Don’t Engineer Anything You Can’t Sell

In any startup resources are constrained. In a young product company and especially one that will be dependent on using others (the channel or distribution) to sell it’s product then these constraints are often most prominent in engineering and marketing.

If you have a great team working at the company then frequently team members will come up with new ideas about a feature to add or product to develop. Some of these ideas might be simple and others more complex but all even at a theoretical level will have an impact on the company.¬†As time and attention is probably the most limited resource in any organization it’s good to make fast decisions on whether to implement or not to implement these ideas.

At Data Robotics we had a very simple filter to determine if it was worth considering moving an idea forward :

What would the marketing copy look like for the idea?

There are two pieces of marketing copy to consider. The first is one line feature statement which could resonate with time limited customers such as a channel sales person who might be representing your product. The second piece of copy (especially important if your business is not channel focused) is a brief paragraph on the feature. No need to write it down, just state it out loud. This copy doesn’t have to speak to the low level details of the feature. For example if it helps performance and being a high performer is something your customer cares about then that’s your copy. High level is fine.¬†Without the ability to represent a new feature or product simply, clearly and concisely you wont be able to drive any interest in your offering and thus it’ll have little to no impact on company revenue.

In my experience it turns out to be surprisingly hard for the majority of proposed ideas to be represented this way and most get dropped early on. As a result at Data Robotics we saved a lot of time which otherwise would have been spent on discussions about what was feasible to engineer and what customers might like to have. It helped our focus and meant that the company spent it’s time working on what would most contribute to its growth. Give it a try and maybe you’ll also find it useful.

One thought on “Don’t Engineer Anything You Can’t Sell”

  1. Geoff,
    It no longer surprises me when you I come to identical conclusions from different directions…and this is one more time. So many companies struggle with the Marketing/Engineering relationship and try to define it via Market Req’d Docs (MRDs), Product Req’t Docs (PRDs), and the like. I’ve moved to getting Marketing to simply create the market-responsive brochure they’d like to distribute in 12-18 months. The product plan makes sure Marketing isn’t lying. It’s a collaboration, of course, on both sides. But I agree that clarifying the story upfront helps prevent a long list of feature requests that don’t culminate in a core, compelling, profitable result.

    Cheers, Ken

    Ken Rosen
    Performance Works

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