Characterizing the age and growth rate of the entire
computer industry is subjective to the extent that one must
classify the subset. Some segments are in adolescent years
(CAD/CAM); others are more mature (mainframe software); some
have died (remote computing services); and still others are
just being born (artificial intelligence). But, there is no
subjectivity to the fact that the industry has/is/and always
will C-H-A-N-G-E and that such changes bring a dissonance
which creates its own unique Necessities to be fulfilled by
yet other Inventions. Kind of a passage ... and one which
reminds me of Scientific Data System's introduction which
accompanied a release to its Sigma 2 users......
"We have not succeeded in answering all our problems.
Indeed, we sometimes feel we have not completely answered any
of them. The answers we have found only serve to raise a
whole set of new questions. In some ways we feel that we are
as confused as ever, but we believe we are confused on a much
higher level and about more important things."
For sure, the above is apropos to the Software Industry,
which today is experiencing a 35%-40% overall growth per year
that is expected to continue until 1990. Applications
development is growing even faster. Cost of computer labor
now exceeds the cost of computing time, primarily due to the
decrease in hardware cost and the increase demand for
programmers/analysts. But the rates of these changes are not
synchronized. And while less expensive hardware has created
more accessibility to it, benefits of its functionality are
missing due to a lack of programmers/analysts. According to
a Computerworld survey, over 50% of all respondents indicated
application backlogs as one of the major problems. Respected
industry expert, James Martin, author of 30 texts including
"Application Development Without Programmers", predicts that
by 1992 the number of programmers required to support this
backlog problem will be 28 million -- or about 90 times the
number currently available. GORP!!!
Is it any wonder that the search is on for a more
efficient acquisition of applications. To date the quest has
brought forth "build vs buy analyses for both system and
vertical applications; a slew of "programmers' aids";
"structured analyses/programming/design techniques, and
methodologies"; "code generators"; "fourth generation
languages (4GL's)"; and the latest innovation "application
generators." Providing perhaps a confusing array with
today's hindsight, each of these developments offered hope
for increased productivity as they were chronologically
Is it then that software productivity aids are such that
corporations are beating down the doors to their inventors?
Hardly! They have to be marketed more so today than before.
Why? Because many promised more than they delivered (and at a
price greater than they saved), there is now an "odor" about
such words which once described the beneficial products:
"Structured" has been tainted to mean restricted, cumbersome,
and more costly in its own right; "Higher level language"
has come to be associated with crippling machine performance.
Consequently, if you were to characterize productivity tools
as double-edged swords ----- from many, you wouldn't get an
argument. Was product development negligient? Not totally.
A large part of the disappointment resulted from the unsyn-
chronized development rates of hardware and software techno-
logies mixed with over-sell and over-hope
Notwithstanding, the need for productivity is real,
solutions must be developed and customers must be initially
convinced and continually satisfied. It's quite a marketing
challenge which must overcome resistance to change; correct
perceptions of the past, set accurate expectations and
deliver as promised.
How is this best accomplished? Well first there has to
be a solid product that anchors concepts into concrete bene-
fits. Not all products do. And while it's not the purpose
of this article to champion business ethics, if you are
called into an account attempting to market such an inferior
product, it is urged that prior to taking the assignment, you
determine whether the company will enhance it to have true
market worth. This industry does not need another meta-
product whose marketplace failure makes the next valuable
product's release all the more questionable, difficult and
Next, when it comes to selling productivity software,
there are several factors which result in resistence.
Ultimately, the intangible, "productivity" needs to become
a tangible. Accept it. You are going to have to prove your
benefits.... and also let the prospect do the same by
touching it, feeling it, and seeing it as well.
As much as one would like to believe that the answer lies in
demonstrations, seminars, 30 day trials, video-scripts,
films, tapes, P.I. texts, etc, it is not the case. There are
other hurdles which first must be vaulted.
Naturally, there is the ubiquitous barrier of
inertia/prejudice/bias/and misconception. Nothing new here.
But then there are the two, frustrating "killers": Lack of
TIME (though your product can save them calendar-pagefulls)
and Lack of DOLLARS (though your product can save them
bushels of it). Here's the real battlefield: freeing up the
time and money of a corporation in desparate need for the
benefits that your productivity tool can deliver. It's my
Productivity Paradox of Maslow's higher order of needs. It
goes... "What a prospect needs most; it can afford least.
It's kind of like doing aerobics during the middle of a good
coronary, or practicing swimming while you're drowning.
What a dicotomy for us marketers who believe that our
existence lies in the fulfillment of others wants and
needs. Could it be that productivity tools can only be sold
to those with "wants" and not to those with "needs", because
this group is beyond hope...or at least temporarily so.
Probably not, but don't be surprised if the the "needs"
prospect requires consulting help to get over the hump; goes
with a less sophisitcated competitor's package; selects the
vendor with the easier buying terms; is strongly influenced
by a third party endorsement or denouncement; makes its
decision on the number of users; hangs its hat on a benchmark
which may not be on the mark with respect to it its own
situation; or bases its decision on any thing else which may
seem less important than the redemption your product
delivers. Desparate times require desparate measures. And
when a prospects resources are tight a marketers best defense
is a full offensive marketing mix.......right down to a
written money-back guarantee that the product will do what
you state in both your technical and marketing information.