Subject: Re: Support as insurance
From: Ian Lance Taylor <>
Date: 1 Dec 1999 02:48:01 -0500

   From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
   Date: Wed, 1 Dec 1999 14:47:45 +0900 (JST)

   >>>>> "Bob" == Bob Young <> writes:

       >> >>>>> "Bob" == Bob Young <> writes:

       Bob> Customers want solutions.  They don't want source code,

   and continues

       Bob> Just to be very clear here: my point is that customers don't
       Bob> want "features".  They do want the "benefits" those features
       Bob> provide.  But the features themselves are uninteresting to
       Bob> most customers.

   This is not a distinction that is easy to make in practice.

I disagree.  You have to learn to think that way, but, once you do,
it's pretty easy.  Benefits are the things you want.  Features are the
things which bring you the things you want.

   In particular, it varies from customer to customer.

Sure.  An effective way to sell products is to identify those people
for whom the product brings the biggest benefits, and sell directly to
them.  This is standard market segmentation, as Bob mentioned, and as
can be found described in any intro marketing book.  The trick is
first, identifying the segment, and, second, targeting the segment
precisely without wasting money selling to people who won't buy.

   The point is,
   features _as such_ _are_ benefits to users.  A feature has "option
   value", which basically amounts to the "upside risk" that the customer
   might discover a benefit to that feature in the future.  But customers
   differ in the value they assign to that option.

Technically I agree that there is a potential benefit there, but I
suspect that most people assign a very small value to it.  Some people
do like feature-full programs, and enjoy finding neat things it can
do.  I think that most people just want a tool which will help them
get their job done.  I know I do.

The X window system, for example, is full of features, but for me all
that configurability is not a benefit.  (If anything, it's a drawback,
as when I had to spend a couple of days figuring out why my Alt key
failed unpredictably--because it turned out that my keyboard was
actually sending the Compose keysym, and depending on the following
keystrokes X was sometimes composing an international character).

   This point is important, because you could argue that the whole point
   of Leviathan software like Microsoft Word is that there are _so_ many
   features that customers believe the total option value must be
   high.  And because it means you have to account for the possibility
   that customer needs will change, either as the composition of the
   population changes or as the customers themselves do.

Microsoft Word has so many features not because most people want
features, but because different people want different benefits.  For
each feature in Word, you can probably find somebody for whom it is a
benefit.  If you have as many features as Word, then probably 90% of
the available market can find some benefit in it.  It's one way to
build a successful product, but it takes a long time to get there.

   And sometimes a feature, eg open source, is considered an explicit
   benefit, that is an end in itself, by certain segments of the market.

Yes.  Open source is not a particularly large market segment at
present, but it is a growing one, and I'm sure that some products can
be quite successful selling to that segment.

   I prefer to ask the question:  "how are my customers being served?" 
   rather than:  "what customer benefits do I provide?"

The first question tells you what to do with your existing customers,
or what to do with customers after you find them.  The second question
tells you how to find new customers--it tells you what market segments
to focus on.