Building and communicating a product starting from the people
What should we focus on when developing, marketing and communicating a product? On the people who will use it.
The 3 golden rules
This may seem trivial to you, but are we really sure that companies start from these assumptions?
Here’s in fact the three basic prerequisites that every business should have:
- any product marketed is born as a solution to a problem;
- the value of a product is given by its commercial exchange in a free market;
- the customer is important both before and after the purchase.
Write them down on a piece of paper and paste them on the bulletin board in your office: these are the golden rules that must accompany your work today and tomorrow.
But let’s take a closer look at them.
The solution to a (person’s) problem
The ABC of business: the product must solve a problem for the user, who decides to spend a certain amount of money or carry out a certain action, to obtain it.
This results in:
- If I buy a pair of sneakers, they should allow me to do gymnastics.
- If I buy a camera, this should allow me to take pictures.
- If I sign up on a social network, I should be able to easily socialize with the other users.
So far, so good.
The value (for the person)
The value of a product is given by a number of variables:
- severity of the problem it solves
- quality of quantitative consistency of the outcome generated by the solution
- scarcity of time or quantity
- volume of demand
- volume of competition
I would like to focus on the first two points on this list.
If the problem that can be solved through the solution I am buying is serious, objectively or subjectively, I will be willing to pay a greater sum to obtain that good; on the contrary, if we are dealing with a minor issue, I will look for cheap or even free solutions.
So, returning to the examples in the previous paragraph, if I buy a pair of sneakers because I want to use them to go to the gym, I will hardly go in search of a solution with above average or competitive performances.
Equally, the consistency of the outcome – intended as a result produced through the use or exploitation of the asset – is closely linked to the amount I am willing to pay to obtain such a solution. The quality of the outcome can be expressed with an evaluation scale that goes from "perfectly solved" to "solved with reservations". Ditto for the quantity, with a scale that goes from "solved several times" to "solved only once".
If I buy a pair of sneakers at an above average price, I expect above average performances every time I do gymnastics, up to their natural wear.
And I guess you follow me up to this point too.
(The person) before and after the purchase
The customer is important, both before and after the purchase.
You must be thinking: of course Mirko! But no. It is not a concept to be taken for granted. How many times have you purchased a product presented with brochures, catalogs, super spots on TV, huge testimonials and then you come home and the instruction booklet is written on an A3 sheet folded 8 times with the texts in 24 languages and an 8pt font?
For me this means treating the customer with little attention, despite the fact that the company has invested millions to introduce me to its product and then took my money.
Let me give you a trivial example: if I buy a flower delivery service in the city at a cost of 5 euros from any local florist, he could send me a text message after delivery, so that I can be sure that I have solved the problem for which I’ve paid him. What would it cost the shopkeeper and how much would he earn in quality of the service?
Or a sneakers company should start an after-sales service that guarantees me access to useful information for cleaning and storing the product. This would avoid the destruction of many pairs of shoes in the washing machine (or washing machines with a pair of shoes)!
Digital companies usually save themselves from this post-sales "indifference". The reason is simple: often their earnings are related to the frequency of use, rather than the one-off sale. But I believe that for all businesses, especially in the current context, it is very important to keep the acquired customers close and not just invest almost all their strength to always acquire new ones.
Listening and contextualizing
To present a product to people it is important to know how, where, why and by whom it is used. Context, in one word, is crucial in marketing but also in product development.
Try to think about your own experiences. Which of these sentences do you say most often?
- "Cool shoes, where did you buy them?" or "Do the shoes you wear have an ultra-light sole?"
- “Wow! With this TV you can watch movies in very high quality" or "How many pixels does your TV support?"
I bet you have often exclaimed the first options proposed, speaking of the context, in fact. While companies often focus on the characteristics, therefore on the content of the second options above.
People talk about the outcome generated by the product, contextualized in the how, where, why and by whom. Some big brands have understood (before others) or rather have listened to users and have used the context to make better sales.
- Coca-Cola places its flagship product in daily life situations of its consumers;
- Ikea makes the context its main strength, with various claims concerning the change and dynamism of its products;
- Facebook differentiates the content of the feed based on times, type of device and day of the week.
Understanding where, how and why I use a product and above all who they are, not only helps company X or Y to improve its marketing and communication strategies, but also to perfect the product itself.
So context is one of the best strategic weapons to reach potential buyers in a free market. Simply, the context in which a product is used can increase and decrease its value, even in the presence of a high severity issue or of a high quality and quantity of outcomes.
If you are looking for something to compensate for your boredom during the 10 minute subway ride, you will choose a game that is fast, simple and that allows you to finish a game in that amount of time. Quite different if the period to be filled is longer, such as a trip by plane or train.
Furthermore, if we do not take care of the after-sales service enough, we may have commercial disadvantages deriving from a bad or incorrect use of our asset. Think this through!
The 3 golden rules (for the persons)
Therefore, taking up the 3 golden rules at the beginning, we can say that:
- The solution will help the person solve their problem effectively.
- The pre-sales communication was sincere and focused on how, where, why and by whom.
- Post-sale customer care will accompany him in the correct use of the product within the various contexts for which it was designed.
To conclude, when you think about a new product and therefore a problem to be solved, try to discover and hypothesize the various contexts in which it will be used, already in the design phase.
In the same way, if necessary, start straight away to differentiate strategies, communications or even the product itself, for the people and contexts in which they’re in: the how, the where, the why.
We will also talk about this during the Product Management Day, the first Italian conference entirely dedicated to Product Management. A totally free event to deepen the process that follows the product life cycle.
Find all the information here!