You’ve spent almost all your time getting really good at what you do. College, maybe graduate school. An internship, entry-level job, moving up the ladder – learning, improving your skills, sharpening your abilities. Now you’re running your own business or movin’ on up the the C-suite and you’re on the top of your game. Making the best product, offering the best service.
But at some point you’re going to get a nagging suspicion that things aren’t quite the way they seem. Maybe it’s a deal that didn’t go through. Maybe it’s a client or a customer that wasn’t as happy as they should have been. Maybe it was a buyer that went somewhere else. And little by little this nagging suspicion is going to continue to grow until it’s the 900-pound gorilla in the room. You’re thinking about it when you’re at work and you’re thinking about when you’re at home. Chances are it’s waking you up at night and you’ve spent some late night hours watching the lazy ceiling fan spin slowly in the darkness.
Here’s the problem in a nutshell – your product or your service is cost of entry. What you do is the table stakes that get you in the game. Your product had better be good or no one’s is going to buy it. But just because it’s good doesn’t mean they’ll buy it either.
Computer companies are well known for promoting their digital advantages – called speeds and feeds – that their consumers neither understand nor care about. Camera manufacturers, too, fill their product specs with numbers and metrics that don’t matter to the majority of their buyers. Car companies, electronics suppliers, and manufacturers of every stripe all fill their messaging with details of features and attributes that few of their buyers care about.
And it’s not just hard good makers that suffer the folly of function. When was the last time you heard a doctor or lawyer crowing about where they went to school? When was the last time a realtor told you how many agents they employed? When was the last time a moving company bragged about the number of trucks they own or a restaurant listed all of their locations?
But you don’t care how many degrees your doctor has; you care if they can solve your problem. You don’t care where your lawyer went to school; you care if they can handle your case. You don’t care how many agents work for the realty company you’re planning to hire; you care if the realtor who works for you can sell your house. You don’t care about how many trucks a moving company has; you care if they’ll protect grandma’s baby grand piano. And you don’t care how many restaurants the company manages; you care about how your salad will taste right here and right now.
The folly of function states that “the quality of product performance is cost of entry but it’s not what makes the sale or pleases your client.” After all, all companies offer some degree of function or they wouldn’t remain in business. But after the generic requirement of function has been met, it becomes the What’s In It For Me Factor that makes the difference, makes the sale, and builds your brand.
What this means to you is that it’s time for a sober, gimlet-eyed look at your business’ messaging to make sure you’re not simply listing your features or cataloging your benefits but are making a clear and concise argument for how you make your customers’ lives better.
To learn more about how to do this and so many more techniques, read All About Them, my new book on how to grow your business by focusing on others.