Don't Create Features. Listen To Your Customers' Needs And Create Benefits

On just about any tech company website they'll list all the features they have in their product. This isn't helpful for the customer if you have a unique product, people are interested in how you're going to benefit them. So never stop asking how your product will benefit someone?

On just about any tech company website they’ll list all the features they have in their product. They may even create a matrix showing which features you’ll get for which package.

This isn’t helpful for the customer if you have a unique product. It may be useful if you’re selling a commodity, and it enables customers to compare. But if all you’re creating is a cookie-cutter solution then you’re never going to be innovative or a market leader, no matter how big your market.

People are interested in how you’re going to benefit them. You don’t require huge feature lists, the majority won’t be used by many people, if you focus on benefits. You can’t make something for everyone, because then you’ll find it benefits no one.

How do you focus on benefits?

Flip the idea around and think in the mind of your customer. How will this make their lives easier? If people want a list of technical details then link to it elsewhere, but don’t make it the most prominent thing on your website. Don’t use words like "unlimited" unless you truly mean it (that means 24/7 or many terabytes of data). Mention how you can save them time & stress, rather than how powerful your system is. For example an Airbus A380 is much more feature rich than an Audi A4, but which one would better suit your needs of travelling 50 miles away.

Don’t use language only your long term customers will understand.

When requests come in from customers for new features, first ensure many of your customers would benefit, and understand what it is they need, not just what they’re asking for. If they say they want to be able to export data for instance, adding an export option to every screen would be the simple solution. But what data do they want to export? Maybe it’s summary data so they can pull it into a report? Or detailed data they can do further analysis with? Ask them specifically until you understand their wants, not needs. Ask several customers. Then think about the bigger picture and come up with the solution that is the best for everyone, using your experience in UX and overall software design.

Your customers won’t care about your software as much as you do.

It’s your baby that you’re passionate about and you want to make it as powerful as possible. That’s the mistake. You want to make it as useful as possible for them. A V8 supercar is not much use for driving around a tiny English village. When you inform users about feature updates, describe them as benefits and you’ll grab their attention. Otherwise you’ll just confuse them.

Don’t add new features just because you can.

While you think something may be a great idea, chances are your users couldn’t care less. Make sure you don’t create bloat-ware that becomes difficult to manage. Remember Nero Burning ROM? That used to just burn CD/DVDs, then they kept adding video editing software and other stuff 99% of their users didn’t want. There were better solutions. Focus on solving problems, rather than implementing ideas, then they’re easier to sell as benefits.

Make the benefits highly visible on your page.

They must be benefits you can quantify. Don’t use terms like "better than better", because what will you say next time? Stephen Colbert always tweets a link to his latest show with the line "Last night’s show, my best yet." He’s a satirist, unless you are too, stick to the truth. Saving up to 75% of your time, or a cut down in spending, is a benefit. Mention how it will help them solve problems. Put a features list on a separate page for those people who are interested, but not in the attention grabbing section.

Put the most commonly used tasks in the most prominent place.

Assume a user knows nothing about your product. Make sure it’s easy for them to start getting something from it immediately. Hide the more complex or rarely used tasks out of the way so they don’t get confused. This is where good support pages help, along with great customer service.
Remember: They don’t know your software as well as you do, be sure to use language that is familiar to them and not too technical. Don’t invent acronyms. The easier it is for them to use, the longer they’ll keep using it, the more they’ll recommend it and the fewer support requests you’ll receive, and the less outbound marketing you’ll need to do.

One final point: Never assume your users are idiots. If they contact you for help it means that something isn’t working for them or isn’t intuitive enough. Use this as feedback to improve your tool. No one is an idiot, everyone just has a different understanding. You can learn a lot from your most confused customers if they’re willing to open up to you. Others will just go for a competitor.
You don’t need to be adding features every month, but if you’re making a complex problem continually simpler you’re onto a winner!



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