Many times when organizations find themselves struggling with getting or increasing sales they turn to marketing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made a career out of loving all things marketing, but sometimes that’s not the problem.
The problem might be that nobody actually wants your junk. While that may sound a bit harsh, it’s a fact that a lot businesses attempt to sell things that they think people should want.
No amount of brilliant marketing is going to help people understand that they need to buy from you. This fact has been greatly amplified with the onset of social media.
Marketers often made fun of the “build a better mousetrap and people will beat a path to your door” thinking – siding instead with the best marketing wins. We’ve all seen what seemed like great products and companies fail.
The thing is, these days the best products and services have a voice, and that voice is YouTube and Twitter. Build a better mousetrap and people will tweet your song for you. Build a lousy mousetrap and people will tweet your song – and there’s not much your PR team can do to stop either.
So how do you know if you’ve got a product problem? (Oh, and you can just as easily substitute service, brand, people or business problem)
Talk to your customers
This obvious tactic is so entirely overlooked by businesses that I could fill pages with the value of doing it routinely.
Survey your customers, but also sit down and interview them. Ask for feedback in as many ways as you can and jump for joy when someone hammers you in a thoughtful way – that’s the best way to get better.
Focus on all parts of the experience
A ton of good buzz is lost in the third and fourth contact you have with a customer. They loved your demo, loved the proposal, loved all the marketing education you showered on them... and then the delivery wasn’t as expected and the accounts payable person came off rather gruff.
How often do you check in with customers just to see how they are doing? How often do you follow up with a customer to measure the value they received from your product or service? When was the last time you surprised a customer?
Play with pricing
Most marketing books will address pricing as a marketing issue, and it is, but it’s also a customer issue that is often decided upon in a vacuum. Go out and test your pricing with customers. Tell them you’re not sure what the best price or package is and let them help you decide, even if it means getting really creative about your profit model.
Take note, I’m not talking about dropping prices. In fact, if you focus on the customer experience, you’ll find you can charge premium prices. Price is a function of perceived value and as buzz increases, so does perceived value.
Let them build features
I can’t tell you how often I’ve come across businesses that build features and processes for themselves and not for the customer. This is the quickest way possible to create something people don’t want.
Often the single greatest reason something doesn’t sell well is because its either not described in a customer centric way or not packaged and delivered in the way they want it. Remember this: you sell what the customer thinks they get from your product, and not your product itself. Let them build features, and continuously ask how you could make a better product.
Measure your referrals
The easiest way to measure if your problem is a product problem is to determine the number of customers that make referrals, spread the word or offer up testimonials.
You can always do marketing related things to ramp up referrals, but if you’re not already receiving a significant amount, you’ve got a product problem.
Think about installing a way, such a The Net Promoter Score covered in Fred Reichheld’s The Ultimate Question, to measure and improve the number of referrals you receive after you focus on becoming more referable.
John Jantsch is a marketing coach, award winning social media publisher, and author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine.