3 reasons your feature development is going off course and how to fix it.

Prioritizing feature development for your application is ULTRA important, but chances are you're falling into one of these traps that is taking you off course and may tank your company. 

Trap #1 - Steve Jobs incarnate has founded your company.

Having a strong vision for your product is important, but listening to customer feedback and data is more important.  If your founder's "vision" for the product is the only thing driving its feature development it's probably going to fail.  Your founder's vision and reality distortion field were super important in getting you this far but now it's time to listen to your customers.  

Trap #2 - Your sales team is not providing you with useful customer feedback. 

Your sales team is likely your closest link to your customers and they need to be delivering customer feedback to your dev/product team.   As a CEO/Founder you need to make it crystal clear that anything they hear makes it back to you, if a sale is blocked because of a feature missng you need to know about it.  There is one caveat though....this can't become a crutch or excuse for sales so any feedback on features needs to be carefully gathered and confirmed.  I suggest using this list of 3 Bulletproof Feature Confirmation questions I have developed. 

Trap #3 - There is no one dedicated to the product management role. 

To my developer friends out there I love you, but there is no damn way I would let you drive feature development on your own.   Your urge to solve problems and knock off bugs is too great. When developers are left completely in charge of feature development (this also assumes little to no customer feedback) great things happen just not the things that need to happen in order to keep the company afloat.  I'm sure all of you out there know what I mean, some times a problem is just too sexy to leave alone and we end up working on it even though we should have been doing something else.  The same goes for a strong willed visionary company founder, a good product manager will be there to keep everyone in check and sort out what needs to be done when.

Business needs MUST drive product development. 


How to: The number one pricing strategy for a new app or service.

It was Back in 1875 that a newspaper called the Chicago Daily news first became responsible for the .99 cent pricing strategy we see in use everywhere today.  Since then we've been trying to figure out new strategies for the incredibly complex problem of price.  Just how people assess the value of a product or service isn't completely understood yet.  To make matters worse, there are a myriad of factors that can influence a customers perception of value all of which completely take the logic out of the buying decision. (anchoring, .99 centing, packaging ).  With that said it can be a nightmare trying to figure out pricing. 

Luckily as an app developer you can do things with your product and price most hard goods retailers can't....A/B TEST infinite price & feature variations of it. 

As a startup, there is no excuse for you to sit on a fixed set of prices and features without testing different variations of them.   Sadly though, I see many developers do this.  The reasons and excuses vary but none of them hold any water.  Just for fun though let's try out a few.

Excuse 1: If we lower/raise our price, our current customers will get angry and cancel their accounts.

Reality: It's not likely many will even notice.  Even so, are you willing to risk your companies entire future because you were too scared of pissing off a handful of customers so that you could find a pricing strategy that worked at scale?

Excuse 2: It's going to take a lot of work to change the pricing in our app or on our website. 

Reality: Well first off you didn't build your app right or you are using the wrong ecommerce tools and this is a BIG problem that should get addressed. That said, you can always test by setting up a mock page and measuring clicks to plans. 

Excuse 3: We've set our prices according to our competitors. 

Reality: Who cares. Your competitors aren't you.  How users perceive your app/service versus theirs is an unknown so how can you use the same pricing?  Maybe your customers think you are better, maybe worse. The only way to know this is to TEST YOUR PRICING!

To update the quote in a favorite sales movie of mine ALWAYS BE TESTING!

If you want to learn more about advanced feature and price testing or have me devise a strategy for you please contact me here

Growth Hack: Remove the free trial from your apps cheapest price tier.

The last time you signed up to try a new app or service think about which planned you picked.   You probably picked the cheapest plan or tier available........even if EVERY plan had a free trial. Why did you do that?  The cheapest plan is usually missing all the good stuff and cool features in the pricier tiers, so didn't you just cheat yourself out of a better experience with that app?  

Actually you didn't,  it was the developer that just cheated you out of a better experience with his app by offering free trials on all his plans. 

Because new users have no experience with your app they can't assign a monetary value to it, so they default to the cheapest price you offer.  So how do we thwart this natural tendency? 

Remove the free trial from your bottom tier and make it a buy now!

In any of my experience with companies that have done this, not one of them have suffered adversely from this practice, in fact it's been the opposite.  Because the customer's first experience with our app is on one of our better plans they enjoy it more and value it higher.  

Want to see this in action?  Check out Zendesks pricing page. 

Your B2B app rocks so why isn't anyone buying it? (a choose your own adventure story)

 Kim is the CEO of a B2B app development company.  He and his team have just finished creating a new SaaS product that lays waste to the competition.  Their investors are stoked and the future seems bright.  Months ago during a planning session they decided to target Enterprise Financial Institutions as their primary customers.  If they close just one of these institutions they'll have enough MRR to be breakeven. (insert woots and beers)

The team sets out contacting potential customers but as weeks and months go by they have yet to close one deal.  Everyone seems to like the product and agrees it's a game changer but no one is pulling out their chequebooks.   They have 2 more months of cash and then it's game over. 

Choose one of the options below if you think you know why they are failing.  







1. It's an issue with the industry they picked - Kim and the team decide to give up on the Finance vertical go with Oil and Gas.   That's fine with them as O&G companies are huge and represent a massive opportunity themselves.  With this decided everyone on the team gets to work again.  The marketing team revamps the website and marketing collateral, dev makes some tweaks to the app's language and interface and the CEO presents the new plan to the investors.  Once again the team hits the road/keyboards and starts trying to sell the app.  Great conversations are had, people get excited, chickens are counted but no deals are closed.   In less than 2 months they run out of money and the startup is dead.  

Go back and try again. 

2. The app still needs more work.  Kim and the team decide there must be something missing in the app.  Maybe it's the interface or one of the features they've been putting off developing due to the cost involved.  With nothing too lose everyone gets excited and goes back to the drawing board.  The interface is refreshed and slicker than ever and 3 new features are added in less than 2 weeks.  The app is now more complete than it ever has been and it looks like nothing will stand in their way. Once again the team hits the road/keyboards and starts trying to sell the app.  Great conversations are had, people get excited, chickens are counted but no deals are closed.   In less than 1 month they run out of money and the startup is dead. 

Go back and try again. 












3. They picked the wrong customer.   Kim's team had created an amazing app and there was nothing wrong with the industries they were trying to sell into.   What they didn't give thought to was the psychology of the person they were trying to sell to.  They were the new kid on the block in an industry dominated by an "old boys" club of applications.  The executives they spoke too saw more risk than reward in trying their app.  Imagine the director of technology at JP Morgan telling his CIO that they were going to ditch using IBM's application in favour of a much better built app by 5 unknown guys in Vancouver?  No matter how much better it was there's no way he was going to risk it.  If this is sounding a little like Jeffrey Moore's Crossing the Chasm that's good because it supposed to.  Understanding corporate sales psychology is paramount to a startups success.  As a startup you are going to have to pay your dues by selling to smaller businesses first or get really lucky and find some visionaries and early adopters in larger ones.  It is the rarest of instances where you can skip ahead of the line and sell direct into enterprise as an unknown startup.  Once you build up some small and mid tier clients you'll have the capital and cred to reach out to the big boys but not before that.