Every software product developer, and product manager, and sales rep, needs friends in marketing. And they need to be friends with benefits – benefit statements. Clear. Explicit. Specific for a particular stakeholder. Sound obvious? Based on the last month of briefings I have taken, it’s clearly not.
I’m not including Oracle in this rant, because in 3 days at Oracle Open World I heard plenty of benefits – sometimes more of them than demonstrable functions that users had attested to proved. But that’s OK: it’s my job to determine whether value is there, or not. We call that research; it’s more than listening to briefings. It’s the vendor’s job to tell me – and more important, the prospect – what the value is supposed to be. To whom. And what problem it’s solving.
So why do I feel compelled to write this post today? Because I just heard a company that does it so well (yes, Oracle) and I’ve spent so much time lately with ones who don’t. Here are a few of the statements people have gone to great lengths to deliver to me in the past couple of weeks: after booking time, coordinating calendars, securing commitments from me and their executives, creating presentations. All that effort to say:
- “It’s important that the system you adopt is designed to respond to your organization’s needs.”
- “XYZCorp has focused it’s [sic] efforts on the demanding needs of our client base.” (These unique needs, explained earlier, were led by reduced costs and reduced complexity.)
- “Make better, faster decisions by empowering employees to create and share powerful analytics solutions.”
I could go on, but these should be recognizable enough as being in everyone’s pitch that they suffice to make the point: everyone is saying the same things. And none of them is specific enough, measurable in any meaningful way, descriptive of a specific problem, or addressed to a specific business role and its challenges. I called out the word “saying” above because there is no way to know if they are doing anything useful. If it were defined, perhaps we could tell. But most references in the presentations I see tell me one thing: “these companies are using our stuff.” The better presenters stand in front of these NASCAR slides (we refer to them that way because of all the logos, like a racecar) and can actually tell a story or two. That helps. But often, the benefits were not set up and just happen to be positive anecdotes. They don’t reinforce anything, or validate any messaging.
What to do? Ask yourself a couple of questions and answer them. Then tell analysts, press, and prospects. These are the questions:
- Who is this for?
- What problem will it help them with?
- What is solving that problem worth? How will success be measured?
And one other thing we analysts like to hear:
- Why you? What makes your solution to this problem better, or at least different?
Again, obvious. And yet it is rarely what I hear. When I am given the opportunity to help clients with their messaging, it starts here. And sometimes it’s all we have time for. Too often, I’m not even called upon to critique messages – I’m simply expected to transmit them on vendors’ behalf. Leaving aside whether that’s the best use of my time, paid or not, there at least needs to be a message for that to happen. And it starts with benefits. For whom. And how measured.