Is your company a feature factory?

One of the most insidious problems I see in software startups is the thinking that cranking out more features is important. This may or may not be true.

Yes, features are the building blocks of a great product that customers love. But not just any features. You need the right, killer features to resonate with a large customer base. This may be stating the obvious but it amazes me how many founders don’t do their homework and define what success looks like before they invest in building a product.

Most founders know that to grow their business they need a compelling story that resonates in their market and a product that fulfills a significant, pervasive need. If they want to attract investment, any credible investor will focus on these two elements. The savviest founders will spend significant resources on answering why a certain capability is worth developing first. It is an existential question that can make or break the company.

One of the main obstacles to understanding your niche is that it takes work. Diligent work over a significant amount of time. Potential clients don’t always know what their problems are, or they cannot articulate what they are. Or they may say one thing on record and act an entirely different way when it comes time to shell out money.

So the path of least resistance for many startups is to use intuition. Since the founder has deep industry knowledge and insight, they figure this is enough to get traction. They find out the hard way that their rolodex of industry contacts and customers only goes so far. They thought that they had product/market fit but at some point their sales stall or their renewal rate tanks. They can’t get over the proverbial “chasm” of growth.

According to Product Management influencer Saeed Khan, focusing on “Product Success” factors is a good place to start. Each product will have its own strategic goals. The ideal customer segment is likely to have very different triggers than anything else you know about. Some of these insights may be obvious but many others come into view only after you spend time with measurement and testing. You don’t know what you don’t know. By establishing a smart analytics approach to understanding customer behavior you can measure and make informed decisions based on actual behavior rather than guesswork. Surveys, interviews, customer huddles, digital tracking, hypothesis testing and A/B testing may all be important but they take considerable time, expertise and effort.

This approach is the foundation for a successful product. By using good agile and product management practices, you can continually learn from your clients and potential customers. What you learn from a data-driven approach yields many positive results on your product. When you have a product that is shaped by your customers' biggest pervasive pains, then it shows up in your sales. When sales are moving it cures most of your growth issues.

Now, will you be a Feature Factory or execute a well-thought-out, diligently understood product?

The fixed workings of a machine may not be optimal for continuous learning