Anne Miller — Words Matter Make What You Say Pay!
Presentation & Sales Specialist
Author | Speaker | Coach
Words Matter – Make What You Say Pay!


Metaphor Minute: Selling the Intangible


Nov 2, 2016

Selling the Intangible

How do you distinguish yourself with a product in a field that is not only seen as a commodity service but is also difficult to understand? That is the challenge that Andrea Goulet, CEO & Co-Founder of Corgibytes, LLC faced when she and her high school friend, M. Scott Ford, began their software development company.

“Software development is the ultimate intangible to less-technical buyers. It’s like sausage: people have no idea how it’s made. It’s a magic box. So, how would we describe it to business people to help them both understand what we do, feel comfortable with it, and appreciate the value of our work to their bottom-line?”

“We knew we had to find a global metaphor to solve that problem. By global, I mean that it would work on many levels: from describing what we did, to explaining unexpected glitches that invariably occur, to justifying changes, and even to describing our roles in the process.”

How They Did It

“We attacked this problem in a counter-intuitive way. Instead of running a one-time brain-storming session with the self-imposed pressure of finding “the” right metaphor that day in that meeting, we gave ourselves permission to step back and take time to explore and be open to ideas that came our way, trusting that the right metaphor would jump out from that process. We knew the solution lay in getting outside our specific software world, so we intentionally varied our experiences and observed what we saw. For example, we went to art museums, we watched documentaries, etc. Many ideas popped up. Then we tested them with friends and knew we would have the right one when people said, “That’s great! Now, I get it!”

Ultimately, the winning idea came when Andrea and Scott were watching “This Old House,” the home remodeling and improvement show, featuring Bob Vila. During the show, Andrea blurted out to her now husband, “You are the Bob Vila of software!” From there, it was an easy leap to the global metaphor that would shape their business positioning and even values. They would be the “software re-modeling” company.

“Re-modeling is so relatable,” says Andrea. “Everyone understands it. If they don’t own a home, they have likely seen ‘This Old House’ or HGTV. Everyone understands the concept”

The remodeling metaphor works for their business on many levels…

  • On their website:

    • “As a boutique software consultancy, we focus exclusively on modernizing codebases, championing the idea of ‘software remodeling’ as a way to save money over performing a complete re-write...”

    • Emphasizing one of their core values as “craftsmanship” and caring about the outcomes.

    • Describing Scott Ford, Co-Founder and Chief Code Whisperer, as “the Bob Vila of software.”

  • In discussions:

    • Justifying unexpected needed changes, “Like remodeling a home, the unexpected often arises in software development.”

    • Finding bugs in a client’s system that have to be removed, they compare it to “finding termites in the walls of a house. It Is critical to get rid of them.”

    • Explaining why a particular infrastructure change is necessary, they will say, “It is like needing to replace outdated plumbing.”

The remodeling analogy meets the criteria for a winning metaphor:

  • It is easy to understand
  • It works for their audience (on many levels)
  • It is appropriate in tone to the situation

How Can You “Remodel” What You Do?

What is your positioning challenge? What global metaphor can you use to help your clients better understand what you do, embrace its value, and sign on the dotted line?

Anne Miller
Make What You Say Pay! — with Metaphors

P.S. Find out more about how you can “remodel” your software at:  

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 "The Metaphor Minute" is a brief monthly note with examples from business, media, or politics that illustrate the power of metaphors and analogies to make a point, solve a problem, and get results. Use these stories to stimulate high pay-off metaphoric thinking in your business. © 2016. Anne Miller. -- PERMISSION TO REPRINT -- Feel free to reprint in company newsletters or articles. Just include ©2016, Anne Miller, author, "Metaphorically Selling,"
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