Deciding new Products, Services or Features

tunedinThis week I received Tuned In from Pragmatic Marketing.

I'm about a third of the way through the book right now and enjoying it. There are a lot of hands-on examples of how business hubris has lead them down the path of poor decisions because they weren't ‘Tuned In' to their prospects. By not figuring out what their prospects needed, the companies were launching products, services or features that were stinkers.

With the advent of social media and the web, I think there's a balance when you're deciding new products, services, or features, though, that extends beyond the prospect. Now that the customer is a strong marketing medium, you need to pay attention to them as well. The book inspired this post.

Here's the approach that I take to deciding the priority for new products, services or features where I work:

  • What's Sticky? In other words, what am I developing that is going to improve customer retention? If you're a SaaS vendor, for instance, do you have an API? API's are fantastic because they require less code, less support, and they require an internal investment by your customer to integrate with your product.
  • What's Sensational? Some products, services, or features are worth their weight because of the impact they will have in the industry. One great example of this is Mobile ordering for restaurants. While major pizza outlets still only get 10% of their sales online, now they've invested in mobile.

    The investment will most likely be a business loser because the user experience through a phone sucks. However, they had to race to market with the solution so they can get the hype. The newest hype is widgets.

    Sidenote: I do believe mobile ordering and widgets will have their day – but will be totally redeveloped over time as technology improves. These businesses invested in these now because of the buzz and the indirect business – not the direct business results.

  • What's WOM-worthy? Your customers are organizing on and offline. Employees tend to stick to industries but move to different companies. That means that Word Of Mouth marketing is important and your business needs to look at it as an opportunity. If you create a product, service or feature that your customers go bananas over, you better believe they are telling other folks in the industry about it!
  • What's Salesworthy? This is largely the idea behind what I've read thus far in Tuned In. This is the biggest factor in growing your business – your product, service or feature has to fill a business need. In other words, by purchasing your product – the benefit to my business outweighs the cost. If there's no need there, you're probably not going to succeed. Selling ice to Eskimos is only a myth.

Any of these factors might supersede another. At times, we've developed new features simply at the demand of very large prospects. It was a gamble, but we recognized that the investment would pay off even if we didn't snag that particular client. I believe that a great roadmap should have all four of these initiatives in it.

What do you think?

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