Software is invisible and the value situational
This is my watch. It is a Nautica and the picture actually says it all. It shows the time and the date (and it looks pretty sporty, I think). You can visit the Nautica web site and see that there is little more to say about the watch. WYSIWYG – as we used to say in the previous century: “What You See Is What You Get.”
This is Apple’s new watch. OK, it is not only a watch. Maybe it is just 1% watch and 99% something else, but it is competing for the same real estate on my body as my Nautica. Visit the Apple web site and see how much information is required to explain what the Apple watch actually is. It is much more than a watch and it is something different to each individual customer. It takes a lot of video, text and pictures to convey the messages.
This is my typewriter. I bought it in 1977 when I enrolled at university and I wrote all my reports and even my Master’s thesis on this device. I guess you can figure out from the picture what it can do and which functions it has. It came in a plastic box with a handle so I could carry it around and write wherever appropriate. (I remember that Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) had similar typewriters on business class in the late 1980’s and that I used one once en route from Copenhagen to Tokyo writing a message that I faxed to a business partner in Spain as soon as I checked into my hotel. He was duly impressed by the speed of communication and my ability to send messages from Japan).
This is Microsoft Word that I often use on my Mac. Frankly I do most of my writing with Scrivener, but that’s because I’m an author and have special requirements. Scrivener is a very rich product with a steep learning curve. However, after having used it to write a couple of books, it actually has improved my productivity considerably. I write all my blog posts with MacJournal. That’s very easy to use and provides a great overview of the pieces I have in progress. (I seldom use Apple Pages although it comes at no additional charge with my Mac. Maybe I should give it a try?)
Do you remember the Filofax? I was a devoted user of this type of calendar and spent considerable time moving action items around as they became overdue. I believe the calendar it still around, but I moved to software in the last century.
Why do I list all these examples?
I do so to illustrate that although software can often do much more than the “hardware” it replaces, communicating those virtues is no simple task. Software is invisible and the value of using the software is always situational depending on the user’s ability to climb the learning curve and get familiar with the facilities. The same software can improve one person’s productivity while it appears as a nightmare for another person even when they are performing the exact same job.
When we are not an established brand and potential customers do not know what we do then software companies have a hard time getting their messages across because a picture or two will not tell the story. It takes genuine creativity to explain the value proposition.
Often we have to focus on just a couple of key features and link them to some crucial customer’s pain rather than overwhelming our potential customers with hundreds of functions that they will not take the time required to consider anyway. Often we have to un-bundle all the functionality and provide an entry level version or a free version to make the customers give it a try.
Bringing software to the market is a real challenge and requires creative and inventive business development, marketing and sales people.