Why committees pick the wrong products

21Jul08

I’ve read several insightful articles about the problems that arise when the buyer of a product and the user of that product aren’t the same person. In these cases, the buyer often takes the form of a committee that looks for a big feature list and low price, while paying little attention to ease-of-use. As a result, the user gets stuck with a bloated product that’s painful to use.

So far, that’s old news. The part that interests me is how this dynamic kills any hope of marketing to customers through blogs and other conversation-oriented methods. Since the buyers never use the product, they don’t invest the time to learn about what it needs to do, follow industry blogs, etc. And since the users are forced to work with a suboptimal product, they’re often too fed up to even bother getting involved with blogs, message boards, and other discussion channels.

Obviously, this situation is bad for customers and vendors alike. But with more and more decisions being made by incompetent purchasing committees who solicit almost no end user feedback, the trend will continue to worsen. Since the committee mindset is so entrenched in the operating model of big companies, the only advice I can offer is this: If your company insists on wasting time and money by forming a purchasing committee or issuing an RFP, try to recruit actual users of the product to lead that process. By encouraging those users to learn as much as they can about the products they’re evaluating and immersing themselves in blogs and other industry resources, you’ll empower these individuals to fight the natural biases of the committee. In other words, you’ll give the company a chance to select something that actually works and makes life easier for the employees who use it on a daily basis.



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