How much money will I save by using your product? How much more revenue will I gain by using your product? In other words, show me the ROI. Ideally, a well-prepared company would have a couple of responses. One might be an ROI calculator in which after completing a spreadsheet with numbers representative of your company’s operation, you are presented with a prediction of cost savings or revenue gains. The other may be a well-documented case study explaining the benefits a company gained by using the vendor’s product. It seems straight-forward enough but there are several challenges. These are the difficulty in measuring the ROI, skepticism about the evidence and the broader definition of value.
Few companies have measured the “before” so you have something to compare to when you measure the “after”. It’s also hard to control all the variables in the real world so you can attribute all gains to the new product being tested. Many companies will not allow you to measure their operations due to privacy concerns or even if they do, may not grant you permission to go public with the information. Once I was lucky enough to participate in a carefully controlled experiment with the last generation product and the new generation product working right next to each other on an assembly line. The improved throughput was significant and the resulting case study was a powerful sales tool. But in my experience, this situation is very rare.
Even if you are fortunate enough to run such an experiment, there is some natural skepticism. After all, your company is trying to put the best light on your product. Case studies are viewed as special cases where the results were cherry picked. ROI calculators are often seen as biased and rigged to make the solution being evaluated look good. Even if the results are seen as impressive, some executives believe their situation is different or unique and therefore the conclusion and positive results may not carry over their operation.
Finally, as we’ve explained in other blog posts, the value one gains from using a product extends far beyond the production gains. It includes reducing risks, gaining benefits sooner, and the experiences of working with the company supplying the product.
So what can you do when someone asks you to “show me the ROI”? If possible, conduct a carefully controlled experiment that is as objective as possible. Use a third-party to conduct and publish the case study. If available, use industry standard benchmarks so prospects can make apples-to-apples comparisons between products. Keep in mind all the dimensions of value and emphasize the other areas of the total user experience you do differently and better than any alternative. Positive references from loyal customers will carry much more weight than a simple ROI calculator spreadsheet.
Rarely does it come down to strictly a numbers game. Some say you make the decision based on emotion and you then find a way to justify it using logic and evidence. So create a positive emotion by emphasizing the potential for a very positive total user experience and then supplement that with some quantitative evidence to close the deal.

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