When ranking value propositions to pitch customers, efficiency should be at the bottom of the list. It doesn’t mean enough or have enough real value to inspire purchasing decisions.
For starters, efficiency means different things to different people. Who will be more efficient? Is it the person using the software, or are the efficiencies realized by others that get to view data and reports coming out of the application? If the person directly using the software isn’t the one benefitting from that use, there’s a big problem; but this is often the case with B2B products. For example: timesheet software. Employees generally hate inputting timesheets. They have to do all the work but get very little out of it. Bosses like timesheet software. It helps them become more efficient in processing pay (for example) and managing projects. It also gives them more control (which is really the value proposition of timesheet software.) The efficiencies in this case are gained by the boss and not the employees, which is why it’s often so hard to get people to use timesheet software. Unless it’s made mandatory, it rarely happens.
The big question when it comes to efficiency is: “So what?”
The efficiency in and of itself isn’t the key, it’s the value gained through the efficiency that matters.
For example, let’s say your software product helps automate a process that previously required one of my employees to work 40 hours per week. Now, with your great whizbang solution, I can cut that down by half. That’s a 50% improvement in efficiency! Woo hoo! Except, who cares?
What’s the real value extracted out of that efficiency? Too many B2B vendors don’t have an answer to that question. But that’s where real value needs to exist. Salesforce says it very clearly: “Give reps, managers and execs everything they need to focus on what’s important: more selling and less administration.” Salesforce is an efficiency tool. But it’s real value proposition is “more selling”. And reps, managers and execs can’t argue with that.
Making a process or business more efficient for the sake of doing so isn’t valuable enough.
Let’s go back to my example where your software product is saving one of my employees 20 hours per week. So what? What can I do with that newly discovered time that truly drives value in my business? Can I go out and get more projects to fill up that employee’s time and therefore make more money? Can I increase the quality of the work I deliver, because I don’t have to cut as many corners now that the employee is less rushed? Can I adjust that employee’s role somewhat so they can go out and sell more or earn more revenue in some way? Or, can I just outright let the person go because he’s now redundant?
I need answers to those questions before making a purchasing decision. Efficiency is great, but it’s only valuable if I do something with it. And I don’t want to figure that out on my own, I want you to tell me – very specifically – what the efficiency, and by extension your software, buys me. Without that type of specificity in a value proposition, which in turn permeates your branding, marketing, sales messaging, and product development, I’m going to stick with the status quo.
Startups need to set a high bar when it comes to value propositions. Selling efficiency isn’t good enough. Startups are competing against incumbents, the status quo and themselves. Many companies are hesitant about buying from startups because they’re startups – small, underfunded and unproven. So the value proposition has to be compelling and precise. “We help you save time” doesn’t cut it. Take that statement to its logical conclusion and you’ll start to see where your value proposition needs to be.