You have the better product _ yet it does not sell
Having a good product is not enough to sell. While this statement might sound obvious and almost trivial, we often fall for the trap of looking mainly at product-specifications when something is not selling. The problem is, if we want to find issues with our product, we will easily find them; customers will always have at least a couple of parameters they would change.
In this post, I am writing about some personal takeaways from my activity helping companies. Specific industries and products would require adaptation of the concepts below. However, having seen similarities between major corporations and small businesses like my activity on CUORdGUSTO (e-commerce only peanut butter), I believe it has potentially general value. Moreover, while this post contains strategic ideas that I believe to be crucial in making the right questions and hypotheses, readers need to remember they must be followed by objective investigations and processes – which is the part I usually play.
When the product is not selling despite good or even superior characteristics, we could use the magic question: “what is the problem?”. In general, I have seen two types of problems answering that question: lack of visibility, lack of credibility.
1) Get known
Nowadays it is not hard to get visibility; social media and other channels are at our disposal. However, the main mistake I have seen is to think that it is just about appearing in front of potential customers. If visibility has become easier for us, it has been the same for our competitors and in general for anybody. Customers are used to neglect contents; it is key then to structure visibility in effective ways. We need to know exactly what we want out of that visibility and plan accordingly. The message is: it is crucial to identify all the actions necessary and sufficient to close a sale after customers see us. Then, we need to [honestly] get them to go through those steps. This is not about tricking customers; we are assuming we have a good or even better product and we are providing superior value to them. This is just about having customers becoming aware of the level of our product.
If we think we can close a sale immediately because our product particularly suits e-commerce, we may want to run ads on an e-commerce platform while the customer is ready to purchase. If we are a sporty brand, we may want to associate ourselves with the pinnacle of sport-performances by appearing on the social channel of a great athlete (i.e. sponsorship) – readers may reference a famous brand. In that way, customers will immediately recall our image while shopping around, and they will actively search for us. Again, if we are a car company thinking a customer would just need to drive our car to fall in love with it, we could use some visibility to bring customers in [or go to them] for new formula of vehicle-testing.
Anyway, this is not meant to focus on digital strategies – which I would not be entirely entitled to discuss. Planning for the steps to take customers through could be an effective strategy in any sales process. It is not only about getting in front of customers, but also having them following up in specific ways.
2) Get trusted
It is often believed that the product will speak for the brand. Quite the contrary, while product-specs must satisfy customers against the ordinary use (e.g. performances of a sporty car), brands and companies must provide all the rest. They must communicate they are there, and they are ready to deploy solid and effective actions if needed (e.g. what happens if it breaks?). The message is: the brand must provide peace of mind - often heard but not implemented.
At CUORdGUSTO for example, customer service is what has allowed us to get through our first year – again, great characteristics and quality of the product are given. At much bigger companies like the tech giant behind a famous e-commerce platform, strong brand-identity and customers’ peace of mind may have been among the major reasons for their success so far. This would obviously need to be tested through metrics if we were insiders.
Trust, however, is not only about customer-service or after-sales. The same e-commerce platform mentioned above may be providing peace of mind by reassuring customers they are getting the best possible deal on a specific product. Whatever the strategic view and implementation of the brand, the main mistake is to appear as lost or absent entities. I cannot go further on this concept because, again, a branding discussion would not be entirely in my domain, and the quantitative investigation would be lengthy and boring. However, I can suggest readers to think and frame this from the point of view of customers, which we all are.
While passion for the product within a company is important to get over difficult moments and to put on the market good stuff, we need to stay focused on the only thing ensuring longevity to our businesses, that is customer-satisfying sales – assuming profitable ones. Once we have done a good job on the design and implementation of the product, if our sales do not reflect that, we need some degree of detachment to honestly answer the question: “what is the problem?”. Chances are that a big part of the solution will not be in other product's features, characteristics, and performances.
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