Selling Products With High Failure Rates

Double Facepalm

Why would anyone buy something with an 80% Failure Rate? Why?

Ever notice how software integrators and consultants claim insanely high failure rates for the very expensive products they sell:

To those selling, the claims of high failure rates have become accepted facts. Starting with analyst reports from companies who were the first to try new software (and suffer the consequences of being first), marketing messaging and the trade press have simply repeated the claims of failure over and over and over. CRM has been in a state of epic failure since the late 90s. ERP, since at least Y2K. And Social Media Marketing has just recently began failing, if you believe the hype.

So, why would anyone, buy something as expensive as ERP or CRM software with an 80% failure rate?  The answer is a very powerful marketing structure called the messianic model. By tapping into a bug in how the human mind assesses danger, the messianic model makes irrationally bad deals seem like a prudent choice. In fact, the messianic model  is routinely used to sell bum deals ranging from oppressive dictators to weight loss to scam investments and especially, to sell high risk software.  Here is how the messianic model  works:

  1. Scare prospect with the specter of some primal, deeply held fear. Cancer, getting fired, jail, or abject humiliation all work. Things that really aren’t likely to happen, but are severe.
  2. Claim you have a sure-fire way to avoid failure and banish the specter. In short, offer protection from evil and salvation.
  3. Press hard, three copies. Done.

The reason the messianic model is so effective in selling bum deals is that people are wired to overreact to severe but unlikely danger. In many ways humans are a lot like birds, that will abandon a badly needed meal if a shadow passes overhead.  Just the tiny possibility of a predator is enough for the bird to abandon it’s meal every time. People react to unlikely, but deadly situations in a similar fashion.  When a fire alarm is pulled in a high-rise building people evacuate, despite the very low risk of an actual fire and the extreme economic cost of having thousands take an hour off of work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *