April 29, 2013

Forget the Features. For Connected Devices to Take Off, Value Must Run Deep

by Pam Sefrino

In his blog last week, Mike Carrozzo at Connected World Magazine discusses the idea that the messaging behind health tracking devices has not made enough of an impact for most people to actually invest hard earned dollars in, and make a habit of, tracking their health for preventative maintenance.

Carrozzo uses this week’s American Heart Association predictions as case in point. Data does not suggest that heart failure is on the decline with the recent introduction of such health tracking devices. On the contrary, it’s on the rise. We agree with Carrozzo, the messaging for and the value of these devices just isn’t resonating with the majority of the population.

From our perspective at INEX Advisors, the problem lies in the value proposition. Our guess is that most of these quantified self-focused companies haven’t spent enough time talking, and listening to, their target markets and stakeholders. And if they have, they just may not be asking the right questions or going deep enough to get the real answers.

On their web site, FitBit promotes “track your activity and your sleep, sync stats wirelessly, see real time progress and make fitness fun.” Jawbone touts it’s Up wristband for sleep, mood and meal tracking, not to mention “idle tracking” which reminds you to move if you’ve been stationary for too long. And the Nike Fuel Band web site pitches not only activity tracking, goal setting and connecting with friends via the connected mobile app, but the device is also a watch!

Ok, that all sounds great, and the features are cool, but is it really enough to get me to buy? If I’m a gadget junkie then maybe. But most importantly, even if I do make the impulse purchase, will I commit to tracking long-term? The real question is whether there’s enough real value to make a habit of using the device worthwhile. If not, once the novelty wears off, it will be collecting dust on the shelf of my home gym.

Dig Deep for True Value
From our perspective, the key to sustainable business growth for IoT developers and deployers, and the driver for real change, whether in healthcare or any other vertical, is digging deep for real value creation. Convenience, cool and fun just will not sustain the health tracking, or any other, IoT business. IoT product demand and sustainable revenue growth in these markets, whether consumer or B2B, will only come from taking the time to have deep, probing conversations up and down the potential market to determine what will resonate, drive a purchase and inspire a lifestyle or business process change.

Typical intelligence seeking questions will yield answers that seem like opportunities – on the surface. “I’m overweight and need to lose 30 pounds,” or “I have a history of high blood pressure and/or heart failure in my family,” or “I need to get costs under control.”

Dig deep and you’ll find the real gold mine. On the business to consumer side, how will losing weight impact me and my family personally? Back to the FitBit, Jawbone and Fuel band examples: what challenges do I have that they will solve? If I track my activity and my sleep, it may help me lose weight and get more sleep, but the point here is that it doesn’t matter. There are plenty of fitness programs, diet plans and now tracking devices that claim to help the consumer lose weight or sleep better. How does your product really change or prolong my life?

The true value proposition for IoT solutions needs to be based in the personal impact on the consumer or business leader’s life and/or the lives of those they love, care about or work with. If I track my activity and my sleep, and make improvements based on the data generated from the device, then the result may be that I not only lose weight and sleep better, but that I have more energy and time to spend with the ones I love. It may enable me to see significant productivity gains at work and at home. I may be in a better mood, which makes my husband or wife and my children happier. I may reduce my chance of having a heart attack by 50 percent, which would give me many more years to spend with the ones who matter to me.

Or on B2B side of the equation…. how would offering health tracking devices to employees impact the bottom line of a company? Would I have happier, healthier, more productive employees? If I do have happier, healthier, more productive employees, what does that mean for my business? Will I reduce absenteeism and increase employee loyalty? How much could we save? Will it increase company profits? Can we create more jobs? How does that have a positive impact on my own job? Will my direct reports be motivated to do more for me? If I show results through data, will I get that promotion I have been seeking?

And then there’s fear. What will happen if I continue to disengage from proactively monitoring my own health? What will that mean for my health, my longevity and the well-being of my family? What are the financial considerations for me and my family if I have a heart attack? How will continued disengagement from personal responsibility have an effect on continuously skyrocketing health care costs? Can our business afford to not have healthy employees? We could go on and on.

The bottom line is this: without digging deep to find what’s truly valuable – real, life-altering outcomes – there is no real value.

Do you have an IoT value proposition that runs deep? What’s your message? Share your story in the comments section below.

Pam Sefrino is principal at INEX Advisors, a technology intelligence and advisory firm based in New Bedford, MA. The firm focuses on helping clients and partners define and achieve success with their most promising growth and investment opportunities.  INEX Advisors concentrates in Internet of Things, Machine to Machine (M2M) and a related collection of Web3.0 enabling technologies. Sefrino has more than 20 years of B2B marketing, business development and sales management experience, focused on helping companies drive sustainable revenue through successful implementation of strategic sales processes and tactics.

April 29, 2013