Include differentiators, not just the most-requested features

If you want to be a bad product manager, just deliver the most-requested features. You need to be “customer focused” and provide features that customers want. Survey your customers, tally up the most-requested features, and provide those. Don’t bother wasting your time on things that aren’t mentioned as important by customers or are ranked lower. If those were important features on which to concentrate, they would have been rated as more important in your research. If you just focus on the aspects of the product that are ranked highest when you survey your customers, how can you go wrong?

If you want to be a good product manager, identify compelling differentiators to include in your product. Every product needs to provide a certain basic set of benefits, but the best products solve unmet needs that customers could never have expressed. If you just build the most requested features, your product will likely not be solving any different problems than your competition nor solving them better.

Over on Hitchhiker’s Guide to 650, Will Hsu describes this as Competing at the Margins

In many industries, especially online given the low barriers to entry, hyper competition has commoditized almost any “idea” that one can come up with. … EVERYONE will have the 5 features your customers said they wanted. … At the margin is where the winner and loser are determined. The marginal features will determine the success and failure of a product: a simple registration process, a neat little feature, the ability to customize workflow . . . whatever it might be

— and provides a perfect example:

EVERYONE will tell you that good breaks are needed for a car . . . but close to NO ONE will tell you the 20 little things you need to outsell BMW.

When designing a new product or improving an existing product, you will likely need to include many of those “features your customers said they wanted,” since those are expected by customers and can be treated essentially as a cost of doing business — brakes on a car, volume control on a TV set, online bill pay for an online banking application. Your product development should not end there, though. Identify those features “at the margin” that can differentiate your product and provide real value for the customer. The more unique and beneficial those features are and the less likely they are to be copied by competitors, the more rewarding they will be for both your customers and your product.

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One thought on “Include differentiators, not just the most-requested features

  1. I like to think about POP/POD:
    Points of Parity – what features you need to compete in that market

    Points of Difference – what your product has that’s different.

    I think you need a vision for your product which will give you ideas from customers (many falling into POP) and ideas from you and the organisation which will give you your future innovation and PODs. If you have no PODs your product will not be sustainable in the medium term.

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