here’s what happens.
You want to increase revenue or your product isn’t selling. Increasing revenue is one thing - but when it gets really scary is when your product isn’t selling. You see it as amazing - why isn’t everyone else?
You get “helpful” feedback - that isn’t really that helpful. “If your product had feature X, then we would be interested.” Or, “We compared a lot of products, but found that Competitor Z had a better offering.”
You rehash your product, adding more features, trying to please the little bit of feedback you have - or trying to satisfy everyone.
This is common - but this is wrong. Don’t add more features (yet).
Let’s consider why you might be failing to achieve sales.
A) You’re going after the wrong customer. Sometimes you might not know that they’re the wrong customer - but if you do get a chance to get turned down, study that rejection. When you hear things like “it just doesn’t” or “we’re considering,” it might be that you’re focusing on the wrong type of customer.
B) Your product has the wrong features or is addressing the wrong problem. If you have a customer base, see how many are using it as designed - and how many are maybe stressing the system or doing things that weren’t planned for. This might give you an idea that you’re not addressing the right problem. And don’t get this confused - adding more solutions to a product is not the same thing as addressing the right problem.
What can you do?
That’s the million dollar question - but the steps are simple.
First, consider your sales process. So many times I see more features being added to a product as a panacea - when the real problem is the sales material or cycle.
Perhaps the sales material isn’t as clear as it needs to be. And guess what, it’s almost impossible to test different sales material if you’re constantly adding/changing features in your product.
You might also review your sales engineering process. If you have to ask what is that - then you already are losing ground to your competitors. How much effort are you putting into making sure your demos and your pitches are focused toward the particular customer you’re targeting. If you’re using the same slide deck, the same demo site for everyone, you might be alienating some of your prime customers.
Get your technical staff involved with the sales process. Have them help you with your tools, creating demo sites, and the processes. (Even though they might be programmers, they still have a lot of sales experience. They sold you themselves during the hiring process!)
After every demo or by watching site analytics, you should be making tweaks to your sales material. What are people responding to, what are they shying away from. And again, this is not the same thing as adding more features - its more akin to this magic word:
You might need to pivot your product.
I get it - you’ve spent a lot of money getting the product to where it is - but you’ve learned a lot, too. That sunk cost you just have to let go of. Time to pivot to what the market is asking for.
Throwing out a lot of the work might seem counter productive - but you did learn something from it. Its a gamble, but so is the product and the company, right? Business is a gamble. Get rid of the non-working stuff, don’t just keep it around. Cut the fat, and get to making money! Don’t just add more features!