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The Greatest Thing BEFORE Sliced Bread

A brief lesson why [benefits + results] are better than [innovation + convenience]

· Purchase Experience

Otto Frederick Rohwedder is known to food historians as the "father of sliced bread."

In 1912, he invented a machine that could automatically slice bread. Below you can see part of Otto's patent application, a patent which he was finally granted in 1928. He called it the "bread fastening machine" (which sounds to me like something you might use to attach slices of bread to a garment).

people value convenience but what they deem convenient is a moving target

His machine really worked! For this reason, many people cutely say that Otto also invented sliced bread--a product of iconic renown in the English language: "...the greatest thing since sliced bread."

As a product, his machine was a success.

But as a business, Otto only ever achieved mediocre results. One reason for this is that he never quite figured out how to convey the benefits of an automatic bread-slicer to consumers. In fact, people commonly thought that pre-sliced bread went stale faster. So the public seemed to perceive Otto's machine as an effective way to make their bread stale faster. No one wanted this.

It was not until two decades later that a little company called Wonder (as in "Wonder bread") finally figured out how to make sliced bread a massive commercial success. How did they do it, where Otto had failed? The answer seems to be twofold:

  1. They solved the staleness issue. In sales methodology, you might characterize this as "resolving the objection." In the ensuing twenty or so years since Otto's first seminal invention, other methods had been invented to prevent sliced bread from going stale as fast (interestingly, Otto was also among these follow-on inventors). With the staleness objection resolved, the public conversation then shifted to asking about potential benefits of sliced bread.
     
  2. They effectively conveyed the benefits of sliced bread, which were themselves compelling. The packaging that contained Wonder's sliced bread said: "helps build strong bodies 12 ways.” At the same time, Wonder ran full-page ads in popular magazines to expound on each of those 12 ways. Public perception changed, and sliced bread was now seen as a household staple to growing strong kids and families.
purchase experience assistance

Now, the ability to have sliced bread more conveniently than in the past, when everyone had to slice their bread themselves by hand, seemed like a boon to the world.

Sellers: This story illustrates why, in business, focusing on [benefits + results] is often better than focusing on [innovation + convenience].

People don't buy newer and faster unless the outcome you are promising is itself compelling. This is why, although the greatest thing before sliced bread was the ability to create sliced bread automatically, the only phrase you know is "the greatest thing since sliced bread."

...because it wasn't great until the focus shifted from the machine to the result.

Conclusion: as a seller, focusing on [benefits + results] improves the marketability of your offering.

Buyers: But the more important lesson here is actually not for sellers, but for buyers--for you, anytime you buy something.

Let me explain.

And since we handle thousands of Regus cases, I will use Regus as an example.

When people decide to sign a Regus contract, they do so because Regus promises convenience. But what happens when Regus breaks that promise of convenience (as they often do)? Your objective changes. Instead of the promise of convenience, you now want results. Why? Because with results*, you don't have to take anyone's word for it: you either see the results, or you don't--and if you don't, there's no need to chase anyone down trying to get them to fulfill their promise to you.

*Notice, however, that "results" is just another way of describing the thing your were promised.

This is the problem with how most people think about purchases.

You think the purchase ends as soon as we hand over our money, and while that may be technically true, it misses the more important point that a purchase is only the beginning of an entire "purchase experience" that follows. When you talk about getting the thing you were promised, or not getting it, you are talking about the purchase experience.

Every purchase carries with it a purchase experience.

Who is managing all of your purchase experiences?

When things go right--when you get the thing you were promised without any extra follow-up required by you--it's easy to forget about the purchase experience. But when things go wrong--when Regus suddenly becomes the most frustrating vendor you do business with--managing that purchase experience can quickly morph into a part-time job.

purchase experience assistant

...one worthy of Mike Rowe's show Dirty Jobs (in the image above, Mike is at the San Francisco city dump, learning to sort and recycle old paints for use in third-world countries).

Veeto is #1 in the "purchase experience assistance" space.

In general, this means that Veeto manages all of the purchase experiences for thousands of freelancers, executives, and business owners, proactively identifying and resolving broken promises, ranging from small customer service issues to larger legal issues. We were the first to create the space in 2009, and remain number one today.

One of the purchase experiences we see a lot of demand for is Regus, and it almost always comes in the form of: "Dear Veeto, I am at my wit's end. Help me get out of my Regus contract." As a result, we are the single largest conduit in the world through which disgruntled Regus customers break-up with Regus.

Why this matters?

Making purchases without a way to manage the subsequent purchase experience is like getting excited about a bread-slicing machine when all you really want is the sliced bread. The promises sellers make, like the allure of innovation, sometimes fall short. Smart buyers don't wait for that to happen, because they know that by then, it will often be too late to fix an issue efficiently: the issue has to be fixed immediately so you have no choice but to drop what you are doing and hop on the phone to trade minutes with some customer service representative whose time is quantifiably worth less than yours.

It would be better if you never had to call customer service again. It would be better if you had a dedicated purchase experience assistant in place. That's Veeto.

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