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Good Enough

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but there’s been a huge shift in the B2B marketplace. Somewhere during the economic turmoil of the last several years, the priorities of businesspeople have changed, and in ways that profoundly impact what they buy. If you sell to businesses, you’d best be taking note and listening to your customers.

There was a time when businesses, like people, prided themselves on having the best. We bought the best-in-class software, or the top-of-the-line printers. Vendors rushed to one-up each other to offer products with more features, service that was more high-touch. Every company tried to describe themselves as best-in-class.

And then came the recession. We thought we’d all tightened our belts before, during the dot-com bust. But this was harsher and deeper. Our co-workers were being let go – often entire teams of people. Zero-based budgeting became a new term in our corporate dictionary. And the business of business changed, but still had to continue. Everybody had to do “more with less” – people no longer had teams and budget to rely on to get the job done. And that is where we met our new acquaintance, “good enough.”

Best-in-class became – at best – a longed-for luxury of before. At worst it became a symbol of waste and neglect, no longer applauded, and certainly not a singular selling point on for a buyer. Practical became the new black. Buyers were no longer going to pay for features and functionality they didn’t need. And need trumps all, even wants. We all must step up and shoulder the burden of the “good enough” era. Too bad if you have to press one additional button to copy your document. The more automated printer was more expensive. These are hardly austerity measures.

There are, of course, exceptions. All things related to protection and immediacy of financial data, for example. Safety measures are another place companies loathe to compromise. But a large portion of a business’ spend is now subject to the new lens of “good enough”. And companies walking in trumpeting their best-in-class status, comparing themselves to the most luxurious class of cars and designer goods, are missing the point. Your buyers don’t care anymore.