It’s common wisdom for product managers to deprecate unused features.
It avoids feature creep, it prevents the product from getting bloated.
But what about the features users love?
Why do companies remove them?
How do they align the story around it?
Here are two bold examples to learn from.
Both cases are from Mixpanel — a product analytics tool that makes my job as product manager so much easier.
“Codeless tracking” was a Mixpanel feature that let users track events without developers’ help.
For product tools, “no developer time” is a brilliant value proposition. It’s also smart because it reduces the time to value. For Mixpanel, this was a key differentiator.
In 2018, users reported a security issue on that feature, and Mixpanel fixed it. To prevent further breaches, they stopped all new accounts from accessing the feature.
But the market had finally caught up.
Competitors now allowed you to work with “codeless tracking”. Mixpanel would now lose in their own game. Ouch. This is when sharp product marketing makes a difference.
They spun the story around. They did so by explaining why their previous way of doings things was wrong. They stated that companies that kept on relying on “codeless tracking” would let you down.
To this day Mixpanel still ranks on the top results for “codeless tracking”, where they explain the pitfalls of a codeless implementation.
When founded, Mixpanel tackled product analytics and communication with users. Back then, treating the problem space as one segment made sense. Market size, users’ need and competitor landscape meant it was a great opportunity.
Through the years Mixpanel invested more and more into the analytics features. It became a leading tool in the space.
They left their communication aspects neglected, and new competitors entered the now growing market.
In 2020, Mixpanel announced the end of their communication line. They were sunsetting the messaging features to focus entirely on product analytics. The combined approach had helped in the beginning. Now, it was deviating resources from their core vision.
To keep users in their ecosystem, and avoid a migration to other services, they had to offer a solution for the missing feature set.
In this case, the strategy was strengthening partnerships with other specialized players. They built native integrations that leveraged their core features (product analytics) with the other tools’ features.
Aside from the strategies to kill features that users love, the main takeaway here is on the coherence of the story.
In both cases, Mixpanel adapted their story to keep it coherent, which in truth is their strategy for becoming a leading platform for product analytics.