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Editor’s Note: In the new podcast Masters of Scale, LinkedIn co-founder and Greylock partner Reid Hoffman explores his philosophy on how to scale a business — and at Entrepreneur.com, entrepreneurs are responding with their own ideas and experiences on our hub. This week, we’re discussing Hoffman’s theory: If you’re not embarrassed by your first product release, you released it too late. Listen to this week’s episode here.
Depending on where you want to end up in the marketplace, it’s imperative that you aim for a product of high value. People need to know that their needs and desires for a product are being taken care of, and that your product is solving their problem. But, if you incorporate too much feedback, you’ll end up with the exact opposite: a bulky product with a ton of dead weight that you spent way more time on than you should have for very little return.
Customers often try to persuade me to build things for my chatbot-building platform Chattypeople that will take a lot of time and be of low value. I’ve had to make hard decisions to ignore some customer feedback in order to focus my time on delivering features that are high value. If you want to make a high-value product, prioritize high-value features, and be very selective in what feedback you are incorporating.
Here are a few tips I’ve put together to help you create the highest value product by selectively ignoring your audience:
1. Can you make it easy and fast?
If your users ask for something that is easy to make, doesn’t take much time to create and can benefit a broad audience, it’s often worth taking a look at the possibility. But, if the user request is for a specific niche of users and takes a long time to create, I’m less likely to make it. That’s getting into custom software territory, which you’ll want to steer clear from as it’s almost impossible to scale.
2. You know your product best.
I love the quote that says, “If Henry Ford had asked his customers what they wanted, they would have said they want faster horses.” Part of your job as an entrepreneur is to know that customers can’t actually see what’s possible, and don’t see past the immediate horizon of their problem. They also don’t know what may be coming with future technology, and it’s your job to steer the conversation and the product with the knowledge that you possess.
3. Know where you’re going to end up.
I have told many startups and entrepreneurs that you must have a vision for the end goal of the product you’re producing. Your end goal will inform any product modifications you choose to do, and how each one might deviate you from the product you’re building. Are you still on track, or do you have to pivot into something else? If your end product is a car, but your first product is a skateboard, building a motor makes sense — but making it waterproof doesn’t. Waterproof won’t get you any closer to cars. Make sure you’re aware of what will help you along that journey.
Related: You Only Get Better With Feedback
4. Know your worth.
A very important question to ask about any customer feedback before you incorporate it, is: Will the customer pay for it? If they will, it will be worth the time and effort you spend to make new features. If incorporating feedback will not explicitly solve a problem that is necessary to keep customers happy, or it won’t make you money, it may not be worth it. Also, do your customers have enough pain that they will use a feature that they are requesting? Consider that you may waste a ton of time on a feature that no one will use.
5. Look more than you listen.
Observe what your customers do, not what they say they want. Unfortunately, people often say they want things but they don’t actually want it or need it. Even if you sit with customers and get their feedback firsthand, they will give you suggestions but won’t actually use them in the end. In that vein, there is software to monitor customer behavior, which I highly suggest utilizing. That way you know where customer behavior and customer feedback is diverging.
Overall, of course you want to listen to your customers. But, the overwhelming barrage of requests can do more harm than good. Be judicious with your time, think about what you want to accomplish, solve the problems that you can, and add what makes the most sense for both your time and money.