Why We Build Products Around Many Customers (and Not One)

by Sean Boyce
customers build people in line

Do any of these sound like your product company?

  • Your product development team has never been busier
  • You guys are shipping tons of features, seemingly ALL the time
  • No one seems to be using those features

In the world of building SaaS businesses, it’s actually quite easy to find yourself in one of these situations.  When the requests for new functionality start pouring in, it can be hard to say no. However, if you don’t, your backlog will quickly become an unmanageable mess.  

Rather quickly, your product development team will become overwhelmed.  Soon enough there will be way more work to do than time to allow for it.  With extra pressure placed on your product development team, communication will suffer and your product strategy will start to break down.  

These situations are made possible by a very slippery slope when it comes to product development – building features for one customer instead of many.  

If your process involves adding feature requests to the backlog that have mostly come from one customer then you are well on your way to finding yourself in one of these situations.  

Before you kill that product and start all over again, let’s talk about what you can do to fix these problems.

Stop taking on water

You’ll never be able to catch up if you keep adding 3-4X as many requests to your backlog than you can ship in a given sprint so stop.  Push back on all those feature requests. Does the customer really need it?  If not, it can wait so bump it down to the bottom of the list.

Get the water out of the ship

Prioritize your backlog according to how many customers have requested specific features.  

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This will do two things:

  1. Dramatically reduce your backlog of requests
  2. Increase the impact of your development efforts

Now you’ll be delivering new functionality to multiple customers instead of one.  Two birds with one stone.  

Start rebuilding the ship the right way

Customers love to ask for new functionality.  This is great because it shows they value your product, but left unchecked it can spell disaster.  Instead, you must be able to determine a want versus a need.  

An effective way to determine want versus need, is by putting a price tag in front of those larger feature requests.  Find out what functionality your customer is willing to pay for (and what they aren’t). You’ll quickly get a very different set of requests from your customer and that’s a good thing.

Want to know how to improve your product development process?  Let’s talk it through, email me at sean@nxtstep.io or visit us on the web at NxtStep.

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