Hey businesses, do you know your “Product”?
Know your product. That’s what big talking sales managers and colourful retailers would say to trainees being indoctrinated into the traditional, material product oriented, supply chain and stuff on shelves retail. They’d tell you that the “product” was the stuff on the shelves and that the value to the “consumer” or end customer was in sales people being able to extol the difference between the various stuffs, and to get it off the shelf for them. So knowing every practical detail of that product was the key to selling it.
Then things got challenging.
Without getting into too much of the detail we all already know, a myriad of pressures on that traditional material product relationship eroded consumer’s confidence in this traditional system — it challenged our perspectives on value, relationship and trust. Without positive relationship and emotional value in the product purchasing equation, we became price conscious and subsequently drove that material product system into a race for the bottom where only big box material product retail could afford to exist.
But what if the material product wasn’t the actual product at all?
Perhaps the product, the reason for the purchase or the interaction between the customer and the retailer, was never the material product. What if a general laziness and lack of understanding of the emotional product among businesses removed the real emotional value out of the product exchange in the search for more margin.
And what they left was a skeleton of a product relationship — simply I’ll give you this in exchange for that money in your hand. No personal relationships, not conversation, no getting to know your name, no inspiration, no displays, no passion, no uniqueness, no image — no brand.
But what if the relationship was based on the emotional and not the practical? We believe it was, and still is. And we believe that successful businesses and retailers that have survived the pressures of the last few years get it. We believe that many new businesses and retailers that are starting up as flag bearers of the new economy get it. But unfortunately, so many still don’t.
So what is your real product?
I’ll tell you, it’s not the stuff on the shelves. Your product is the assembly of all your activities within your business but most critical is the emotional value elements of your proposition through to the experiences of engagement with you, all of which add up to be your brand. Essentially your product is your brand.
To break it down, your product is:
– your brand and identity embodied in action and the physical material product package
– the performance of or experience with your material product
– the culture cultivated within your audience
– your ability to inspire
– your physical presence, retail environment or experience area
– your social media presence and activities
– your design or curation of the products you make and stock
– your opinion or perspectives that influence the lifestyle of your company and offering
– your ability to create and support a culture around you
– the personal relationships you care to build with the people to whom you make or curate your goods or services for
– your reputation for discerning taste, quality and passion for service
– your demonstrated specialization and passion for the category of goods or services you offer
– your apparent care for doing things right; by quality, by designed spaces, by the wine served at functions to the cleanliness of the washrooms — if you care about this, it’s because you care about your customer and the culture you are a part of
This product is magnetic
When businesses get the product right. That is, to nail the list above, not as a mandatory checklist but in stride as part of the soul of the offering, they down right kill it and become magnetic.
But sadly, when businesses fail to see it, resist the list and continue to drag the traditional model across the new social society floor, they are rejected and replaced by the internet, or big box or swapped out for something completely different that will consume that slice of disposable income. It’s that easy.
Try it at home. Put on the lenses of this checklist and walk into a busy business or retailer and really look to see what’s happening. Is the place clean, well designed and comfortable? Does it inspire you? Are people hanging around, excited, voicing their enjoyment, laughing, engaging with staff and talking about their recent trip or family? Is this business successful? I’ll bet you answer yes.
Now go around the corner to that other shop. You know that quiet one with the poorly maintained backlit sign. Put on the lens and have a close look. What have they neglected on the list? What do they resist engaging in to their core. What do they resent about social media. Why don’t they host socials, events or workshops? What things do they not do better than big box retail, or restaurant chains, or other bakeries, or pubs or wineries? What do they stock that’s easily found on the internet? How are their prices because I know they have you checking? I’m sure they aren’t successful. They’re just hanging on.
New economy, new product
Quietly, but not without pain, the economy has been changing as has the business to consumer market place. Within the business to consumer relationship there has been a revolution to the point where you might even hear the term “Business or Retail 2.0″. It’s that big.
But inside this cliche is a reality that is overlooked, misunderstood or avoided as a hard uncomfortable truth. And that is that there is no longer a consumer. They are an audience. There are no longer products and retailers. Businesses are now performers. There is no longer a simple exchange. There is now a relationship. There is no longer a consumption, there is now engagement and lifestyle.
And what new 2.0 businesses innately offer is the lifestyle and not the material product. The material product is an excuse for the relationship. The material product or service is simply a category around which to build a culture. This new business engages in all that is the emotional product because they want to, not have to, and because it’s what interested them in the business in the first place. People are engaging in the florist that loves flowers and style, and lives and shares the lifestyle of flowers and entertaining, inviting you to join them. They don’t buy from the place that sells cheap flowers.
Know your real emotional product and offer all that surrounds it and the audience will take care of you.