Should you publicly track feature requests?

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“Won’t competitors browse the feature requests my customers make for good ideas?”

We occasionally hear this concern about using Feature Upvote to publicly track feature requests. It is a fair concern.

If you feel strongly about this issue, you can password-protect your Feature Upvote board and proxy-vote on behalf of customers. Or you can use Single Sign-On to restrict access to your feedback board so that only authenticated members of your organisation can view and add suggestions.

However, before you do this we have some counter arguments.

Listen to your customers, not your competitors

When your competitor starts adding features because  your customers asked you for them, they are making a big mistake. It is very likely that their customers have a different set of requests.

Let’s imagine a hypothetical feature request for your product. Your product generates superb charts and tables. They look so good, your customers want to share them with their managers, in a format they can print and leave on their managers’ desks. So your customers really want a PDF export feature.

Your competitor notices that many of your customers want PDF export. So they think they’ll get the edge on you and add it to their product. The thing is, they don’t yet have the wonderful charts and tables that your product has. So their customers don’t want PDF export. They want better charts and tables. Or even something else entirely.

Each company has different plans for growth – and different strengths

Even if your main competitors know exactly what you plan to build they are unlikely to do the same. Why? Because they have different overall plans for the future of their company. They have different strengths and different weaknesses.

For example, if your competitor is reaching out to an enterprise market their focus might be on making their product as feature-rich as possible. They can see you’re ‘only’ planning on adding 4 new features this year. They underestimate you immediately. However, you have heard from your customers that they like your simple product. It’s reliable and unbuggy. So you intend to go in one direction while your main competitor goes in another.

Or you might plan on releasing an ambitious new feature. It’s ‘in progress’. Your competitors could find out about this new feature on your feedback board. Will they copy you? Unlikely. They don’t have your engineering talent so are planning to leverage their marketing and sales expertise instead, to sell what they already have.

Big feature reveals can be fun – but are not always useful

I wonder if secretly many of us dream of walking on stage like Steve Jobs, with the world media poised for the ‘big reveal’ that will trigger flash bulbs, applause and much hero worship?

Perhaps. But most companies aren’t Apple in the earlier noughties.

Is launching a ‘secret’ new feature all that important? Does it actually generate PR and sales for our companies? Or would it benefit our companies more to build a community around our products, which feels valued and listened to?

I still don’t want public feature tracking

If you want to systematically and privately track feature requests, Feature Upvote offers private feedback boards.

How it works:

  • You set a password for your feedback board and share with team members

Adding a password to your feedback board

  • When a customer makes a feature request, your team manually adds it to your Feature Upvote feedback board
  • When a customer requests a feature already on your board, you use our “upvote on behalf of…” button to add a vote

Upvoting on behalf of someone else

  • You can now see which features are requested most often

You get the feature request tracking while keeping competitors out of your feedback board.