Product management fundamentals: The next feature fallacy

Joshua Porter writes:

When your product is growing and ramping up new customers, it’s easier to focus on new compelling features that increase engagement.  It’s also easier to ignore dissatisfaction with the increasing base of existing customers because your growth rate exceeds your churn.

Things start to fall apart though when your growth starts slowing down.  It’s easier to focus on new exciting features that you think will turn back the tide and you fall into what is mentioned above.  It makes sense in hindsight–you and your team are used to the pace and cadence that comes with new feature development. The problem though is that the reach of the feature becomes smaller over time. Features that assume a specific level of engagement will, more often than not, fall flat because discovery of the feature will never be 100%.  If you’re lucky, it will reduce churn.  It will not increase growth.

Lifting up the covers and opening up the closet often reveals things like dust bunnies and skeletons.  No one, and I mean no one, likes to work with that stuff, but it’s a necessary part of building a great product or service.

Andrew Chen writes a great response to the tweet entitled, “The Next Feature Fallacy: The fallacy that the next new feature will suddenly make people use your product“.  It’s a great read and I especially like this quote:

How to pick the next feature
Picking the features that bend the curve requires a strong understanding of your user lifecycle.

First and foremost is maximizing the reach of your feature, so it impacts the most people. It’s a good rule of thumb that the best features often focus mostly on non-users and casual users, with the reason that there’s simply many more of them. A small increase in the front of the tragic curve can ripple down benefits to the rest of it. This means the landing page, onboarding sequence, and the initial out-of-box product experience are critical, and usually don’t get enough attention.

It’s a great read.

Concentrate on the things that matter.  Fix the stuff affecting the majority of your customers today.  Get your analytics up and running so that you understand your customer life cycle.  Most importantly of all, make sure that everything you do continues to drive towards the vision you have for your product (and it’s okay to change and pivot if you really have to).