Question, what’s more important to you – features or benefits? Is that like asking you what is more important – air or water? As a techy kind of guy, I like gadgets and I like using, playing with and creating new technology. I buy gadgets I like even if I don’t have a use for them. Sometimes there’s a little guilt involved. I also feel guilty buying the latest Blu-Ray DVD player or digital camera or other such device and not using all its features. I actually read the entire owner’s manual when I got my latest car and tried to use every feature (until I found out how poor BMW documentation is – but that’s another story). Fortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to try the one where the emergency full force braking is activated, the seat-belts pre-tension and the doors automatically unlock if you’re in an accident.
But when it comes to business and spending other people’s money, you need to have a reason to buy something. “Gee whiz, it’s cool” is a good way to get fired unless you’re building something and everyone wants one. So you need to figure out the benefits of what you’re examining. And marketing people or salespeople don’t always tell you what that is. As a marketer and former sales guy, I admit to that.
You, as a prospective customer, will typically ask us does your widget do X. We’ll say yes. Then you ask us about Y and we say yes again. When you ask about Z, maybe we don’t do that and so we say no. Does that put you closer to what benefits you gain from the particular technology you’re evaluating? Probably a bit, because you presumably know what you need … but this isn’t the most efficient way to satisfy your goals.
If you’re dealing with a smart salesperson or marketer, I suggest you’re better off by telling them more of the whole story. For example, I’m directed to create a forms submission system that requires that our field agents have the capability to be at their customer site, retrieve and view their records and then have the ability to accept additional documentation and forms from the customer at their site. In contrast, the features approach might be I’m working on a system where I need to view customer documents at the customer site. Do you have a viewer that will work for me?
The answer to the latter is yes, it’s our powerful, cross-platform, universal VirtualViewer, for example. The answer to the former is yes, our system and technology can fulfill your needs, and because we’re a one stop shop, we offer a comprehensive set of tools and applications that will solve all your requirements. From a web-based viewer connected to a secure centralized repository to a document scanner, we let you deploy an entire solution in a short amount of time while saving you development time, cost, and training effort and providing you with a modern, sophisticated solution that will be the joy of your field agents and the envy of your competitors. OK, I overdid it a bit but you got a more complete answer that gave you more of what you needed, without any more work on your part.
Moral: Unless it’s top secret, share what you’re doing with the vendor. They talk to a lot of companies and a lot of people in your boat. They can make your job much easier. Tell them what benefits (goals) you need and they can actually help you achieve them, rather than killing you with a lot of features that might obscure your ultimate requirement.