If you are making a business decision to invest a boatload of time and money into a product or a service that is feature rich, stop. You might end up looking like the Kriegsmarine after the Bismarck disaster.
In the WW2 Nazi Germany deployed a fearsome naval ship- the battleship Bismarck. This 52,000 ton floating armoured behemoth was the biggest, baddest and meanest ship of its time.
It was the Death Star of the seas.
It was designed to destroy Allied commercial shipping in the Atlantic Ocean and tip the balance of the war in favour of the Axis powers.
Instead Bismarck sank during its very first naval mission in 1941.
Funny thing is, the Bismarck hit Davy Jones’ locker not because it was all bark and no bite. Its guns literally blasted HMS Hood, the pride of the British Navy, out of the water from miles away.
It evaded the pursuing British Home Fleet in the North Atlantic for days.
Heck,it even endured a punishing barrage of 300 to 400 shells during a 2 hour period and scores of torpedoes without sinking.
Bismarck’s Achilles heel turned out to be the crippled steering mechanism which was taken out by a single torpedo dropped from a lumbering and obsolete WW-1 era Fairey Swordfish biplane.
In one of the most lopsided matches in military history one of these flimsy fabric covered planes swooped in, faced the hulking giant of the ship whose guns were pouring out torrents of fire, dropped the kill torpedo and swerved to safely.
While there has been a lot of analysis over why the Bismarck could not knock out even a single one of the 15 slow biplanes involved in the air attack one theory is that its automated anti aircraft (AA) guns were not calibrated to match the speed of these slow moving planes.
Another theory is that the AA guns could not be manoeuvred enough to adjust to the trajectories of the low flying Swordfishes and the shells exploded harmlessly over the planes.
But no one contends that the Bismarck sank because it met a stronger foe. In this clash between battleship and biplane it was clearly the Goliath.
Ford Edsel, Apple Newton and spectacular failure
Like the Bismarck, both the Ford Edsel sedan and the Apple Newton PDA came loaded with features. In the late 50s Edsel was equipped with self adjusting brakes and lighted displays- standard for any car today.
Newton sported spiffy handwriting recognition, touch screens and some kick ass apps in the mid 90s- features any mobile device worth its salt has in 2011.
Yet because of various factors both these products bombed. Edsel bombed so bad that the word is a synonym for failure.
The moral of the story here is that a product loaded with features is not the only requirement for success.
Without finding out what your target market wants (market research),creating your offering to meet those needs and then telling the market about it (marketing) your product or service is guaranteed to fail.
Sometimes marketing trumps the other two factors. You could actually make an awful product (MS Vista) and still earn billions off it because of marketing muscle.
Function over form-the B2B case
Now B2C marketers can sometimes get away with such shenanigans.
But the B2B market would trash such a flawed offering. Their buying decisions are based less on emotions and more on whether pain points are addressed.
This is not to say that if you are making a CRM suite you should use a hideous user interface. Everyone likes shiny buttons and sleek dashboards.
However if you are counting only on the shiny and sleek to sell your software you are in for a big disappointment.
Trying to sell something to the B2B market that exists only to massage your ego is like trying to grab a fistful of sand.
When it comes to cool features over market needs in B2B, go with market needs every time. And drum that up in your marketing.
And as for scratching that cool itch, what do you think concept cars and prototypes are for?
Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons