Product Development: Meet Minimum Buying Criteria Before Exceeding Them

At the airport recently, I saw an advertisement for a cell phone that boasted about its 215 hours of talk time – joking about how other cell phone users were hunting for an outlet to plug in their chargers while users of this cell phone still had power. The manufacturer was trying to brag about battery life, but it seemed like a hypothetical proposition. Even on a heavy usage day, I spend maybe two to three hours at the most on my cell phone. At that rate, it would take 10 weeks to use up those 215 hours of talk time, and it’s pretty likely that I’d be able to find a power outlet during those two and a half months.

Instead of 215 hours of talking before the battery dies, I’m much more concerned about whether I can get in maybe three hours of talk time and five hours of using my Web browser, GPS, games and videos before I need to recharge.

When buyers make decisions, there is a minimum level of value you need to meet for each criterion; above that, additional value may have little impact. If having a minimum of 100 hours of talk time before recharging meets my requirements, then having a phone that can last as long as 105, 150 or even 215 hours isn’t really a value-add to me. But if the phone doesn’t reach my required need level in another area, such as minimum screen size, the product development team would have been better off putting the engineering effort into a bigger screen size.

When does alleged additional value become overkill? Take cable TV as an example. If I already have a package that includes the channels I normally watch, I’m probably a satisfied customer. Now, let’s say that my cable provider offers me a new premium package with 50 additional channels, but none of them include programs that would interest me. Where’s the value-add?

Rather than putting additional resources and emphasis on features or offers that might be of little value to your buyers, product managers and product marketers need to be able to answer these questions:

  • Which criteria are important to your buyers?
  • What are the minimum levels your product or service needs to meet the criteria?
  • Will buyers value exceeding those minimum levels on any of the criteria? Which ones?
  • Does one of the criteria “move the needle” more than all of the others?
  • Where do your competitors fall on the value spectrum? Are there any criteria where they do not meet the minimum? For criteria where they exceed the minimum level, is that excess valued by buyers? How much extra value does it represent to them?

Once you understand the product features and priorities from the customer’s perspective, you can tailor your product development efforts and marketing accordingly. This allows you to maximize investment in the areas of greatest perceived value to buyers, and focus on the marketing messaging that will resonate the most.


About the Author

Jeff Lash is Research Director, Product Management, at SiriusDecisions. A recognized thought leader in product management, he has over 10 years of experience in product management, portfolio management, product development, and user/customer experience design. Follow Jeff on Twitter at @jefflash.


  • Brian Cipresse, 11th February 2013 at 3:47 am


    Jeff, this is a great piece. It reminds me of Theodore Levitt’s work in the context of “The Whole Product” where the table stakes are the barrier to entry and the expected product costs money but doesn’t advance your product in the market. However, finding the right augmented product feature that people must-have, instead of focusing on expected features, and you might be able to lead the market. 215 minutes of talk time isn’t something people are willing to pay for and misses the augmentation mark. In 2007 the iPhone touch screen was that augmentation that got me to spend $600 even w/o MMS and w/o copy & paste. So was the PALM Pilot when it first came out vs. anything else before it.

  • The Inspired Product Manager, 23rd June 2013 at 3:41 am


    Hi Jeff, I fully agree with you, while observing the very opposite of you proposition in daily life.
    I guess your suggestion is nothing new, but a very good reminder to actually meet all requirements and not get lost in one single excellent feature.
    I hope you don’t mind my linking your article on my blog.

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