Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Obvious and Upfront Value

As a, now former, product guy, I've done lots of thinking about what makes a product "worth while" in the space. Over time, I've developed a litmus test to ensure that product decisions, whether large or small, are good ideas. Now, this test isn't an end all be all but that said, I think you'll easily be able to see where it applies.

Often times, product folks, (or marketers) are in a position to make a decision about the future of your product. (For the sake of argument lets agree a product can be something tangible, including software, or intangible like giving a gift to charity, anything a person will pay for and derive some type of value from) Its equally as common that you have to make a decision between multiple features each of which are likely compelling. So, how do you choose?

Now the obligatory nod to the entire industry and many groups of practice around how to make these choices. Admittedly, I'm a practitioner of Pragmatic Marketing, of which I am a big fan, but sometimes even that process, as good as it is, can be a bit heavy. So how do you choose if you don't have time to spare on a process or a tool?

There are two questions you should ask yourself:

1. Does this feature provide value to one of your user groups?

If yes proceed to question 2. If no, rethink your feature.

2. Is the value provided by this feature obvious and "upfront"?

Meaning, will your customers recognize the value it provides easily and quickly?

Every product must show value. That much is a given. No one pays for, or even uses, products that don't have value. People LOVE a product that shows its value simply by existing and being used.

What does that look like? How do you know you've gotten there? Well, lets take an online software system of any kind. You know you've gotten there when your users no longer ask questions like "where do I go to find this data". That should be obvious to anyone using the system. In a CRM system for example, users should never have to ask the question "how are we doing with sales this quarter" answering that question should be obvious and upfront in the daily usage of the system.

What about donating to a charity? People donate for a variety of reasons, one of which is to feel they have done something good. Usually, people will donate to a cause that they feel does the most good. So for you .org types, that means your product needs to easily display the value it gives to its cause. What is the "value" of my dollar? What did my donation accomplish? That information should be obvious and upfront when donors are making the decision to donate and it should be reinforced after the donation.

Try asking those 2 questions about your product decisions for a week. Post the results back here and share any thoughts you have!

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