Building a product family
What is your product? Let’s pretend that it’s cakes. Let’s pretend that you are a baker, you make cakes and cakes are the thing you sell and that pays your bills.
In the world of baking cakes, your day begins at 5am. Each morning you do your kneading and mixing and baking and, voila – you’ve got cakes. They’re gorgeous, tasty – everyone loves your cakes! You set up shop, sell your cakes, pay your bills, and go home happy. The next day you get up and do it all again. Day after day, week after week you make, bake and flog your cakes.
In your mind, you’re a baker and your product is cakes, only cakes.
Ok, let’s think about this for a second – turn the tables and pretend that you’re the customer. You’re in the market for cake. There’s lots of people that you can get cake from – after all, it’s popular – so you go looking for a cake shop.
Let’s picture the scene. You’re walking down the street and you go past a shop with some beautifully presented baked goods in the window. You wander inside – and what do you see? Is it just one type of cake? Are there muffins? Can you see any doughnuts, maybe some bread, croissants? What’s the shop like? What does it look like, smell like and feel like? What does it sound like?
When you go up to get your cake, are there cake options – can you get jam, cream, a name written on your cake in icing? If you bought in a photograph could they put that on the cake? Can you get candles?
So now, if you put yourself back into the shoes of the cake maker, I’m sure that you can see that a cake is not just a cake. While your cake might be your main product, it’s also just an instrument to show your customers all the other cake-related things that you can do.
Wrap your head around this: products that sell don’t pay the bills – it’s the products that get sold, which do.
If you are in the job of selling your products it would be wise to notice that what you are selling is not a product – it’s an experience, and it’s got to be part of a product family.
For example, the thing that entices your customer into your bakery is the shop window filled with beautifully presented confectionery – they probably can’t even see the cake they went looking for in the first place. Once they’re inside the business, they’re being influenced constantly. Your cake isn’t just cake. What’s included in your cake is the music, the smells, the pictures on the walls. Your customer should be fully immersed in the cake buying experience. If you can give them not just a cake, but literally the icing and the cherry on top – without them having to ask for it – the chances are that they’ll pick up a few doughnuts too.
A smart, switched on business understands that attention is different to interest.
It’s easy to get attention – do you remember all the car crashes which were caused by billboard advertisements for the Wonderbra when it first came out? So attention is easy. But getting someone’s genuine interest, that’s a whole other level. As a business owner if you have made the financial and emotional investment to get your customer’s attention then it’s only sensible to make the most of your captive audience while you have them in your orbit.
So think about it carefully and get right back to basics when it comes to your product development.
What is your main product or service, and what does it do? Who does it appeal to – who’s buying it?
Ask yourself, why do they buy it, what problem are you solving for your customer?
And if you know the answer to this then ask yourself – what was the problem which came before the problem you are solving?
Additionally, what problems accompany the problem you’re solving? Because those are the moments in time where your customer should be thinking of you as their preferred problem solver. As a business owner, your job is to provide them with the lightbulb moment that directs them to your front door.
For example, the baker already knows that people come to buy cake. But a smart baker understands that the cake is just where your eyes meet. Use your cake to flirt with your customer, but get them to fall in love with your freshly baked bread, fragrant coffee, your gourmet pastry. Cement your relationship with a loyalty scheme, get them to be faithful to you. Stop them getting bored, introduce some seating and a coffee machine. Look after your customer in a full and remarkable way – and like in any good love story – not only will they look after you but they’ll introduce you to their mates, their mum, their granny!
As wonderful as your main product might be, understand that it doesn’t exist in isolation. It’s part of a product ecosystem, part of a family and it is your responsibility to grow your product family, keep having more product babies with your customer!
As an entrepreneur it’s your job to ensure that you bring value into the life of your customer and the smartest way to deliver that value is by thinking deeply about your audience, understanding them and striving sincerely and authentically to surprise and delight your customer.
Nobody buys a thing – they buy a story. People buy into ideas, feelings, dreams – the reason they’ll give you their cash is not just because they want your stuff – they could get that anywhere – it’s because they want a result which is congruent with their own beliefs, desires and needs. Before they buy, they have emotionally – and sometimes instantly – gone on a bigger journey to identify with you, your brand, your ethos and they will use this information to assess your variety of offerings.
If you can learn to tap into your customer’s mindset and understand their deepest wants and needs, you’ll be able to serve them with a family of products and services that they not only need but they want more than anything that your competitors can provide even with their best efforts. And if you can crack that, your relationship with your customer moves from casual to meaningful – you stop having transactions and you start having a relationship – which is the holy grail of steady business growth.