Product Marketing: What Robot Vacuums Teach us About the Value of Time

robot vacuums roomba

Product Marketers often find ourselves in a battle to convince people that our products and services are part of a value proposition rather then a cost proposition.  For many commodity products, its easy to group them in to the cost category. After all, for an object that we take out once a week to pick up some dust, can you really justify a 500 dollar vacuum?

I am in the market for a new vacuum. The interesting thing I started to put into the equation was my time.  I have a good hoover, but its bulky and the coord is limiting – it works though.  So IF I get a 2nd vacuum the question starts to become about portability and time.  The cordless Dyson’s are very attractive, but the Roomba ( or any other robot vac ) is also appealing for another reason. Let’s consider for a second that you spent an hour a week vacuuming.  If there was a cost delta of 100 dollars between two models, and one model saved you 5 hours, wouldn’t that be worth your time?  This totally changes the cost equation.  ( On paper, with an assumption of 20 dollars per hour*, math says “yes.” Even half that, saving less then 1 hour per month, it pays for itself ).

It’s not a popular approach, but when we look at the larger user experience and our ecosystem, our time and billable time are our most valuable assets. If a vacuum could have you wake up to a clean house, and save you an hour a week, what is that worth?

Let’s it a step further.  How much would it be worth it to you if you saved X hours a week from not having to drive to the gas station and pump gas?  Or got to avoid traffic due to an HOV lane.  It almost makes the case for an electric car?  These 2 specific examples are minor compared to the bigger conversation. Put a price on your time, and figure out if there are some cases that were a slightly more expensive model, could result in a better long term ROI.  This is a great selling point.

Update: Still just me and my hoover. 

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