By Keith Shields, CEO at Designli

As soon as the MVP ships, most product developers are already thinking about iterating the next version. But product developers face a challenge: deciding which users to listen to regarding new feature requests.

Everyone has a set of wants on the wish list, and those wants often don’t align. Choose the wrong ones to focus on, and your momentum could dwindle and fade. Choose the right ones, and you suddenly find yourself on a rocket ship.

I’ve been involved in several product iterations for clients. In this article, I'll share what I’ve learned from the process of iterating the most successful V2s.

Determine which users make up your core group.

All product developers know that you can’t be everything to everyone. A please-everyone approach will result in pleasing no one. But it’s easy to forget this fact when you have paying users asking for new features. The reality is that you have to prioritize your users to avoid creating a monstrosity of a product that everyone hates interacting with. 

To figure out which users to prioritize, identify the users who are evangelists for your product -- the ones who wouldn’t know what to do without it. Why evangelists? Because you’ll never make devotees out of the users who could take or leave your product.

To build a successful company, you need users who will stick with you long term and recommend your product to friends, family and colleagues. Focusing on your evangelists will dramatically increase your retention rate, your customer lifetime value and your sales efforts as your evangelists essentially become an unofficial extended sales team, spreading the word far and wide.

You can find your core group of evangelists by listening to the users who are talking about your product on social media. Which users are especially enthusiastic? What are they talking about specifically? A survey is another great tool. Simply send an email to your existing users asking how important your product is to their daily life, on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being not at all important and 5 being extremely important. 

Ask which features these core users couldn’t live without.

Next, you need to know which features your evangelists find most valuable. These are the “holy grail” features that you’ll treat as top priority. Without them, your users would become dissatisfied with the product, and they offer the most opportunity as a result. 

You can learn which features fall into this category by adding a question to your survey: “Which features are most valuable to you?” with a checkbox list from which users can select their top features.

While not all evangelists will check the same features, you should see overlap in the responses that will guide you in knowing which ones are the holy grail features for your core users.

Focus on optimizing the essential features.

Because your evangelists find these holy grail features essential, you’ll want to focus on optimizing those features. How can you make them better? What functionality would boost the value of those features? 

Another survey question will help you uncover the answers. Make this question open ended to solicit users’ ideas. Once you have a list of ideas, you can follow up with another survey asking your evangelist users to rate, in order of priority, the features or functionality they would most like to see added. 

Interviews are also highly valuable in learning what users would like to see as improvements to key features. In an interview, you can ask follow-up questions that provide deeper insight.

Start working on new features for the core group.

After this second survey, you should have a prioritized list of new features to develop. If you focus solely on improving the existing features, you’ll open yourself up to being overtaken by the competition. But if you neglect improving the essential features, you’re passing up the opportunity to double down on your success -- which is how most successful products have become successful.

Beginning the process of developing V2 is a critical point for SaaS startups. It’s easy to get derailed at this point by listening to the wrong people or getting distracted by bright, shiny objects. But if you focus on the right users and the right features, you’ll be able to blast past competitors and enjoy being carried by your evangelists to a multitude of new users.

Keith Shields is CEO at Designli, a digital product studio that helps entrepreneurs and startup-minded enterprises launch transformative apps and web apps.

Published on: Dec 12, 2019
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