X
insights
< Back

Five Common Product Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

July 25, 2018

This post was originally published here on July 12, 2018.

“Very few startups die from competition. Most die because they fail to make something users love.”
– Sam Altman, President of Y Combinator

Amanda Richardson, Chief Strategy Officer of HotelTonight, used this insight to kick off her presentation, “Five Things You Are Doing to Destroy Your Product” at the 2018 Mainsail Executive Summit. Her list of five common product mistakes included a lack of defined vision and a lack of useful metrics, but there was one mistake that resonated loudest: “Using Features to Chase Deals.”

Problem #1: Using Features to Chase Deals

The problem: It is all too easy to offer one-off features as incentives to close a coveted deal. In fact, offering them may even feel like you’re investing in building a robust product. However, unless those features are important to your core users, they can be seriously detrimental to the growth of your product and the success of your customer base. Satisfying the one large whale will most likely take significantly more engineering, product and support resources than you think and will shift focus away from your core users. It can also lead to a bloated product, capable of doing everything for everyone, but doing it poorly, versus building a targeted user experience designed for specific use cases.

The fix: “Bring your client into the conversation,” says Amanda. Rather than saying yes to all the new features a big prospect wants, she suggests inviting them to your Customer Advisory Council and using the Council as a platform through which key users can share and debate ideas. “These users will gain a sense of prestige and empowerment as they access other leaders in the industry and get to have input; your product team will gain a constant feedback loop with real-time use-cases.”

In addition to “Using Features to Chase Deals,” Amanda presented four other common product mistakes. With each product trap, she offered a solution for digging a way out.

Problem #2: You Have No Vision or Destination

The problem: You’re not committed to a market or a use-case. Rather, you want to be able to serve anyone, to be open to “the next big thing”, or you’ve never really defined your product’s vision and roadmap.

The fix: Become clear on 1) what market you serve and 2) why a customer should pick your solution over a competitor. Along the way, set milestones to validate or disprove that you’re headed in the right direction.

Problem #3: You Pay Attention to “Unique Users”

The problem: You’re building features based on input from a vocal non-core customer (that one customer in a different industry, your friend who is also a customer, etc.)

The fix: Test new features with users from your target market before you build them. Then, when “unique” users request bespoke development that won’t serve the core, use the feedback from target customers to justify why that development might not be a priority.

Problem #4: You Don’t Know Your Product Metrics

The problem: You’re celebrating outputs (launches) instead of outcomes (customer engagement or revenue).

The fix: Track and celebrate metrics that reflect customer value or business progress. Make and review planned features based on their potential to move metrics.

Problem #5: You Go Big or Go Home

The problem: You keep product plans a secret until launch, or resist sharing “partially completed” work.

The fix: Increase the odds that you’ll get it right by getting feedback and iterating along the way. Test assumptions early to be more confident you’re heading in the right direction.

The views, opinions, beliefs, conclusions, and other information expressed in this material is not given, verified, or endorsed by Square 1 Bank, a division of Pacific Western Bank. Instead, this material is solely the work of the author, and represents his views, opinions, beliefs, conclusions, and other information he wishes to present, in all cases without any manner of endorsement from or verification by Square 1 Bank, a division of Pacific Western Bank.

This material, including without limitation the statistical information herein, is provided for informational purposes only. The material is based in part upon information from third-party sources that the author believes to be reliable, but which has not been independently verified by the author or Square 1 Bank, a division of Pacific Western Bank, and, as such, we do not represent that the information is accurate or complete. The information should not be viewed as tax, investment, legal, or other advice, nor is it to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. You should obtain relevant and specific professional advice before making any investment decision. Nothing relating to this material should be construed as a solicitation, offer, or recommendation to acquire or dispose of any investment, or to engage in any other transaction.

All material presented, unless specifically indicated otherwise, is under copyright to the author or Square 1 Bank, a division of Pacific Western Bank, and is for informational purposes only. None of the material, nor its content, nor any copy of it, may be altered in any way, transmitted to, copied, or distributed to any other party, without the prior express written permission of Square 1 Bank, a division of Pacific Western Bank or the author. All trademarks, service marks, and logos used in this material are trademarks, service marks, or registered trademarks of Square 1 Bank, a division of Pacific Western Bank.

Square 1 Bank is a division of Pacific Western Bank, member FDIC.

Secure email message: Your privacy is important to us. To protect your account information, we use Zixcorp Secure Mail to send and receive messages about your accounts. If you need to contact us securely, please use the Secure Email link on the Get in Touch page in the top navigation.

© 2005-2018 Square 1 Bank, a division of Pacific Western Bank. Member FDIC. All rights reserved.