As product folks, we spend so much (too much?) time focusing on what to build next. The product roadmap is heavily skewed towards the shiny future. Our customer comms is focused on upcoming feature messaging. Teams obsess over the adoption of new capabilities. We over-index seller and support enablement on the latest and greatest. But if you step back and think about your product portfolio holistically, what’s already out there vs yet-to-be-built-and-released probably follows an 80/20 split.
In a way, your existing product is buried treasure. And it’s being buried by your future product.
Listening to a podcast on short-form writing recently, this patten came through clearly in the publishing industry.
“We greatly overvalue recency. Your job is to persuade the reader that today’s newspaper is the product, and yesterday’s newspaper is for cat litter. We’re still hostage to that mindset.”
And it’s not just blog posts / newsletter articles / Tweets that fall prey to this, it’s long-form writing and other media categories as well.
“Nobody ever goes into a bookshop and says ‘I would like your most recent book please’. And nobody ever says ‘I’m not going to listen to that music because it was written 5 years ago’.”
Product development is a creative, team-based endeavor just like writing a book or producing an album or making a movie. And the value of any creative content is in the collection, not in the newest release. In fact, the greatest hits and outsized value are hiding in the long-tail catalog. Ideally, if done right, the latest offering should actually be a gateway to the corpus.
”You’re so busy adding today’s new layer of soil on top of your mountain that eventually you forget what all the buried treasures are that are in there, let alone where they are.”
So as you’re designing / building / shipping products, remember to highlight what you’ve already produced and provided for your users. The new stuff should layer onto the tremendous value that already exists.
I’d love to hear from readers about the times they fell into the future vs current value trap and how they maintain that balance - please chime in via comments👇. And if you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing.
further reading / references
here is the podcast (North Star w/ David Perell) where Robert Cottrell (23 minute mark) talks about our cultural (and algorithmic) biases for content recency
an example from my Amazon days that I’ve previously written about that goes through the power of layering product choices and leveraging compound interest
childish drawing / interpretation