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What do you do once you run out of possible featur

I am developing and selling a software utility. It is the best of it's kind, but the competition is advancing quickly.

The problem is, I kind of ran out of imagination - I think all possible features are already implemented.

What should I do now? How shall I differentiate my utility from the competition, in order to sustain strong sales?

Thank you!

Michael
Monday, July 28, 2003

don't know -- see what microsoft does about their operating system and ms office. They're in the same boat as you are, basically.

anonQAguy
Monday, July 28, 2003

Nice flashy UI? Isn't that what MS does? Throw in everything including the kitchen sink.

www.marktaw.com
Monday, July 28, 2003

We have a good imagination, drop us a link so we can actually SEE and comment on your software...

--
ee

eclectic_echidna
Monday, July 28, 2003

Umm, ask you clients what they'd like to see, what their issues are?

Expat, eh
Monday, July 28, 2003

"Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can." - Zawinski's Law (the Law of Software Development")

8-} That a good start for you?

Mike Swieton
Monday, July 28, 2003

There must be other ways you can compete besides adding features:
Support, pricing, extensibility, adapting the same basic feature set to new users who might have similar problems to your current users, these all work.  Or usablity - having lots of features is great, being able to find and use them is often a challenge. 
Or you could look for ways to consolidate your current advantage, by making it an advantage for your users to lock into your solution.

andrewm
Monday, July 28, 2003

1) Better look.

Go through the whole application, and clean up anything that looks less than amazing. Every toolbar button, the splash screen, the registration dialog, the icon, everything. Hire someone to make everything as pretty as possible.

2) Better documentation.

Use the best help tool you can find (hint: for Windows, it's Help and Manual, at http://www.helpandmanual.com). Make sure you cover everything, and cover it completely, and cover it well. Have someone less literate in the program that you review it. Export it to HTML and post it on your website, as well as provide a PDF manual.

3) Better training tools.

Write up a getting started guide. Include it on your website, in your manual and in your help file. Use a screen recorder that saves to Flash (hint: on Windows, use Camtasia, from http://www.techsmith.com) and create nice, well scripted movies that you can post on your website. More = better.

4) Better website.

Make sure your website stands out from your competition by being cleaner, easier to navigate, and nicer looking.

5) Better support.

Include a knowledge base on your website. Work on getting a really, really fast turnaround time responding to your clients.

6) Ask your clients for guidance.

Phone up your 10 biggest clients and ask them what they wish they could do in your software. Then, make it happen.

7) Look at your competition for guidance.

Download any trials, movies, whatever, that your competition provides. Find anything that they do better and improve it in your software.

That's off the top of my head. Without knowing something about the kind of software you produce, it's hard to give you much more.

Tim Sullivan
Monday, July 28, 2003

Funny no one bothers to ask Michael just what software, and if they can try it.

Li-fan Chen
Monday, July 28, 2003

I agree with Li-fan Chen.  It's amazing how much advice Michael managed to get without even mentioning what his program does or what features it already has : )

SomeBody
Monday, July 28, 2003

It's amazing how much advice about building a house a contractor can give without knowing what it's for.

There is such a thing as general advice, don't you know. Indeed, I even said "Without knowing something about the kind of software you produce, it's hard to give you much more". Others made similar comments.

So, other than judging potentially useful replies, do you have anything useful to contribute to the conversation, or are you content to remain as the peanut gallery?

Tim Sullivan
Monday, July 28, 2003

change the box. add a new sticker. add a platinum club membership. setup referal program. make the X enterprise edition...exclusive for the next 30 days at a 30% discount (to what? anything). next 20 buyers get a FREE CD jewel case.

Tom Vu
Monday, July 28, 2003

Start writing a completely new app?

Andrew Reid
Monday, July 28, 2003

Obviously he didn't want to meantion what his package does, or he would've mentioned it... After all, he's afraid of the competition.

www.marktaw.com
Monday, July 28, 2003

If you're being out developed and you don't have the resources to fight back, reduce the price to undermine the competition.  Give it away and sell support contracts.

One of your competitors may believe it cheaper to buy you out than deal with the nuisance.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

You rename it.  Office 2000 becomes Office XP -- I'm just saying is all.

Mike
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Skins ?

Evgeny Goldin
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

It may not apply to the type of application you have, or you may already have them, but what about adding external APIs so other developers could incorporate your application into their code.  Treat that as another market.  Each additional program that uses your application will likely have their own customers... your application gets distributed at an exponential pace and you crush the opposition.

I really don't know what I'm talking about
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Focus on non-functional attributes: performance, usability, stability etc.

Or maybe expand your definition of what the utility does.

Or maybe look at porting to another platform.

Or maybe integrate with other applications/tools.

Or maybe start writing a new utility that would have the same/similar target audience as the existing utility.

-Thomas

Thomas
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Whatever you do, don't re-write it from scratch. lol.

If it isn't web-enable it.

A lot of these ideas are more publicity ideas than actual product improvement ideas. Some are being given to you half jokingly, others seriously, but if your competition is catching up with you, beyond adding features, you can market it more strongly... word of mouth, comissions, things like that. UI changes, better web site with better documentaiton to help people realize that yours is the best product, finding new shareware websites to add it to, etc.

www.marktaw.com
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Spend more time marketing it, this will pay off more than development if it really is feature complete.

Tony E
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

A lot of good suggestions in the earlier replies...

However, I would suggest an alternative way of looking at the situation - if your product/utility already has essentially all the features it needs (or that you want to provide), then start looking at ways to make it easier for users to use those features, consider users' tasks instead of product features, help users to automate or script their work using your software, etc. (Depending on your product, some of this may not be applicable.)

For example, look at PaintShopPro from Jasc Software ( http://www.jasc.com ) - version 7 already had almost all of the features that users could ever want, so with version 8, as well as a small number of new features, they developed capabilities like "automated productivity scripts", the ability to save custom effects or tool settings, 40 product tour/tutorial movies, templates for printing, EXIF data editing for digital camera photos, etc.

Philip Dickerson
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

I still use PSP 4.....

www.marktaw.com
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Maybe the utility is complete, and there's really very little else you can add.

What about creating new, related utilities? You could eventually have a whole family of utilities that work in similar ways, have similar interfaces, can talk to each other, can report their results to a central reporting utility, etc.

When people buy one of your utilites and are happy with it, they'll think of you next time they need some other sort of utility. You can also bundle the utilities together to encourage more sales.

Darren Collins
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Good point, Darren. Or create an unrelated utility that uses the underlying technology.

Have a search & replace utility? Make an MP3 ID3 tag generator & file renamer. Make a utility that cleans up MS Word HTML.

Have an IM client? Make an HTTP proxy that allows people to surf pr0n from the office by tunneling in to their home computers. Make a web-based chat room. Write a file sharing utility.

www.marktaw.com
Wednesday, July 30, 2003


How can you ever run out of possible features?

Maybe you are tying yourself down with some erroneous beliefs... like the features have to be useful, or they have to be used and not just advertised, or that they even have to make sense.

Kill these bad beliefs and get on with the progress towards code bloat.

Joe AA
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

In business, the GOAL is to make money.

The amount of money you make can be viewed as CUSTOMERS * Profit Per Sale.

So, there are two ways to move toward the goal:

1. Increase profits per sale (more features, etc.)
2.  Increase number of customers.


If your product has reached it's maximum featureset, perhaps you could focus on MARKETING to increase the CUSTOMERS part of the equation.

With my company, we started with 3 products, got more customers, then added more products, then added more marketing.

Entrepreneur
Thursday, July 31, 2003

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