Saturday, May 26, 2007

Dyson and SaaS: That kind of a person!

One of my favorite bloggers is Seth Godin and he recently told this story of why a consumer refused to buy a Dyson vacuum cleaner because she probably doesn't think of herself as that kind of a person - the kind that buys expensive vacuum cleaners. His key point was that consumers don't just buy a product but also a self-image. Here is an excerpt:

My take: Craig’s friend didn’t see herself as the kind of person who would buy a Dyson. Sure, she might use one, especially if it was free. But buying a weird, fancy-looking vacuum is an act of self-expression as much as it’s a way to clean your floors. And the act of buying one didn’t match the way his friend saw herself.

So many of the products and services we use are now about our identity. Many small businesses, for example, won’t hire a coach or a consultant because, “that’s not the kind of organization we are.” Wineries understand that the pricing of a bottle of wine is more important than its label or the wine inside. The price is the first thing that most people consider when they order or shop for wine. Not because of perceived value, but because of identity.

I have come across similar thinking when talking about SaaS - some customer CIOs see themselves as the kind of company that doesn't do SaaS while others see themselves as the kind that does. And this approach seems to extend beyond SaaS to open-source, web2.0, Oracle, Windows, LAMP and so on. So think about it - do you make decisions based on how you feel about your self (or organization) rather than objective analysis of the business problem and merits/demerits of the solution?

Here are some questions to ask to see if you are biased by self-perception:
  • Do you eliminate certain products from consideration early in the decision process based on the licensing type (open source, subscription)? Or do you take the time to truly evaluate the TCO including hidden costs in time and support?
  • Do you put up with limited functionality because you like what the company stands for (don't be evil/share)? Conversely, do you beat up on a good product or refuse to sing praises of a great product because it happens to be from the wrong vendor?
  • Personally, do you feel better eating a sandwich at Subway than a salad at McDonald's?
  • Do you think you would have bought an mp3 device with vendor lock in for all the content if it came from Microsoft?
  • Does 'Made in China' have a meaning for you? Have you ever reflected on what 'Made in Japan' meant 30 years ago?
  • Do you assume hand-made leather shoes and custom tailored suits from UK are superior to those made by craftsmen in developing countries?
  • When I says rich people's kids do you think of Paris Hilton or Warren Buffet's kids? How is this related to your perception of what being rich would do to you?

What kind of a person are you? The kind that has no bias? Or the kind that can't see her bias?

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