At Gartner, and pretty much everywhere else you look, the advice is consistent for tech providers–focus on the business outcomes of your product or service to build buyer interest. That mantra has been a focus of many of my other posts, including ones on the importance of telling why and on the lousy state of messaging.
If you think about it, those outcomes are about the impact that you can have on your customer’s business. One of the definitions of impact is “to have a strong effect on someone or something.”
Not just an effect, but a strong effect. Strong effects are emotional and make a difference. That is one of the reasons why outcome-oriented messaging is so important.
But, even for cases where I have seen more outcome oriented messaging, there is another area where impact is as, or even more important.
That is in communicating the need or opportunity that you address for your customers. Beyond not telling why and communicating outcomes, this is often the weakest part of messaging that I see.
As I work with providers on needs, they are often stated in general terms and not very compelling. My review and comments are pretty consistent, “Would you, if you were a customer, spend money to address that need? And if you would, where would it go on your priority list?”
They way to rise towards the top of priority lists is to communicate impact.
As my colleague, Richard Fouts, always advises, don’t just communicate the Situation and Resolution, communicate the impact. The classic format is called SIR (Situation-Impact-Resolution) –and we now add that you lead with outcomes, O-SIR if you will.
Impact is a critical part of the model. Without communicating impact, you are hoping your potential customers will do it for themselves (kinda like hoping a customer can figure out the potential outcomes from your product features).
For example, the need you address might be something like “reduce the average days outstanding for accounts receivables.” That is good, but what is the impact of that pain? It might be “that are putting strains on your cash flow and constraining your ability to grow”or “reducing investor confidence” or a few other things. But its the impact that makes the emotional connection to drive someone to do something now.
I work with one firm that helps high tech clients manage revenue recognition issues. While that might sound somewhat boring, when you talk about the impact of not doing that well (e.g. “We help you make sure that those last minute deals you bring in to ‘save the quarter’ can all be recognized—making the difference between being a hero or a scapegoat.”), it gets pretty compelling.
If you don’t communicate the impact of the need you address, or the current way of doing business, you may not even get to the point of having anyone care about your outcomes.
So, as you think about outcomes, don’t just focus on what you do for people, focus on the impact of not using your products and services. The impact of the need you address or the impact of the current way of doing business. Needs are good, but impacts are better.