How to Know the Difference Between a Product Feature and a Customer Need

Posted by Maziar Adl
Maziar Adl
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Illustration: LaptopProducts are built with a multitude of different components and features. When we think about the selling factors of a laptop, the experts look at the specs, such as the operating system, screen size, weight, memory, screen resolution, processor type, touchscreen capability, and battery life. But what about the average customer? Their concerns are more focused on questions about how they benefit from the product. With a laptop, a consumer may ask the following questions:

  • Is the product easy to use?
  • Can I accomplish all my tasks seamlessly?
  • Is it light enough to carry with me to work? 
  • How does the product feel in my hands?

The challenge for companies is to design products with features that solve the customer's concerns and communicate those solutions effectively. Easier said than done? Not when you have an effective product strategy


Develop Your Product Mission to Define the Need

When you develop new products, it is important to define the product mission. In other words, you need to: 

  1. Define the purpose of the product
  2. Identify its target market
  3. Understand the problem that it solves

When your product mission is well-defined, and your products contain specific features that align with the mission, you should have a quality product that meets your customer's needs.


Is Your Product Mission Aligned With the Product Vision? 

Illustration: Rowing; Team moving togetherYour product vision and product mission are different. While the product mission identifies the customer needs that your product will solve, the product vision defines the long-term aspirations your company has for the product. Where do you expect your product to go, and what do you hope it will achieve in the long term? 

It is vital to develop both of these ideas and relay them to your teams and in your product roadmap. A visual product roadmap helps to gather support from your internal teams and ensures that their feature-building efforts align with the larger product strategy


What Is Your Unique Value Proposition?

Illustration: Line trophy; Success If you want to stand out in the market, you need to identify what it is about your product that truly appeals to the consumer. A laptop that is full of standard features is no different from the next. You need to communicate which features make your product better than other options. Which features make it stand head and shoulders above the rest? This unique value proposition, or UVP, should focus on the features that provide a specific benefit to the consumer. There are several ways to identify the UVP.


Understand Your Target Market

Illustration: Personal informationWho are the customers you are trying to sell your product to? In order to identify the UVP, you need to understand the wants, needs, and pain points of this group. This will allow you to develop your product and associated features to meet these needs. There are several methods that can be adopted to gain a better understanding and insight into your target market. 


Customer Success Teams

Your customer success team gains valuable insight into users who interact directly with your product. They have various customer feedback tools set up to actively collect customer opinions. Through understanding the customer experience, you can gain valuable insights about a product or service, including the features the customer values, what they dislike about the product, and features they would like to see improved. 


Market Research

Market research is the essential process of gathering data about the consumer so you can meet customer needs more effectively. Relevant data may include demographic data such as age, gender, income, and geographic location, as well as psychographic data about lifestyle and personality traits. Primary research can take the form of surveys, focus groups, and customer interviews. It is also important to analyze existing data and market reports about the market and developing trends.  


Examine The Competition

A key part of developing your unique value proposition is to research and analyze the competition. What are the unique value propositions your competition presents? What are their strengths and weaknesses, and how do their product features compare with yours? You can use product roadmap management tools to gain quantitative insight into gaps and opportunities in the market. 


Analyze The Data

Illustration: Data AnalysisThe focus of analyzing the data is to understand this key point: What customer need are you trying to address? When you focus your efforts on understanding this, you are differentiating between product features and customer needs. By identifying customer needs, you can clearly define your product mission, and your product teams can work towards meeting these product goals. 

It is also important to validate your ideas with internal stakeholders to collaborate on the process of identifying the UVP. Your teams have the expertise and valuable insight that will help to inform the process. Collaboration is also vital to establish trust with your teams and gain approval and alignment with your product strategy. 


Communicate the Unique Value Proposition To the Customer

marketingDon't just sell a laptop with a bunch of features! Once you have identified the pain points and are developing a product with specific features to address this need, share this with the customer. Use the unique value proposition in all of your promotional campaigns. Communicate the value in a compelling way so that your product stands out from the competition. 


Adapt the UVP Over Time

The unique value proposition may change over time. It is important to engage with the customer to understand how their wants and needs change over time and establish new features that will satisfy them. 


Create a Product Roadmap to Guide The Process

As the product manager, your job is to build a product roadmap that is clear, concise, and actionable. When you simply list off a series of features on a product roadmap and highlight a time frame in which to build them, you limit the scope of innovation. Understanding customer needs and focusing on them in the form of a UVP is the ideal way to prioritize the product development process. 

Your product roadmap is the essential communication tool that will empower your product teams to take action. When your product teams understand the future goals for the product, they can make innovative moves to achieve these business goals.

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Topics: Product Management

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