Step 3: Make Meaningful Product Updates?

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Your product can always be improved. The big question is: do those improvements meaningfully make your business more likely to survive?

You need to be a good CEO to yourself here, keeping efforts focused on making your business more consistently profitable.

Improve the product, yes. But don’t get lost in the activity of polishing and updating pieces of the product that won’t lead to revenue. Your business is like a growing child, you have to keep your efforts nutritious to the child. There’ll be plenty of time to make the product amazing later on, once we’ve created a consistent growth engine for the product.

That’s why we call this step “make meaningful product updates.” There may be some meaningful product updates you should commit to right now. If that’s the case, let’s get to work on this step.

If you don’t think product updates will meaningfully lead to more consistent revenue for your business, mark this step as complete and move on to the next.

Deciding which product updates to make

Here’s a simple way to discover meaningful updates you can make to your product.

1. Brainstorm a list of possible product updates

The first thing to do is create a big list of possible product updates. You’re not judging or editing any of these ideas yet (we’ll do that in the next step). Right now we’re just making a big list.

Where should you look for product update ideas? Here’s three places we look:

  • Customer feedback — arguably the most important. What are your customers telling you they want?
  • Competition — are there features your competition have that might be giving them an edge over your product? Be careful with this one as it can lead to a lot of time wasted on “we did it because they did it” kind of stuff. Be sure to run these ideas by customers before committing to them.
  • Your gut — you’re insightful about this stuff; what do you think the product is missing? Again, these are some ideas to run by your customers before you commit to them.

Now is the time to brainstorm your list of potential product updates. We’ve created a spreadsheet to help you evaluate these products, aptly named the Product Update Evaluator. Click the button here, and start creating your list of possible product updates. (Please don’t worry about evaluating these ideas yet, we’ll walk you through that when you’re done making your list.)

2. Evaluate the options and pick the best to work on

Now that we’ve got a big list, let’s quickly evaluate each idea and see which are the most important updates.

In the worksheet above you’ll see four evaluation columns:

  • Time — how long will this update take to implement? 1 = very short, 5 = very long.
  • Cost — how much money will this update cost? 1 = no money at all, 5 = it’s expensive!
  • Impact — how much impact will this update make towards your growth milestone? How much will this update move the needle? 1 = it won’t help towards the growth goal much at all, 5 = it will significantly help towards the growth goal.
  • Personal Interest — how important is this update to you? It’s ok, we get emotional about our product too 🙂 1 = I really dislike this update, 5 = I’m so friggen excited about this update you guys!

Now is the time to evaluate each option on your product update list. When you’re done add up the totals of each to see which fixes are the most important by the numbers.

This is a quick, semi-objective way to determine which updates you should make to your product right now. Is it helpful for you? We hope it is. If it isn’t, maybe just pick your own to go with.

Common Struggle: “polishing a turd”

Above we talked about how you need to be a good CEO to yourself here, keeping focused on the product updates that lead to actual business growth.

We say that because we’ve seen other business builders get bogged down making product improvements that don’t lead to more revenue. You’ve heard the phrase, “you can’t polish a turd?” That’s where these entrepreneurs get trapped.

We here at Fizzle get trapped here from time to time. Truth is, you can’t always know what updates are going to lead to important growth. However, evaluations like those we built into the spreadsheet above help us all bring some focus to these decisions.

Your business is fragile right now. You’ve got some momentum, but you’re still in danger of fizzling out. Your job right now is not to make the best product. Your job is to make a product that can sustain this company.

If you want to make the best product you can — if you want to knock people’s socks off — you’ve got to focus right now on making the most profitable product you can, because a profitable product pays for it’s own improvements.

Improvement time

If you’ve decided that your product doesn’t need improvements to grow, please mark this step as complete and move on.

If, on the other hand, you’ve determined the updates to make to your product (using our spreadsheet above), now is the time to make those updates.

You can mark this stage as complete when you’re done with your necessary batch of updates. Keep the list pruned if you can, there’s lots more important steps in this Growth stage.