How to Know When You Should Upgrade Your Product

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Rework" by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How often should you upgrade your products? What should you do if customers request to add features to existing products?

An important element of running a business is deciding when and if you should make improvements or upgrades to your product. Customers may request product upgrades or modifications, but that doesn’t mean you should make them before you are ready.

Here is why you should hold off product upgrade requests—even if it means your customers outgrow your product. 

Don’t Say “Yes” to Modifications

Your customers may ask you to add features to your product. Don’t say yes just because they’re customers. Make “no” your default answer. Liberal use of the word “no” keeps you focused on your priorities rather than distracted by continual product tweaks. (Of course, your “no” must be polite. Explain your reasons and most people will understand.) 

As a corollary to this principle, don’t bother keeping track of all the product upgrade requests your customers ask for. If they’re asking for something worthwhile, you’ll hear that request so often and from so many people that there’s no way you can forget it. If they’re asking for something unimportant, you’ll forget their request, and that’s fine. 

Model for success: ING Direct is the fastest growing bank in America because they say no. They’ve streamlined their business—they don’t offer credit cards or online brokerage, just various types of savings accounts. A customer who wants more than that has to find a different bank. 

It’s Okay to Lose Customers 

If your customers outgrow your product(s), that’s fine. Don’t make it your goal to keep the same customers forever by making frequent product tweaks to accommodate their needs. 

Instead of changing your product, go find new customers who need your product exactly as it is. Aim to appeal to a certain type of customer rather than any one individual whose needs may change over time. 

Don’t Get Distracted by Upgrade Ideas

When you come up with a potential upgrade for your product, don’t drop everything to pursue it. Just because you’re excited about this upgrade right now doesn’t mean it should take priority. 

Give your upgrade idea a cooling-off period. See if it still seems brilliant a month later.

Make Products That Work Better Than They Look

Some products are “in-store-good.” They’re packaged beautifully and are usually accompanied by slick advertising that delivers the promise of something great. 

However, customers want more than pretty packaging, so your products should be “at-home-good.” These products are more impressive once you take them out of their package and start using them. They deliver more than they promised—and they rarely need upgrades.

How to Know When You Should Upgrade Your Product

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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