Forget features and benefits, focus on the value of your product to your customer's customer

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What a year so far! Between the economic downturn and the global COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and consumers have been dealt a triple whammy of note.  

Now more than ever, technology vendors must focus on delivering value. And to do so, they simply cannot continue to push product features or even customer benefits – instead they need to clearly communicate the value that their solutions deliver to their customers, their customers' customers, and even further down the value chain.

In other words, know your product's ultimate value to end-users.

BI – a prime example

Business intelligence is a clear example of a supremely beneficial technology – for enterprise customers. It can highlight organisational, market or industry trends and reveal competitive threats or opportunities that would otherwise have gone unnoticed.

And yet, BI vendors and partners have not succeeded in communicating BI's value to end-consumers. Instead, vendors have sold the technology on the basis of features such as mobility, self-service and collaboration, presenting these as solutions to common enterprise customer problems.

As a result, BI does not typically penetrate the entire enterprise, even after taking hold in one or more departments.

Feature fail

Why doesn't feature selling work in BI?

One reason is that many vendors compete around the same product 'differentiators', leaving little to distinguish them. The flashy new features they've added in the latest release will only be unique until the next release/upgrade from the other vendors as everyone is playing catch-up quickly.

Another is that customers today know more about the products they want and their suppliers than ever before. The Internet has made it that much harder to compete on features alone.

Levelling up

It's not hard to make a case for focusing on value at a time like the present. If tech vendors cannot motivate how using their technologies will inspire a buying decision in consumers, enterprises simply won't see the point.

But what does BI-derived consumer value look like in action? A few examples should suffice:

  • Analysing customer data can help companies to build the most common consumer personas, allowing them to construct key marketing messages that address common pain points. The value of BI is in understanding consumers better in order to deliver clearer value based on actual preferences.
  • By analysing sales data, incongruities can come to light, such as a disparity between revenue generated by high-volume, low-price items and more high-end items that move slower but drive up cross-selling revenue. The value of BI is in identifying what product combinations consumers value most and delivering more of it.
  • Looking closely at its supply chain, a company will be able to pinpoint areas of delay, including specific products and transport methods that are prone to delay. The value of BI is in addressing specific delays to overcome customer disappointment.

Next steps

In turning to value-based marketing, BI vendors and their in-country partners must reassess their go-to-market strategies, taking care to map delivery to ultimate consumer needs.

Working with channel partners and customers, they must work to come to a clear understanding of customer business processes and applications, and how BI can add value to their customers' customers.

Real-life example

A prominent BI implementation partner to AIGS Insights, involved in the CX (Customer Experience) space, is a case in point. The company has a skilled team of researchers with a great track record in CX. Working with their end-users, they learned that their customers' needs around the communication and presentation of information/research had changed substantially over the preceding few years. Armed with this knowledge, the extensive experience of AIGS Insights and the power of Yellowfin, their choice of BI product, the company not only elevated their offering/solution to their customers/prospects, retaining their customers, but also successfully added new customers in a very crowded arena.

Value in tough times

In many cases, a wholesale BI implementation need not be the answer right away, typically where budget is a constraint.

Where the BI vendor has an integration agreement with the independent software vendor providing the customer's core business application, BI tools can often simply be integrated into the existing business application.

Referred to as embedded BI, this offers a smart way for companies to taste the immediate benefits of BI without breaking the bank.

Either way, the value of BI must be tied closely and unmistakably to end-customer value. This requires a lot more than normal in-depth knowledge and understanding of the customer's business and their value proposition. Without such extended understanding, how can the vendor possibly work with the customer to unlock the value in the data?
Pretty normal for me...
Phrases most often used in meetings include...
 

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