You don’t have to be a food critic to know that restaurants with shorter menus usually have tastier food than restaurants with long menus covering every type of food possible. The focused restaurants do a smaller number of things very well.
It’s much the same in other industries. After 25 years in the software business, for example, I am more impressed than ever with the value of specialization. General purpose tools don’t work nearly as well as specialized tools to fit the needs of a target market.
Take the market for subscription billing by media companies, one of Billtrust’s biggest markets. It turns out that their paper bills aren’t really bills but subscription renewal offers, so they qualify for a postage rate that is 30% cheaper than the best presorted first class postage rate. And because they offer subscribers multiple different offers, their online billing needs to let users choose from a drop-down box of different rates for different subscription durations. Without these two key features, a billing service provider would not have a viable solution for a media company, even if the rest of their general capabilities were excellent.
The message for buyers of business software and services is to focus on what is unique about your industry, rather than build a checklist of general purpose capabilities. The best Requests for Proposals I have seen ask a short list of questions but they are about the key capabilities required in their industry. For vendors, the specialization in a handful of key markets results inhappier customers and a higher win rate for their salespeople.
Business isn’t always this simple, but when it comes to technology feature lists as well as restaurant menus, less is often more!