The Limits of Functional Value

August 13, 2019

Dear Future Gregg,

One day, possibly soon, a very logical and level-headed developer or product manager is going to say something like this to you:

“That’s a great idea, Gregg, and it looks super cool. But it’s not solving any problem our customers have.”

And you know, they’ll probably be right.

But there’s a chance you should still build it because sometimes the stuff that gets people excited enough to buy is not always the stuff they actually end up using the most.

Take that social media integration you helped with at Ryan Solutions, where you started pulling in social data for the customers in the database. Remember how:

  • The usage was kinda low, but it screamed “data” and “insight” and “experts” and “marketing” better than almost any other data we had?
  • Excited people got about it on sales calls?
  • Everybody oooh-ed and ahhh-ed when Ben demoed some of those features at the user group in Denver?

That feature may not have a ton of functional value, but those moments told you that there was certain marketing and sales value. That value shouldn’t be ignored.

It’s like doughnut charts. People love to hate on doughnuts charts because don’t add functional value over pie charts, but they look much cooler. More modern. More designed. And you’ve seen situations where cool has helped close deals.

So, yeah, product and engineering might be 100% right. But don’t back down too quickly. That feature may still be just the one you need to build.

Good luck.

-Present Day Gregg

More updates from my functional-value journal:

Hi, I'm Gregg.

I'm a marketer, maker, and long walk taker.


By day I run marketing for resort CRM / ecommerce provider, Inntopia. After the kids go to bed my laptop is my workshop where I'm building an email marketing tracking platform called SendView.