Designers, these are the kind of companies you don’t want to work in

Who am I writing for?

Product, UI/UX and web designers who work in software/technology companies

There are two kinds of buyers of software; individual buyers and business buyers

Update on 4th december 2023

I first wrote this post in 2017. My views have since changed. The value of designers is still higher in Consumer-facing products, but over the past 6 years the importance of design in Enterprise/Business products has gone up exponentially.

Individual Buyers

Individual buying decisions for low-ticket software are frequently driven by emotions more than logic. For example, everyone around me is saying that Slack is an amazing product? Ok sure, I’ll install Slack and try it out.

Then on Facebook, I see an ad for another competing chat product, but for some reason it just looks ‘old’. Like the design is from a few years ago. They promise better features, but no one in my social/work circle is talking about them. I’ll pass.

Individual buyers want to buy products where it feels like there’s been a lot of thought and effort that’s gone into the details. The website looks beautiful, the animations are crisp, the app feels easy and intuitive to use, it has some wow interactions in the interface. It feels as if they’ve understood the day-to-day problems of the user, and added small little things that just make it easier.

SMB tools, personal apps, tools that cost less than $99 to start using, these are all bought by individuals. Examples are Slack, Buffer, Zendesk, Mixpanel, and most “well-designed” mobile apps.

Business buyers

I’m defining a business buyer as someone who has P & L responsibility.

Having P & L responsibility involves monitoring the net income after expenses for a department or entire organization, with direct influence on how company resources are allocated. Those with P & L responsibility often give final approval for new projects and are required to find ways to cut budget expenditure and ensure every program is generating a positive ROI.

Business buyers don’t care about your product. They care about their problems, and whether you can provide a solution to their problems. And the level of problems they’re looking at, those are rarely solved by products alone. Instead, business buyers’ problems are solved through a combination of product, people and deep industry knowledge/expertise.

So, if a vendor can convince her that they’ll solve the business buyer’s problem, the buyer

  • doesn’t care about the website being beautiful (she’s only going to glance through it a few times anyway)
  • doesn’t care that the product has a steep learning curve (because obviously the vendor is going to train her team)
  • doesn’t care that onboarding is difficult (because obviously vendor will have solution specialists who’ll set up and integrate the product with her existing systems)

Examples: Veeva, Domo, Marketo.

So, if you’re a designer

Don’t work in a company that sells to business buyers in enterprise companies, because your skill set isn’t as valuable as in a company that builds software for individual buyers. If you can’t make out who a company sells to, ask them what their Average Contract Value (ACV) or Average Revenue Per Customer (ARPC) is. Anything above $60000 is a place where you don’t want to be.

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