I thought I’d try to simplify my previous post on how to survive in tough economic times.
Here’s how I see it:
During the good times (eg when every second IT company is planning an IPO) you can focus on features. Features are really all about comfort and convenience, and in good times people lap them up. They are the equivalent of luxury extras on cars (eg heated seats).
During the normal times (eg when businesses are focusing on profitability) you need to be selling benefits. Benefits are about speaking the customer’s language and helping them run their business better (eg how to cut costs, improve sales, etc). They are the car equivalent of being economical and reliable.
During the tough economic times (eg the period we find ourselves in now) the focus turns to results. Results are about guaranteeing that any dollar spent will return more than a dollar in the near future. Finding an equivalent in the car industry is difficult, but probably equates to clever financing options, comprehensive warranty and road side assistance programs, etc. (As an aside: The inherent inability to guarantee any result or return is one of the reasons the automobile industry is going to have such a tough time over the next few years).
This isn’t to say that the three states are mutually exclusive. There’s certainly still a place for talking about features in the current market, but the focus has to be on results.
In terms of IT, our thinking (as software company owners and employees) needs to be on how we can guarantee results and return for our customers. Customers will pay for guaranteed results. Why? Because every dollar they spend will result in more than one in return.
So, from now on, make sure every product or service you provide to your client base spells out how it will give them more in return than they pay for (I mentioned a few examples in my last post).
One other thing: you shouldn’t necessarily follow the leaders. In my opinion Microsoft, Google, Apple and others are all still caught up largely in features and benefits in their marketing. It’s not until you get into their case study sites that you start to see any talk of results. This is both a mistake and an opportunity for them.