Colin Nederkoorn

Should you build tangential features requested by early customers?

March 21, 2017

I was chatting with some entrepreneurs today who had gotten early traction on their SaaS business with some larger companies. Their early adopters were excited about the product and were encouraging the team of < 5 people to add a bunch of tangential features to the product.

Here’s the thing… early customers have no idea of the potential cost to the company of a casual feature request. If the founders said “yeah, sure, we’ll build these three things”, it likely diminishes the future prospects of the company.

Founders need to maintain focus on the problem they set out to solve.When you have early traction you’re guaranteed to get customer feedback (with good intentions) that will lead you down paths that will ultimately make the product crap or kill your business .

One request we dealt with a lot early on was the request to add graphing and funnel tracking to Customer.io. We record essentially identical data to analytics products so it would be “easy” for us to add it. But we’re not an analytics product. Adding that feature changes the messaging on the website. We’d have to support the new features forever. That new feature distracts from our main focus of helping companies communicate with their customers.

To show customers we weren’t being tone-deaf we shared our approach with customers: we’re focused on messaging so any metrics and charts we show are oriented around the performance of your messages in Customer.io. We also educated ourselves on tangential products and recommended other great tools to use alongside Customer.io.

What we didn’t do was lose focus and start adding every feature under the sun.