Saturday, October 20, 2012

Product Management: Copy or not to copy?

There are many advises that you can find about whether to copy your competitor's features or not.  When you launch a product, it's invariably true that sooner or later you'll find competitors entering the market.  Competitors may have better technology, faster architecture, and sleeker design.  You hear they are picking up customers and start to show momentum.  You may even hear that they are looking to pass your customer base and revenue.  What do you do?

Do you look at their product and start copying their features?  Or stay with your roadmap and continue cranking out what you believe are the right features?

It depends.  There are so many hidden assumptions in a question like this, so it's impossible to answer as is.  But the general rule is this.

Your reason for implementing a feature cannot be "because my competitor does."

Not only it's a fallacy to think in bandwagon mentality, but from customer's perspective your product may solve different problem than your competitor's even if they are in the same market.  If customers are using your product for a reason that is different from your competitor's product, then you have to examine whether the feature will make sense for your customers and prospects.  If it's not adding enough value, then it will just bloat your feature set and make it more difficult to evolve your product.

So answer to the question is, if the feature makes sense for your customers, absolutely.  Not just copy but build on the feature to make it better for your customers.  If it does not, don't even copy.

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