Features don’t sell products. And often, if your product isn’t selling, it’s because you need to remove some features.
Think about the last time you downloaded an app, used it for five minutes, and then deleted it. Would you redownload it today if someone told you they pushed an update that included social sharing? Guessing no.
Or the last time you bought a car. Did you buy it just because it had seat warmers? Or was keeping your butt toasty an added bonus that came with the vehicle that best met your need to get from point A to point B?
Customers aren’t looking for features. They are looking for solutions to a problem, and your entire product or service must solve that core problem. Features can, at best, solve a subsection of a problem, but once you start down the road of “wouldn’t it be cool if…” you’re no longer dealing with the big issue.
This is most true before you have a product/market fit. In the early stages of any startup, all anyone will talk about is the MVP — minimum viable product. The MVP is the purest and simplest implementation of your solution to a given problem, where the one thing you need doing gets done.
What you’ll hear less about, but what you should hear just as much, if not more, is MVM — minimum viable market. For any given problem, there are a number of people who have that problem in slightly different ways. When creating your customer personas, you’ll find that each one will have different MVP needs to solve their problem. Your job is to find the largest group of people with the same needs, and build your MVP for them. From there, features are the way you expand the solution to additional groups of customers with slightly different needs.
Key point: this only happens AFTER you have sold the first, largest group of customers. If you do it before, when your product doesn’t solve anyone’s problems or isn’t selling, adding features can make it even worse. If you’ve built something that doesn’t solve a problem, features won’t matter. If you’ve built a solution, but you can’t sell it, adding more features just prolongs and adds complexity to the product or service.
So let’s say you have a product or service you’d like to sell — if you’re reading this, hopefully you do — and you’re having trouble acquiring customers. First of all, welcome to the club, your membership card is in the mail. Not really. But kind of.
More seriously, if you find yourself in this situation, your first consideration should be REMOVING features. If you have a product that no one’s using, but you know it solves a problem they all have, more often than not it’s because you have too many features. The problem you’re solving is getting obscured, either when you try to explain how it works, or when customers try to figure out how to use it.
Stripping features helps you get straight to the point. Every founder should be able to say, “My product does X,” and X should not be a rambling list of options your customer may or may not need. X should be a solution to a problem that creates value. A valuable solution to a problem is what sells products.
One last note about features: I actually hate the word “feature.” Features are just another word for functionality, but when you think about them in that way, it forces you to tie the feature to an intended outcome. When you are able to describe not only what you need, but also why, you’re adding functionality — and value — to your product or service, rather than just a random feature. It’s the difference between a user story (as a customer, I want to be able to filter search results in order to identify the best options based on my criteria) and a task (add filtering to search).
And if you don’t believe me, open up your Instagram account. Can you share someone else’s post yet? No? There ya go.