How to Get Ideas for New Product Features? 24 Powerful Tactics and Strategies
How can you generate innovative product ideas? Read on for 24 effective tactics.
How do you build a product your customers and users love?
Part of the answer is to continually add new features and functionality that improve customer experience. That means pulling together a big list of potential product feature ideas, prioritizing them, and then building them.
Great—so where do you get ideas for those new product features?
This article is about that first step—the best way to generate new product feature ideas. Here are the 23 places you can source feature ideas and tips for getting the best results from each source, broken up into categories:
User feedback is one of the richest sources of feature ideas. It’s valuable because the ideas are directly tied to insights about what your users actually want from your product or service.
Here are some ways to get feature ideas from user feedback.
1. Feature requests
First, make sure you’re collecting customer feature requests and storing them in a backlog or feedback repository.
This is probably the most obvious way of generating ideas for your product (“Just listen to your customers!”) but many companies haven’t mastered doing this yet. (Hint: the trick is developing a leak-proof feedback collecting system).
2. Customer support requests
Your customers contact support when they have a problem using your product. Analyzing the cause of their friction or pain points can help you identify opportunities to build new features—or at least make product improvements.
3. Online reviews
If you’ve launched your product, you’re probably getting public reviews. Those reviews can be a rich source of information about what your customers like about your product and ideas for improvement.
It’s a good idea to scan reviews regularly. Here are some of the top sites for finding reviews of software products:
4. Social media
If you have a presence on any social media platform, you can expect to get some feedback there. Build it into your system so you’re collecting it and using it to generate feature ideas.
I’ve even provided some useful feedback to software companies myself.
Related: How to respond to customer feedback
5. Feature voting boards
Feature voting boards are interactive online platforms that allow users to submit, discuss, and vote on new features or improvements for a product or service. You can add one to your website and have users add their feature ideas directly.
This method also helps you validate ideas because your users can upvote other ideas. That lets you see which features are actually popular, and which may be one-off ideas.
Note: Savio is a product management tool that has a voting board feature (among a number of other features for collecting product feedback, prioritizing feature requests, and building product roadmaps. Learn more about Savio.
Here’s an example of what a voting board can look like (It’s ours—you can find it here).
User surveys let you gather feedback quickly from a large number of customers.
For example, you can ask them directly about their ideas for improving your product or create targeted questions about specific pain points. The responses could point to product changes that you hadn’t thought of.
7. Usability testing
User testing on prototypes of a product is a critical step in the product development process. It enables organizations to gather valuable insights and feedback before the final release. It also can give you ideas of how to make a user’s experience better or improve product features.
We like this guide for explaining how to do usability testing.
8. Focus groups
Focus groups are a qualitative research method used to gather insights, opinions, and feedback from a small, diverse group of customers or users through guided discussions. They typically consist of 6-12 participants who represent the target audience or customer base, and the session is led by a skilled moderator.
Focus groups typically result in rich discussions about a product and users’ opinions of it. It can also be a powerful way to generate ideas for new product initiatives since participants can build off each others’ ideas.
9. Sales calls
If you have a sales team, have them take notes during their calls with potential customers. They may hear feedback about your competitors' products that could help you make decisions about your own features.
Your competitors are another deep well of product features. Here’s how you can analyze their products and marketing to understand what they offer and identify ways to differentiate your product.
10. Product trials and demos
Sign up for a free trial of the product and kick the tires. Even better, sign up for a trial and get a guided tour of the main features. This is an especially useful way to find ideas for new integrations or other ways to connect your tools with the other apps your customers are using.
11. Websites, knowledgebase, and marketing copy
Your competitor’s website can tell you a lot about both their product and how they’re positioning it to customers. Product and features pages can tell you about key features, and knowledgebase articles can give you more detail about how they work.
Another place to look is their public voting board. You can see what new features their customers are asking for and are most popular.
Note: One of the downsides of a public voting board is that it’s a gold mine for your competitors. That’s why Savio’s voting board gives you the power to decide what features are public and which should stay private. That lets you control what your competitors can see. Learn more about Savio’s voting board feature here.
12. Competitor social media
Just like your customers are leaving you feedback, your competitor’s customers are leaving them feedback. Consider keeping an eye on their public accounts to spot valuable new ideas you might not otherwise see.
Tip: Set up alerts or notifications to make sure you don’t miss anything!
13. Trade shows and events
Attending trade shows and events in your industry can give you great insights into what your competitors are up to. You may even be able to try out their products or speak with their representatives to get a better sense of their features and marketing strategy.
14. Competitor reviews
Just like analyzing reviews of your own product, you can also analyze reviews of your competitors' products. Look for common complaints or areas where customers think your competitors' products are lacking. This can give you ideas for new features or improvements to your own product.
Team member ideas
Another treasure trove of product inspiration is your own team members. After all, who knows the product better?
All of your customer teams have potentially useful ideas for product strategy:
Customer success: Your CS teams talk to your customers every day. They’ll often have ideas about how to keep customers happy with the product, and so should participate in product roadmapping.
Support: Your help desk solves customer problems all day. Support team members have ideas for how to smooth out the user experience and remove friction in your product.
Sales: Sales know what your prospects are looking for and what features could help boost acquisition. Sales is a reliable source for product ideas, so make sure you’re collecting them.
Engineering: Your developers have in-depth knowledge of your product and fully understand its strengths and weaknesses. They’re often a fountain of opportunities for product innovation and improvement.
Marketing: Your marketing team has a role in product feedback and roadmapping, too. They may have ideas from reviewing competitor tools or from social media. They might also have ideas for how to build in things like referral programs or change the product to support partnerships.
Involving these stakeholders throughout the product development process helps build the voice of your customer (VoC) into your product and stay aligned with business goals. Here are some ways to gather feature ideas from your colleagues and teams.
15. Feature brainstorm sessions
It’s good practice to invite representatives from other teams to your roadmap meeting where you discuss and firm up your product roadmap. But that’s the place for confirming your roadmap, not really so much for brainstorming new ideas.
Instead, consider hosting regular brainstorming meetings that are explicitly for coming up with new ideas. Ensure a supportive and open environment that encourages free-flowing thoughts and creativity.
Tip: Try to get participation from a number of teams—the more diverse the group, the more potentially innovative the ideas.
16. Idea submission platform
If you use a tool for your internal communications, create a dedicated spot for new feature ideas.
For example, you could create a Slack or Microsoft Teams channel where teams can leave their ideas. The channel becomes essentially an idea backlog. Or, if you use a project management tool like Asana, create a submission form your teams can use. Or even just set up an email inbox.
Tip: Connect the channel to your product feedback management tool so that nothing gets lost and your internal team ideas make it to the same place you’re keeping customer feature requests.
17. Workshops and hackathons
Host workshops or hackathons that focus on specific challenges or themes, allowing team members to collaborate, experiment, and develop innovative solutions in a time-bound setting.
18. Internal surveys or polls
Conduct internal surveys or polls to gather input from team members on potential new features, improvements, or priorities.
19. Open-door policy
Encourage an open-door policy where team members feel comfortable sharing their ideas directly with you or your product team.
Tip: If you don’t want to have your schedule completely open to interruptions, consider setting aside time (like “office hours”) where your teams are welcome to come to you and share their ideas.
20. Rotate roles or responsibilities
Allow team members to temporarily take on new roles or responsibilities within the organization, exposing them to different perspectives and challenges that can spark new ideas.
Online communities and forums
Online communities and forums are creative cornucopias, filled with potentially useful feature ideas. Here are some ways to make the best use of them.
21. Join relevant communities
Identify online communities and forums related to your product or service and join them. Become an active member of the community, engage in discussions, and listen to feedback from users (or potential users).
Some useful communities and forums include:
Reddit: Reddit is an incredibly valuable source of product feedback and software ideas. You can find a subreddit for virtually any topic, and you’ll get super candid opinions.
Product Hunt: Product Hunt is a community-driven site that allows people to post new products, apps, and services. You can use Product Hunt to see what products are getting attention and what problems they’re solving.
Hacker News: Hacker News is a social news site focused on computer science and entrepreneurship. You’ll find discussions on everything from programming to marketing which can inspire new feature ideas.
22. Engage with potential users
Engage with users on forums and social media platforms to understand their needs and perspectives. Ask them questions about their experience with your product or service and encourage them to share their feedback and ideas.
Analytics and usage data
Analytics and usage data provide valuable insights into user behavior, preferences, and needs. That, in turn, helps you hone in on potential improvements. Here are some ways to get feature ideas from analytics and usage data.
23. Identify popular features
Analyze usage patterns and user behavior patterns to identify features that are popular. This can point you towards other features that may be well-loved by your customers and contribute to a better product.
24. Identify feature drop-offs
The opposite can be useful, too. Locating the features that are underutilized or abandoned can help show you where your product isn’t meeting users’ needs. Those are opportunities for improvement and fertile ground for innovative ideation.
Takeaway: Collection is key
Your market is competitive. To win, you need to continuously innovate. Generating new and valuable product ideas isn’t easy, but it’s essential to that continuous innovation.
My best tip is this: figure out how to keep track of your ideas.
The ideas will come from wherever they come. You can (and should) actively try to generate them. But in my experience, the real challenge is developing a system to collect them in one place so you don’t lose them.
If that means having a list in your phone’s notes app, it’s a start.
If you have a running list in a spreadsheet, that’s a bit better.
And if you’re using an app to track feature requests and feature ideas, that’s probably even better.
However you do it, make sure you’re not losing the ideas you’re already generating.
Then you can worry about the next stage: feature prioritization.
Kareem is a co-founder at Savio. He's been prioritizing customer feedback professionally since 2001. He likes tea and tea snacks, and dislikes refraining from eating lots of tea snacks.
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