Most customers do not have clearly defined product priorities. When customers are presented with a set of options, they usually say, “I want them all.” Next time, play the Buy a Feature Game to uncover what is really important to customers by limiting their choices and forcing them to prioritize features.
In this method, participants decide on their top 3 or 4 choices from a list of potential functions. By giving customers limited choices, you force them to prioritize. Be sure to play the Buy a Feature Game in a group setting. The negotiation within the group really increases your understanding of what your customers truly want.
Setting Up the Game
- Create a list of potential features and provide each with a price. Be sure that some features cost more than others. You want customers to pool their money and negotiate. Your prices can be based on development costs, customer value, and so on.
NOTE: Features should be in your road map. Do not use unrealistic ones.
- Gather a small group of customers together. This game works best with 4 to 7 customers in a group.
- Explain the basic rules of the game in this way:
– Customers get to buy a feature with their play money.
– The prices of the features are not negotiable.
– Customers can pool their money together.
– Set a time limit for their decision. 45-60 minutes is usually good enough.
- Distribute the play money.
- Listen to your customers, especially when they are negotiating for a feature. Also, the final decisions are important.
- Do not make any promises at the end of the Buy a Feature Game. You are only playing the game to determine what is important.
Example of Buy a Feature
Recently, I used the Buy a Feature Game with a product team. This product is a white-label solution with core functionality, which clients use. The product has a small, vocal group of Customer Advocates that argue over the core functionality. These customers wants as much core functionality within the white-label solution.
The Product Manager came up with a core set of features. We determined dollar amounts for each feature. Then, we had the Customer Advocates play the Buy a Feature Game. We sat back and listened.
Initially, the scene was similar to the NASDAQ with people bidding on solutions. One person asked for more money, but we told her to pool her money with another person’s money. Then, the negotiations really began.
We learned what people wanted. We got an understanding of their priorities. We learned of some new opportunities. Mainly, we just listened, while they played the game.
According to the Product Manager, his customers love playing the game. They have added fake money (including coins). The winning features are celebrated, too. Customers look forward to these ‘requirement’s meetings” because they are playing a game.