A Lesson From Our CEO On Selling Technical Products

At Cart66, we’re all a bunch of developers at heart. I have a degree in computer science and have worked on all sorts of projects ranging from bio-terrorism surveillance for the US government to e-commerce plugins for WordPress. So the technical side of developing Cart66 was certainly challenging, but has not been the hardest part. The biggest challenge has been trying to describe Cart66 in a way that allows potential customers to understand why they might want to use our WordPress e-commerce solution. The temptation is to iterate over an enormous list of all the features we’ve developed and highlight the ones we think are the coolest. But, at this point, we can’t even get through the list of payment gateways Cart66 has built-in support for before the customer loses interest.

Not only is the shear number of features too numerous to mention in one place, the other problem is that Cart66 provides features for all kinds of e-commerce stores. So describing the features that enable you to sell subscriptions and membership access to content on your site does not interest the folks who want to sell downloadable products. Likewise, talking about the content delivery network for securely hosting and delivering your digital products does not interest the person selling physical goods. They want to know about things like live shipping rates and what shipping carries are supported.

All this is to say that listing features doesn’t sell well because the list is too long and not all features apply to all customers. The solution to this problem has been to move from talking about features to talking about benefits.

The difference between a feature and benefit is often a blurry line, especially for a developer like myself to distinguish. After you have built and deployed an awesome feature, like adding the ability to sell products where the customer sets the price, the developer in me wants to shout about this new feature from the mountain tops! You can do such awesome stuff with what we call “user defined pricing” products. The feature, in this case, is that the user (customer) can set the price of the product, but that is not the benefit. To get to the benefit, you have to package your features up so your customer immediately understands how they will benefit from it. So, in this case, we don’t want to say “products with user defined pricing.” Instead, we want to say something like, “accept donations.”

When it comes to marketing, features are like the ingredients that make up benefits. In the same way, cinnamon, flour, and sugar are ingredients that make up cinnamon buns. When you walk into a bakery, you are not presented with a long list of ingredients for all the pastries, buns, and muffins in the shop. Instead, you see pictures of the end product – the glistening cinnamon bun! Once you’ve purchased the cinnamon bun, or are at least very close to purchasing, that’s when the list of ingredients may be of interest. This is true even if the baker is particularly excited about the quality of the organic cinnamon in the bun. To sell the bun, however, you need to get the customer to agree that yes, this is what I want. First, show the picture of the glistening cinnamon bun. Then, once they become a customer, that’s when the details of the organic cinnamon might become of interest.

Sometimes the features never come into play at all and all you focus on are the benefits. Like, for example, the built-in security and PCI compliance that you get with Cart66. We’ve gone to a huge amount of trouble to make selling things safe and secure so you don’t even have to think about things like SSL certificates or firewalls. The details of how PageSlurp works, which is the process of skinning your securely hosted checkout page with your WordPress theme, are very complicated. We’ve managed to put this remarkably complex process behind the single click of a button. So, all the customer needs to understand is, OK, click this button and now I’m secure and PCI compliant. One person said to me, “I have no idea what you guys do, but I love that you do it!” That is the pinnacle of the benefits verses features challenge.

When you get to the point where you establish an emotional connection with your customer based on a benefit that your product or service offers, you have arrived at where you need to be to effectively sell your product. That’s been the biggest challenge for us, a team of developers trying to connect on an emotional level with normal people who have real feelings. We don’t have a marketing team, it’s just us. Something like a new API integration, doesn’t usually evoke the same feelings of bliss for our customers as it does for us. So, we’ve had to pull back and experience the benefits of Cart66 as our customers might see it.

The main goal of Cart66 has been to provide all the tools and security people need to sell anything they want all in one place. No need to hunt down a bunch of add-ons, no need to worry about installing SSL certificates, it’s all right there together. Cart66 is all about finally being able to relax about e-commerce.