Winning Features vs Keeping Features

October, 2011

For the win, flickr: n0sebluntNo feature is unimportant. If it serves a purpose then it’s important to someone. And while those purposes may vary wildly, I have started to think about all of them in terms of two camps: Winning and Keeping.

Winning Features

Winning features are those that help you win a deal. They often times have the sizzle that gets people excited about what you’re doing and give you a leg up on the competition. These are the things that the sales guys get excited about and might just get you written up in techcrunch.

(Updated to include…) An example is eye popping reports, they often look great and seem to convey the info you need. However, after a month or so within an application you may find that they are lacking key information that make them truly functional. Now, it wasn’t the intent of the graph to not do a good enough job, but as is often the case, without a lot of careful thinking and planning, many graphs & reports fall short of providing truly actionable results.

Keeping Features

These are the trusty guys that keep churn down. Keeping features are the ones that sales usually doesn’t bother showing, but that makes the everyday user happy. These are things that people often don’t think of when they are buying, but within 1 week of using your product they couldn’t imagine a world without it.

(Updated to include…) An example here is general navigation and workflow. Getting yourself to the place that you use within the application most often may take 3 or 4 clicks. While this doesn’t seem like a big deal during a demo, after a few weeks of having to work your way in to your destination you’ll be wishing for a shortcut. It’s important to note here that calling out easy navigation probably won’t make a huge difference in a demo unless you are very good with positioning that statement.

They can’t be both?

No, I’m not saying that. I would never say that you should be building features that just get people in the door and are useless afterwards. It’s more about who you are appeasing. Winning features may still excite your existing customers, but they probably aren’t going to get the daily use that Keeping Features get.

There’s also the question of where they come from. Sales, competition, and innovation will usually drive the creation of Winning Features. Existing customers and support teams will usually drive the creation of keeping features.

and so?

Well, I’m not saying this is revolutionary. But recognizing that your features live in these two camps; that they have two masters – Sales and Churn Prevention – may help you to strike a better balance based on the stage of your company.

Also, being able to communicate goal bucket sizes for Winning vs Keeping may better help set expectations across the organization from quarter to quarter. It also helps you to ensure that you development team isn’t off in Winning land when you need them focusing on Keeping, or vice versa.

So, where do your current features land, Winning or Keeping?