Home > business, sales, technology > Keeping it simple is easy to say but difficult to do

Keeping it simple is easy to say but difficult to do

Focus on the outcome

Focus on the outcome

Several years ago when working for one of the world’s largest software companies, I was having a conversation with a colleague whose background was software development but who was now in marketing. He was extolling the virtues of the latest version of the company’s software development tools.

It was interesting to a point, and I pointed out that I was probably not the best person to try and excite about the details because I was far more interested in what the tools did rather than how they did it. He was shocked at my attitude. I remember the look on his face. His expression looked as though I had just blasphemed. How could I work in that company and not be interested in the nuts and bolts of the ‘how’ of the software rather than the ‘what’ of the results of using the software?

The advertisements of the time for that product had a theme of moon landings and a line which went something like “Just imagine what could have been done in 1969 when getting those now famous Americans onto the moon if they had this product“.

The problem with that campaign was that most people who would be using the software were not trying to get astronauts to the moon. Most software developers wanted to do far more basic things in their daily work lives and do them slightly faster than previously possible. The launch of that version of the product was a flop and it took them another two to three years with the launch of a new version and more down to earth ambitions for the product to take off (if you’ll excuse the pun).

This story is commonplace in businesses which have technical products. Often, the technical people become wrapped up in splendid details and features but become detached from why their customers would benefit from them. That’s basic sales and marketing knowledge but it is surprising just how much it continues to happen.

Last night I ran a presentation at the Hull Digital networking event about 2-D codes which is a technology that enables people to scan a code on, say, a poster using their mobile phone which then might take them to a mobile web site, or which will dial a number for them, or send a text message.

This is all very well, but I focused on the opportunity that the technology represents rather than the technology itself in my presentation. 2-D codes happen to be good at connecting offline marketing (e.g. an ad in a magazine) to online resources (e.g. a mobile web site). But the opportunity which is more interesting is, for example, that of enabling two different companies with different specialisations in marketing to work together in partnership to offer clients new solutions.

This is approach is far easier for people to comprehend than an approach which talks about features. I know you need people who are good at understanding the features of a product or service. I couldn’t do my job without a team of expert web developers who know how it works. But clients don’t care too much about the ins and outs of a product. They just want to know if you can help, what the outcome will look like and when you can do it by.

It’s simple to understand, but often people forget to do it and end up losing opportunities to help their clients and to gain new ones.

  1. 27/08/2009 at 2:19 pm

    I agree with your point wholeheartedly. My clients are delighted when I look at their issues through their eyes, but they are sometimes uncomfortable when I look at the issues faced by their clients.

    • 27/08/2009 at 2:57 pm

      Hi Phil,

      Thank you for your comment.

      That’s an interesting point. I wonder if your clients might think that you are interfering or, perhaps, encroaching on their ‘territory’? Your clients might think that they know their clients far better than they really do.

      I would be interested to hear your views on that.



  2. 27/08/2009 at 10:30 pm

    Very valid points Will – I’ve seen this a occur a lot – a large majority of which being in the Web Analytics sector – lots of companies buying in tools to analyse, monitor and track everything going on on their site, in some cases spending tens of thousands a year for these tools.

    When it comes to converting these findings to actual actionable business actions, that’s where the problems arise – getting decent, profitable changes and improvements to a site from all the technical data.

    It’s lovely knowing that you can see how many visitors from Cornwall came to your site at 9pm via the search term ‘cheap southern widgets’ but if you don’t know how you can turn this into an improvement online and real profit, then what’s the point?

    • 28/08/2009 at 7:32 am

      Hi Adam,

      Thank you for your interesting points.

      You’re absolutely right about having data without knowing what to do with it. Business intelligence is when you retrieve meaningful insights from data that you can use to your business’s benefits. Otherwise, it’s just data that you captured. Rather like catching a fish that you can’t eat.

      Thank you for reading my blog!


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