What Should We Do Now, Box?

CD_tax_software_H_R_BlockH&R Block had this hilarious commercial that featured a guy trying to figure his taxes using a software package, but was obviously at a standstill. His beloved wife comes up and asks if he had anyone he could ask for advice, then announces, with an ample amount of sarcasm, “Oh that’s right. You decided not to go with an accountant this year. You went with this ‘Box’…” She then picks up the box and begins talking to it. “What should we do now, Box?” She shakes it a little and then asks again, “Box? Box?”

I guess I relate because many years ago in my efforts to practice thrifty business management, I attempted to do my own taxes using a well known software program. Like the story in the commercial implies, the real winner in the end was my accountant!

The commercial reinforces H&R Block’s value proposition.  This ad complements and reinforces their “You’ve got people” campaign very well. They are the professionals, and we can hire them and they will be at our disposal! And even if the investment in their services is many times what the software costs, the value in terms of time saved and the security of being in the hands of professionals in the unfortunate event of missing a deadline or facing an audit far outweigh the additional cost. And if that wasn’t enough, H&R Block has their own tax preparation software we can use, too! My bet is that the number of customers who purchase the software and are then converted into “full service” customers is pretty high, so I give H&R Block high marks for that, too.

Many times we find ourselves faced with competition from an eager upstart who offers either a flashy new alternative or offers the customer what appears to be the same deliverable we do, but at a cheaper price or some other perceived differentiation. At first this may look like a huge threat, when in fact, what it is is a great opportunity. I’m betting the poor fellow in the commercials and I aren’t the only disappointed purchasers of software that claimed to “Do our taxes” for us, and it looks like H&R Block is betting on that, too.

Often opportunities appear disguised as threats. We have to have a long-term focus in business because a short-term gain isn’t really much of a gain at all.