Misguided Product Features

In the early days of Pardot we were cranking out features left and right. With no technical debt, a rapid development environment (PHP on Symfony), and a race for product/market things were moving fast. Super fast. Only, with speed and little to no input from customers, it was too easy to build features that didn’t make sense. How about building X? Sure! How about building Y? Go for it.

Naturally, with hindsight, we built modules that shouldn’t have been built. One such module we built was called Site Search. At the time, products like Algolia didn’t exist and it was a pain to add an internal search engine to a website. For Pardot, the goal wasn’t the actual site search functionality. Rather, it was to capture the search terms from the site visitors and prospects — intent. This intent could then be scored, tied to automation rules, and placed in the CRM. Imagine searching for “pricing” on a website as a known prospect and an email gets triggered automatically from your assigned account executive in the CRM with detailed pricing information. Pardot automated that whole process.

To make this module work, we had to build the site crawlers, background jobs to regularly re-index the sites, and all the other infrastructure. It wasn’t the best use of time. Rather, we should have made it easy to tie into other search products, even if they were scarce, such that when a search was done on an external system a Javascript call-back function would send the search term to Pardot. Pardot was a marketing automation platform, not a site search platform.

The next time an idea for a module comes up, think through how well it fits the overall mission and vision of the product. Does it make sense as a native feature or as an integration to a best-of-breed product? Will a material percentage of customers now and in the future use it? What’s the priority of this feature relative to other items in the queue?

Misguided product features are more common than expected. Work hard in the product planning process to minimize them, and if they get built, stay vigilant to remove them if it’s clear it wasn’t the right direction.

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