A Feature vs a Product

Whenever an entrepreneur shares their idea with me, the following question always comes up, “is this a feature or a product?” Occasionally, it’s clear that this is a feature with product and platform potential, but most products, especially minimum viable products, start out as a feature solving a simple problem.

At Pardot, version one of our software tracked individual page views of prospects (micro web analytics) and captured web forms. Over time, email marketing, landing pages, scoring, grading, automation rules, drip programs, and more were added. At first it was a feature and then over the course of several years became a product.

Here are a few questions on the feature vs product debate:

  • How valuable is this functionality as a standalone application?
  • How much more valuable is this feature as part of a broader set of features?
  • How much of a nice-to-have vs a must-have is this functionality?
  • Are there existing products in the market that should add this feature? Why or why wouldn’t they do that?
  • Where is the market headed? More standalone features or products that combine features?

The feature vs product debate is ongoing, but one of the main takeaways is whether or not an ecosystem and industry gets built around the business (a product/platform) or if the business runs in more of a silo and offers a more limited, but highly focused, feature.

What else? What are some other thoughts on the idea of a feature vs a product?

One thought on “A Feature vs a Product

  1. I think the distinction is enhanced by discussing the three primary stakeholders that derive value from the product vs. feature delineation.

    1. Investors/Acquirers
    2. Internal Product Management & Development
    3. Marketing

    Your definition above seems outside->in focused which makes it more of the investor/acquirer aspect. However, product management would say while all of those things on your list are relevant, each of these are evaluated from within the business differently. So, to a product manager they may see far more products within products and may align resources as such. A marketer may then look at the same products and see one or a couple of things they actually treat as a product to the market.

    For any give product, especially if a startup, there is an evolution. In the startup case there is a distinction of feature vs product to identify whether there is a way to improve acquisition value, or to fill a role that others have missed. In the end though that is marketed and managed as a product internally and by the marketer.

    As that product evolves into a larger product, the product manager starts to carve out sub-products internally based on the same sorts of factors but more about internal resources. The marketer may not see that as valuable externally and continues to talk about the product in singular to the customers, but talks about the new feature.

    Then, again, things evolve and an internal product becomes distinct enough that market advantage is seen by marketing them separately or in some sort of relationship. A new product is born from the feature.

    It is then possible for the whole company to become a feature for an even bigger fish from the Investor/Acquirer point of view.

    Somewhere, in these transition phases there are critical points where each is harder to define and where each stakeholder will view the same product or feature from a different angle, and other points where they may all align.

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