This is the second instalment of our review of the 4 Marketing Ps. Last week we had a brief overview and today, we’ll dive into the meat of the subject. The first P I would like to talk about is Product.
What’s a Product?
Simply put, a Product is what you sell; it can also be a service. Something like a car or consulting. You can also sell something like distribution (see last post) or you can sell payments like PayPal does. Those are easy to identify. For other companies, it’s a little more tricky. Is the Product of the Huffington Post content or is it advertising? Is LinkedIn a social network or a way for companies to reach professionals? Did you know that Bitly (the URL shortening service) can predict Internet memes, crises and hits before they happen? They do that by noticing an uptick in shortened URLs to a specific set of articles. So is their Product URL shortening or trends analysis? As Seth Godin argues, at some point the Product stops being what brought the company to be and starts being profits. As companies grow, priorities often change from product or service to profit maximization.
I think your first step is to identify what your Product really is. As a general rule if your small, what you sell is your Product – Konstantin sells design and Ray sells consulting — as long as it’s sustainable. It’s simple. When you’re bigger it gets more complicated. So yes, GM sells cars, but they’re in the profit-maximizing game too. If not, the company’s not worth it to its investors. So cars remain important, but not as an end-goal. I think things get like that because, it’s easier to manage and optimize than to create and revolutionize. We live in a world (some of us) where there’s more choice than there ever was and optimization is the only way we knew to maximize profits.
Where are we today?
I think Products — in Konstantin’s or Ray’s sense of the term — are more important than ever. The industrial revolution was all about Products, but it was never about the best Product, it’s been about the good-enough Product. Optimize and you got bigger and more profitable. That’s changing. At time likes this, when I can get “good-enough” for cheaper than you can possibly sell it, great Products make the difference. Of course, sustainable is always part of the equation.
Granted, it’s hard to qualify who the best designer or the best consultant is. It is, however, easy for you as a business to identify what its customers and prospects really want and offer that. I’m not saying, compromise on the offer, I’m saying make the offer appealing to a set of prospects.
What does it mean for you?
Again, as Seth Godin puts it, the age of the average Product for the average consumer is over. We want art. Something unique, different and personalized.
I’m not sure the average Product will completely die out because sometimes that’s precisely what the customer wants. But as a business, unless you’re ready to win the race to the bottom, you need to rethink your art. How you achieve that I guess depends on where you are. If you’re your own boss or close to it, find a way to make your product remarkable to your prospects. If you don’t have so much control, I think you need to be very honest as to what your company sells — a product? a service? profits? efficiency? — and work towards that…relentlessly and delightfully. “What’s your Product?” is not always the easiest question to answer, I’ll give you that. But the answer is important to align your efforts or change jobs.
What is your Product? What makes it that? (Answer on Twitter)
(Photo credit: JD Hancock)