308: Feature Creep
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In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about the pros and cons of feature creep and why too much of a good thing can be bad. They investigate why feature creep happens, what to do when you realize it is happening and how to avoid it happening in the future. Feature creep can be a major risk for your startup and can lead to increased complexity, effort, budget and time input.
Feature creep, feature fatigue and featuritis, all describe what happens when adding excessive features to your product or service. Adding extra features can positively or negatively impact your startup. The key is to find the right balance and ensure that you are serving your customer in the best way possible, without getting in the way of key functionality.
Feature creep if left uncontrolled has the power to overwhelm your startup and place you in hot water. This can happen especially when adding extra features just to try and improve sales, which may result in a bloated mix of features. Why utilize 10 features when 3 will work optimally? Why bake a cake with 12 people when it is advisable to bake with just 1 or 2 people. Too many cooks in the kitchen will spoil the cake. Too many features involved in a project or service can actually ruin it.
Tune into this week’s episode of The Startup Chat to see how feature creep may affect your business and how to make informed decisions when adding new features. Also learn the key to being clear, about who your audience is and how you will serve them.
As well as Steli and Hiten’s top tips to creating the best product or service while protecting yourself from the bloat of feature creep.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
00:30 The issue of feature creep.
01:24 How sales can influence feature creep.
02:02 Signs of an undisciplined sales team.
02:48 How market buzzwords can influence feature creep.
04:40 The reasons why you run into feature creep.
05:11 Focus on making your features amazing.
05:26 Hubspot’s ‘All in One Tool’ case study.
06:22 How to know your strengths.
07:43 When feature creep is good.
08:24 When feature creep is bad.
3 Key Points:
- One of the main reasons for feature creep is pressure.
- Where people mess up is when people add features without a strategy around it.
- Feature creep isn’t bad if it is what your market needs.
Steli Efti: Hey everybody this is Steli Efti.
Hiten Shah: And this Hiten Shah.
Steli Efti: And in today’s episode of The Startup Chat, we’re gonna talk about feature creep.
Hiten Shah: Feature creep. Feature creep is amazing. It’s amazing because it’s something, if you’ve every worked on product development for more than a year, maybe even six months, you start seeing this and you see this issue. The issue is, basically, the idea, high-level, that you just keep building more features into your product. And how that has this opinion, by a lot of people, that it’s a bad thing. I’m not here to say it’s bad or it’s good. I think the reason we’re talking about this is because it’s super easy to just build new features and I’d love to hear from you, Steli , on sales. One of the pressures that I’ve gotten historically is shit … For this quarter, for sales to make sales, close deals, they need a new, shiny object to sell to customers. So what say you?
Steli Efti: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I think that most sales teams, if you don’t enforce a level of discipline, they will try to find the easiest path to the money. What are two very easy ways to the money? One is promising customers whatever they want. The customer wants feature X Y Z just saying, “Yes, we’re gonna build it. Yes, we’re gonna have it soon.” That’s an easy way to get the customer’s money. And the other easy way to get to the customer’s money is just to say to whatever the price is that the customer is telling you they want to pay. So being heavy handed on discounts and heavy handed on agreements on the feature requirements or requests of prospects. Those are the two strong signs of an undisciplined sales team. And if you don’t create a structure that forces salespeople and a sales organization to be disciplined, they’re not gonna be because they are trying to do what’s in their best interest, which is finding the fastest and easiest way to the money. The easiest way to the money is just to agree that customer is saying they want, right? And to overpromise on what they are requesting. So salespeople will always say yes to the things that customers say they need because they thinking that’s gonna get them to get the customer’s money. The other things is also just to defend salespeople is that oftentimes, prospects don’t really know what features they really need and they are getting their education or they are getting their pointers from the overall market. So they will look around and say well shit, everybody in the market right now talks about, let’s say AI, or Crypto or some other buzz word. Something that’s everywhere is written about, it’s the next big thing, everybody’s talked about it, everybody’s talking about it, and then they’ll look around and say, “Well this seems to be a super hot thing and our competitors seemingly are investing in that thing, so I think we also need this thing.” They’ll point us from there so all of a sudden what’s gonna happen is that a lot of prospects will start bringing up the same feature request, or they’ll start bringing up the same buzz word as, “Well how do you guys do AI in your product? I think today, if you don’t have AI, I’m not sure we can purchase your product.” And now the sales reps not just hear this once, but start hearing it more and more and they will get to the logical conclusion that shit, this is what the market wants. We should just say yes to this. We should probably just build this immediately because people, the market wants it. So salespeople will start feeling bad about telling people they’re not gonna do this and will feel the pressure to just agree with the prospect of whatever they say because they’ll keep hearing it a lot and they think it will get them to the money faster.
Hiten Shah: Wow, yeah. That’s exactly the problem I used to run in to and it was hilarious that product would get so much pressure from sales cause of something they’re hearing, or some competitor saying or doing something out there in the market. AI is a very classic, good one. To me, you run into feature creep for a number of reasons. I think the most prominent one actually ends up being pressure from the rest of the company and sales to basically be able to filter it and also give them a message to say. So it’s not that sales is wrong, that AI is important or not important or our competitors have it, it’s more so, from a feature standpoint, how do you make your features so good that it doesn’t matter if you add more? What happens is you just start adding features and then every last feature you’ve built is stale, it’s not any good anymore. So the companies today that are winning are ones that don’t … Whether it’s 100 features, or five features, it’s a strategy, right? I like to use HubSpot as a good example. They have a lot of features. They call themselves an all-in-one tool. They have to have a lot of features if they call themselves the all-in-one. In HubSpot’s case, they use their sales team early on to figure out what their market wanted. Their market wanted an all-in-one tool. That’s what they found product market fit with. So now, they built a team and a bunch of engineering teams that are designed around building and scaling and maintaining an all-in-one tool. It’s that simple. I’m not a hater on feature creep. What I think people mess up is when they just willy-nilly add features that have no strategy around it. And even HubSpot. Every single one of their features is not as good as a competitor that is doing less things that them. But all of it’s in one and it’s sort of glued together makes people want to use it. So it’s really about knowing your value proposition, knowing your market, knowing the customer need and the pain and then building towards it. I’m not against feature creep. I don’t think feature creep is bad if it’s what your market needs. You just have to be conscious of it and build a team for it. Because you have to constantly reevaluate those features you have and make them better whenever you build them. So the team structure and dynamic changes with that and you’re ability to push back on engineering, I’m sorry, sales and marketing and other areas of the company is only gonna be dictated by the fact that your customers are super happy and those customers can be used in great ways in your sales efforts, in your marketing efforts. That’s another big point I would make about how to push back, cause I don’t want to say that sales is bad for saying that, I want to say that there’s product teams and founders that are working on this problem right now that probably don’t realize that your best customers are gonna help you make sure you avoid feature creep and axoid building the wrong things, cause that’s really what feature creep is about.
Steli Efti: Yeah, I think that there’s a distinction that needs to be made between feature creep, and feature – I don’t even have a good word for it…
Hiten Shah: Featureitis?
Steli Efti: Featureitis? No, featureitis is also is like a disease, right? It’s like a … Feature expansion, it’s feature completion.
Hiten Shah: Yeah, cool. Yeah.
Steli Efti: Basically what you were saying is building a shit ton of features is not necessarily a bad thing, right?
Hiten Shah: No.
Steli Efti: We should not knee-jerk react to saying, “Well, this product has few features, this product has many, therefore, the product with many features is a bad product that nobody will care about eventually. We’ll lose.” No, it’s not true. Obviously for some customers in some markets, having a product that’s fully complete and has a shit ton of features is the right thing to do and the best product to build. And for other markets of customers, it isn’t. So creep to me, to double-down on what you said earlier, is when the team and company had a vision for what they wanted to build but were lacking the mindfulness and the process to decide what to include in that build and what not. So eventually, every voice was heard and thing crept up into the product world map that shouldn’t be in there because nobody was of the right mind to stop that and there was no process to stop that, right? Customers, team members, investors, PR and press and reporters, friends and family, everybody put a little bug in the start-up team’s ear of this is what you need to build and this is what we’d like to have and this is what would be cool to see and all of a sudden, something that should have become X has become X+Y+Z but not because there was a strategy behind it. Not because that’s what the customers really needed, but because that’s what randomly happened. If you pay attention, if you listen to everybody around you, you’re gonna end up building something that has no direction and that’s where feature creep is coming in and where it’s a bad thing.
Hiten Shah: That’s right.
Steli Efti: Alright, I think that’s it from us for this episode. We’ll hear you very soon.
Hiten Shah: See ya.