Product Overshoot

Have you ever owned a swiss army knife? If you've ever stepped into a store to buy one, then you know the options are endless. In fact the only real limit to your selection is how heavy you want your pocket to be. But who exactly designs these things?

And how do they decide what goes in one? Scissors? Magnifying glass? Saw?

In product development, whether it's swiss army knives or software products, it's easy to get excited about putting one more thing into the product. As technology makes more features possible, strong product management is crucial to ensure that you don't overshoot the market.

What is overshoot? It's the result of adding more and more features to a product with the assumption that adding functionality will have a corresponding effect of adding value. We know it's not true, but when we're hip-deep in product development it's easy to want to add more. And the guys who are thinking about a return on investment are more than willing to make the assumption that more feature means more price. But that's not always the case. In fact, here are some things that happen when  you add features:

  • The product gets more complicated.
  • The point of your product may get diluted.
  • The product has more things that can go wrong.
  • The product costs more to maintain.

Now, imagine all that happening while, at the same time, revenue isn't increasing because your higher price tag is now alienating the market. What happens next? Simpler solutions at lower prices start stepping in and taking away customers. Now you have less market share than before you added the feature.

What do you do?

Think critically about the essential nature of what you want to add. Is it really required? Make sure it's aligned with the value prop of your product. And make sure your value prop is tight and focused.

If you don't, you may end up with a swiss army knife that weighs too much to carry with you in your front pocket and therefore sits on the shelf until you go camping—which was 10 years ago. Nobody wants their products sidelined. So watch out for Product Overshoot!

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Chris Lema
Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.