When we first talk to potential B2B software clients, we ask them what their value proposition is. The #1 claim we hear is that their software increases efficiency for their customers. Whether it’s for finance, marketing, ecommerce, whatever, we always hear about efficiency. And while efficiency may sound like a decent promise, it’s actually one of the least compelling reasons to purchase software they can make. When we talk to our clients’ customers, they almost never mention efficiency as the reason they purchased the software. Nor the reason they continue to use it. It never comes up. And the promise of efficiency will rarely, if ever drive engagement, generate leads or close deals. Here’s why:
1. Efficiency is implicit to software.
Has anyone, in the history of technology, ever bought software to be LESS efficient? No – and they never will. Software is designed to make things faster and easier. It’s built into the idea of the product. Just like everyone understands that shoes cover feet, and cars take you from one place to another. Which is why you never will see a Nike ad that says, “Foot covering!” or a BMW spot touting “Transportation”. These are table stakes for the category -not something you crow about as being a great value proposition. When software companies promise efficiency, they are touting something that everyone expects from ANY software. They are merely repeating something everyone already knows. Why would that motivate anyone to buy? No wonder so many of them have trouble generating leads and closing deals. It’s simply lazy and unimaginative messaging. There’s no excuse.
2. And yet, EVERYONE promises efficiency,
Despite the above, efficiency is constantly touted as being the key benefit to enterprise software. Just google any category of enterprise software + the word efficient. You will find gazillions of examples. Even though it’s implicit to the idea of software, scads of software companies cling to this as their big promise, inexplicable. Think about it from a prospect’s standpoint: Not only is your offering selling me on something I already associate with your product, it’s also telling me it’s the SAME AS EVERY OTHER PRODUCT. Yep, selling on efficiency actually commoditizes your offering. If everyone claims efficiency, then there is no value to one claim vs. another. This simply makes your offering part of a pack of others that are indistinguishable. And if everyone is really the same, then the best choice for buyers is simply the cheapest. That doesn’t do much for your margins. So making efficiency a central part of your promise actually hurts your ability to differentiate – and your bottom line.
3. Efficiency is hard to understand.
Efficiency means different things to different people in an organization. To a C-level person, efficiency might mean better margins. To the departmental manager, it might mean fewer late nights at the office. To the staff member efficiency might mean being automated out of a job! It’s critical to understand the impact of efficiency on your audience. It can be something that sounds amazing or terrifying. To have an impact, efficiency has to be unpacked in a way that’s relevant to the specific audience. The key is to ladder up to something that results from efficiency. Are you promising better customer experiences? Are you promising deeper insight? Are you promising less friction in the workplace? You must go beyond the vagueness of efficiency to something more important and personal.
4. Efficiency can’t overcome inertia,
The promise of a more efficient operation sounds nice and appealing. But rarely is it enough to drive a decision. Software companies forget how much risk is involved in making a switch to a new software. The decision maker must put her neck on the line to institute change within the organization. Change nearly always meets resistance. Employees must learn new software. There is significant cost and disruption to implement it. There is expending political capital to convince senior managers and to get budget to effect the change. Think of all of these as the “Con” column and put that next to the “Pro“ column of increased efficiency. If you’re making that decision, is efficiency really worth it? A nebulous improvement in a process is rarely going to overcome the inertia of switching. Your promise must be much bigger.
So, next time you think about offering efficiency as the key benefit to your software, think again. It might not be the most efficient choice.
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