Everybody loves a good feature, but exceptional product managers know that executing great care throughout every feature’s lifecycle is key to owning a feature set that rocks.
The following is just a taste of our free eBook “Product Features: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” Read it to learn how to improve existing products by strategically adding new features and functionalities.
Targeting High-Interest, High-Value Features
As a product manager, you get feature requests from a variety of sources. You probably hear suggestions from customers, your engineering team, your customer support team, the sales team, and other stakeholders on a regular basis.
It may be tempting to throw out some suggestions right away, but try to give each one careful consideration or risk overlooking a worthwhile idea. On the flip side, a lot of suggestions can add up to overwhelming noise; it’s up to you to filter through that noise and listen for the signal — that is, the most relevant feature requests.
Think carefully about your product — it was created to fill a gap or meet a need. At its core, what is the primary goal or function of the product? Does the new feature idea help your product achieve that goal more effectively? Your product doesn’t need to do everything, but it does need to do at least one thing very well. Skip the catch-all, Swiss-Army-Knife approach and keep product features in line with your primary objective.
Saying “No” to Feature Requests
Although you may have dozens of good ideas flowing in from your coworkers and customers, you can’t say “Yes” to every feature. Your budget for feature development isn’t endless, and if your product has too many features, your users will become overwhelmed by dreaded “feature bloat.” Learn how to say “No,” since you may have to say it a lot.
When saying “no” to customers, make sure to acknowledge and thank them for their request while explaining why, in general terms, you won’t be proceeding with a suggested feature.
When you have to say no to internal stakeholders, give a brief, clear, and kind explanation. Go back to the original vision and purpose of the product to justify your decision. With your in-house team, you should be more specific and provide data to validate your decision.
Developing and Launching Features
Once a feature makes its way onto your roadmap and your team begins development, be sure that you’re sharing all significant data. Your team should know why customers want and (more importantly) need the feature and how they would use it. They should also understand how the feature fits in with the product’s overarching goals, so that they can stay on track during the development phase.
You should be gathering feedback throughout the building process. If you can, bring in real, live users for usability testing early in the feature’s development to get their first-hand input. Once the feature has been developed, you should take some time to polish it — do some additional testing and check and double-check its functionality. Have the marketing department weigh in and suggest tiny tweaks that might make the feature more appealing to customers. While you’ll probably be eager to roll out the feature, a premature launch could do more harm than good.
Just before you launch the new feature, provide training for your support staff, sales reps, marketing team, and everyone else in your company. Whether or not they are interfacing with customers on a daily basis, all of your employees should understand the new feature and how to use it. Make sure that your colleagues have the chance to play around with the new feature themselves, on the clock, so that they feel comfortable with it and are excited to promote it to customers.
Saving a Failing Feature
In spite of your efforts, you may occasionally have features that flop. With the right customer connections, you can save a failing feature.
Suppose your target market asked you for a specific feature, and then didn’t seem interested when you rolled it out. Reach out to them and remind them that they were interested in this type of feature. Ask them to check it out and let you know what they like and what they would change. This way, you can alert them to the presence of the new feature, in case they missed it at launch— plus, you’ll get some honest feedback that will help you make changes to the feature as needed.
Publish some tutorials and informative videos that show customers how the product feature can make their lives better. If you’re charging extra for the new feature, offer a free trial or test so your customers can check it out risk-free and then pay for it if they like it and want to keep using it.
Occasionally, you may have a feature that is really dragging your product down. You have tried to save it, and nothing is working. Your customers just don’t like it. Don’t be afraid to cut out a feature that is ruining your product’s effectiveness and spoiling your positive connection with consumers. Kill the dead weight, and your product should float back to the top again.
To learn more about managing your product features successfully, download our eBook “Product Features: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”