Start with a niche, then build a network around it

If you are building a product, you will undoubtedly had to fight the temptation of adding more features with the risk of delaying it from being shipped on time. I know I had to and quite often, we tend to launch products with more features than we needed.

Logically, the more features our product offers, the more potential customers for it. But when you are launching something new, your biggest hurdle is in marketing and discoverability. 

Focus on a niche

The best way to get the word out is to do something different and better than the rest of competition. It's much easier for you to focus on a niche and solve it in a way that no one else could rather than to match your competitors’ features list.

Narrowing down your feature lists will also reduce the resources required to build the product. This is ideal if you are still looking for product-market fit as you will be able to run more iterations to find it. Why waste more time and effort building more features when you don't even know if a market exists?

This is how most apps and services started. Twitter was originally an SMS broadcasting service while Facebook itself started first as a student directory for Harvard University.

Once you got your foot in the door and found your early adopters, then you can think about adding more features to your product. Let your users feedback and usage guide you on what features to build next.

Leverage the power of the network

After you have gained some traction and secured a healthy user base, then you can start developing features and services that complements your product. The idea is to leverage the power of network effect. The more people use your product, the more valuable it is to them.

Messaging apps, social networks and platforms all have powerful network effects. WeChat from China is one of the best example on how do build an ecosystem around your platform. 

Originally a messaging service, WeChat has grown to offer all sort of services within their ecosystem. You can hail a cab, pay for your coffee, read the latest news, order lunch and schedule a doctor’s appointment all without ever leaving the WeChat app.

Other companies have noticed the success of WeChat and started offering complementary services on their platforms too. Facebook Messenger supports peer-to-peer payment in select countries while the latest Apple iOS update enables the same feature through iMessage.

On the local front, Grab and Fave have both introduced their own mobile wallets hoping to increase the usage of their app and positioning themselves for the upcoming mobile commerce war with AliPay and WeChat Pay.

One step at a time

Most founders and entrepreneurs have big dreams for their products. They envision a world where everyone would be using their product and can’t wait to make it a reality.

In our haste to bring our vision to life, we must not forget that building products takes time. Take it one step at a time by first focusing on a niche that we can dominate and conquer. Focus on your effort on building the best product there.

Once we own that niche, we can then expand and build a network around it by introducing complementary features and services to leverage the power of network effects.