Rapid Growth

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How to know what product feature you should build next

Dharmesh Raithatha

Product Partner @ Forward Partners

You’ve built an early version of your product and the core flow is in place. You have early adopters that really like what you are doing and you want to start growing. You have validated your idea and built a product that is valued. You are getting lots of requests for new features and there are a number of ways that you could develop the product to get to a valuable business. This guide gives some ideas of how you should think about what to build next.

Key takeaways

  1. Use data analytics to inform your product development strategy and timeline.

  2. Data alone won’t give you all the information you need. Data can tell you what is happening but rarely gives you why it is happening. That is why continuing to engage with your customers is crucial.

  3. Your product team, especially the technical team, should never be siloed from your customers.

  4. Visualising your customer’s relationship with your product by using a storyboard or user journey can be enlightening.

1. Make sure you have good data analytics in place

Hopefully you are already collecting meaningful data about your products usage and your customers behaviours with tools like Google analytics and Mixpanel. If you are not, then I strongly suggest that you prioritise this work before doing anything else. Now that you have your core product built you need to make sure that you are using data to help you decide what to do next and to assess the effectiveness of any new changes.

2. Build in a culture of continuous user feedback loops

Data alone won’t give you all the information you need. Data can tell you what is happening but rarely gives you why it is happening. That is why continuing to engage with your customers is crucial.  Some founders mistakenly stop talking to customers at this stage. They are so busy building the company and think that the product discovery stage is over. The best founders know that the opposite is true and that they have to build a culture of customer engagement across the whole company if they want to succeed.

To do this you can start with automatically measuring NPS so you have a customer metric on how well your product is doing and some regular feedback on what you can do to improve it.

I love tools like Intercom which allow your customers to contact you while on your site, records all conversations and allows you to send automated emails asking for their feedback. Even if Intercom isn’t relevant to your product, you can always find a way to create this customer contact. The more savvy mobile games developers will have a website and a forum that allows fans of the game to talk about new features they would like get feedback.

Don’t hesitate in offering a gift or discount in exchange for a 30 minute call or testing session. You can always gain some insight either on their experience or something new you are working on.

Lastly, make sure that whoever is in direct contact with your customers is sharing that knowledge back into the product team. Their job is not to just to make a customer happy but to share the information so that everyone can think about how they can improve the product to solve or avoid that problem for everyone.

3. Maximise your product team to get better ideas

Your product team, especially the technical team, should never be siloed from your customers.  The more your team can have contact with the customers, the better their understanding and empathy with them, which means they can contribute ideas to make a more meaningful product. Your development team are not just there to write the code you want. At this stage when you are looking for opportunities they have a much better understanding of what is possible so give them as much information as you can to generate great ideas. This includes data and dashboards, results from user interviews and customer support queries.

4. Create a customer storyboard to identify larger opportunities

Generating ideas off the back of customer queries will often just surface the problems that they can clearly articulate. It won’t identify new opportunities for how you can really exceed their expectations and push the product forward.

One technique for helping with this is to visualise your customer’s relationship with your product using a storyboard or user journey. AirBnB executed on this really well through a storyboard created by a Disney artist to visualise both the hosts and guests experience. Because the story was based around the customer’s actual life it became easy to see that there were many offline interactions when booking a place to stay. This helped the whole team to really see how important it was to develop the mobile product.

5. Use data to identify where there is a big opportunity for improvement

The data you have collected for your product is also a goldmine for identifying what to build next. Look at funnel conversions (whether for transaction or onboarding flows) to see where people are dropping off. If you see a big drop from one step to another then you might want to focus on improving in that area.

 

Segmentation allows you to see the behaviour of different customer segments. For example, you might ask what actions engaged customers have taken and then find ways to encourage others to do the same. Facebook famously identified that users that had “7 friends in 10 days” would rarely leave the platform so they improved the product so that more people could get to that point as fast as possible.

Cohort data can also be invaluable as you can see how you audience is changing over time, whether you are losing customers and whether your product is improving for newer customers or getting worse.

 

Essentially once you have lots of data you should be poring over it to look for clues for where people are struggling (or doing really well) and then combining by this talking to real customers to identify the reasons and generate new insights.

6. Use “the one metric that matters” to prioritise features

Now that you have a steady stream of ideas, insights, opportunities and customer needs to satisfy, you need to have a system that lets you identify the most important one to tackle.

If you are a small product team then the best thing to do is to focus on a specific metric for a period of time and do everything you can to impact that number. As your team grows you might split your teams on particular themes like acquisition, retention or revenue.

It can take some thought to choose the right metric to focus on but once you have a metric that you want to move then you can prioritise features by the amount of impact it might have and by the amount of effort it will take.

You can do this in a spreadsheet, or use something like ProdPad. It is a great tool for capturing lots of ideas and then generating the impact/effort chart to identify the big impact and quick wins that you might want to focus on.

7. Prioritise features by identifying delighters and basic needs

Another way to prioritise features is by using a technique called the Kano method. The Kano method provides us a way to think about ideas according to whether they satisfy a basic need, whether they are a delighter or whether they are somewhere in the murky middle. The idea is that you want to build features that meet basic needs or create delight. Ideas that are in the middle you should avoid as they don’t really make much difference to the customers experience. For example, if you were building a hotel, your customers have a basic need for hot water and would be delighted with their free champagne when they enter their room. Once the need for hot water is met it is difficult to see how you can improve this in anyway (for example using spring water) that will cause delight so these features are best avoided.

8. Ensure that the new feature is actually making things better

Once you have decided what to build, use prototyping to get some early feedback and, if you can, A/B test the feature or soft launch it to make sure that it will have a positive impact. If you don’t have enough users to run a timely A/B test you can just ask 10+ users how they feel about the new feature as a quick gauge. The point is that you can’t assume that your great idea may not actually work.

Dharmesh Raithatha

Product Partner @ Forward Partners

Dharmesh is Product Partner at Forward Partners and helps founders the've backed go from ideas to a great products and businesses. He has a passion for User Research, Lean UX and using data to inform decision making. Dharmesh has a background in artificial intelligence and has been doing product for over 12 years in his own or other high profile startups.

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