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Research Trail Guide: Price research #3 – The Feature Sundae

The next tool to add to your price research belt: work out which of your features customers are most likely to pay for. Hopefully your product isn't all sprinkles and no ice cream!

One of the major challenges for startups building products and services is deciding which features to build first. There are lots of factors that influence how leaders plan their roadmap: strategic value, effort required, competition etc. But in my view, one factor sits above all the rest: will people pay for it?

This article will explain how to work out which of our features customers are most likely to pay for. And, spoiler alert, it’s not just showing them a list of features off the website and getting them to pick their favourites. In a features sundae, we rearticulate our features in a neutral way that's easy to understand and compare.

Was the food analogy necessary? No. But it’s summer and ice cream makes everything better.

Another ranking exercise?!

Yep folks, it’s another card sort like the Relative Spend Burger. This time we’re talking about getting customers to rank individual features within our product, rather than other purchases they’ve made.

Here’s what it looks like in an interview with a customer:

  1. Ask some contextual questions to work out who they are and how your solution fits into their life
  2. Present them with a list of neutrally worded features (these are going to be written on cards or a digital whiteboard)
  3. Get them to rank the features in order of which they’re most likely to pay for
  4. Talk about why they chose that particular order
  5. Follow this with other pricing exercises (like our upcoming post on psychological thresholds)
  6. Chuck the sequences onto a spreadsheet to aggregate your findings
  7. Do it with enough customers to feel confident about your target segment(s).

Why not just show them the website?

Don’t be lazy and copy/paste from your roadmap or your pricing page, here’s why:

🤖 Internal language for describing features tends to reflect the architecture of your solution and not the way customers think about tasks and activities

E.g. To this day on my banking app, I can never remember if I need to “make a payment” or “make a transfer” – this is bank terminology

💸 Sales and marketing descriptions are normally easier to understand, but it’s hard to compare descriptions that are intended to persuade

We need to make it easy for normal people to quickly grasp and compare what we’re offering.

How to re-word your features for research

Writing features in a customer-centric way is something that not everyone finds easy. Here are some tips and examples (from Oat Couture, our imaginary granola subscription business) to get you going.

Think about the outcome

What does this feature allow the customer to do? Find the most concise way to express this. It’s like writing a subtitle to the feature name. 

Granola IQ → Get granola recommendations based on your dietary preferences

Oat-o-matic Top-ups → Your granola supply is replenished automatically before it runs out

Siri-L Voice Assistant → Order granola using a voice assistant on your personal device

Remove persuasive language

It’s tempting to try to sell features by adding positive descriptors or benefits. Try to avoid this as it makes comparison more difficult. Instead just state concretely what the customer gets.

Never go hungry again with lightning delivery → Receive your granola delivery on the same day you order it

Of course I don't want to go hungry! But that's not really what we're trying to test.

Make them easy to compare

Here are some more writing tips to avoid any extra cognitive load for the participant:

  • Make the feature descriptions all around the same length, so they’re easy to read quickly.
  • Use consistent grammar for all of them: present tense, 2nd person etc. 
  • Make them mutually exclusive – it’s hard to compare things that seem to overlap
  • Try to keep the number under 8, people struggle to compare more than that
  • Don’t combine multiple features together into frankenfeatures

Here’s a list of features for Oat Couture that could help us with pricing and prioritising our future roadmap:

How to use feature sundae data

When you’ve spoken to enough* people you’ll start to see patterns emerge. 

First you’ll see if there are features that are ubiquitously popular across everyone: that’s great, these are likely to be your core features.

Next you’ll see clusters of people who value certain things more than others. Your value proposition could be different for each segment. For example, we might see people who prioritise features that offer convenience and other people who are all about trying new flavours.

And you’ll also be able to see how future functionality compares to what you have currently. Perhaps it will open up a new segment of your audience once it’s built.

Our next post on price thresholds will help you to apply a price to different feature groupings – keep an eye out on our LinkedIn page for when it drops.

*How many is enough? Short answer: stop when you’re not learning anything new. Start with 3-5 of each segment you’re aware of and see how diverse their answers are.

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Are you a product person thinking about pricing? Maybe you'd like to know how this works with live vs. prospective customers? Perhaps you'd like to compare technical with non-technical features? Or maybe you'd like to try co-creating features with the customer? Get in touch if you’d like to chat.

We offer FREE clinic sessions, or we can build you a full research project plan and inputs in one of our startup research packages.

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