For every hour you spend developing your next great product, try to spend two on where and how you will sell it.
Innovative products get ripped off, manufactured cheaply and pumped out to big box retailers at pennies on the dollar. Innovations around your sales experience may be more sustainable in the long run.
For example, I bought a pair of those goofy-looking MBT shoes last week. These are the ones with the rounded soles that are supposed to promote good posture. I was turned onto them after my Mom bought a pair of knock-off MBTs at a discount shoe store on the outskirts of Toronto. She had become a true believer, so when I saw a pair of the real MBTs in the window of a French pharmacy I decided to investigate.
The pharmacy was located in a small village in the shadow of the French Alps. I was used to buying shoes at large shoe stores so the fact that I was in a small pharmacy was the first clue that this experience was going to be different.
Based on my experience here is my list of the top 3 ways to innovate that have nothing to do with what you sell and everything to do with how you sell it
1. Your selling environment says a lot about your product
MBT claims they are the “Anti-Shoe,” designed to strengthen skeleton muscles, so the company decided to distribute their shoes in France through pharmacies, which provide a therapeutic environment that oozes wellness.
Could you find a fresh new place to sell your stuff?
2. Language helps distinguish the experience
I sauntered to the counter and inquired about the MBT shoes in the window and I was ushered into an elevator and whisked to the second floor where the “nurse” would see me for a “consultation.”
How do you describe the experience a customer has getting to know your company for the first time?
3. Uniforms matter
After a minute or so, an attractive woman appeared from the elevator wearing a long white nurse’s uniform. She asked a few questions about the sports I play and made some recommendations on how the shoe should be worn (walk heel toe, balance when stopped etc).
The nurse’s costume inspired in me a sense of confidence, caring and authority, which went a long way to inoculating me from the steep price tag of €230 (roughly $300).
Is there an opportunity for your employees to wear a uniform that supports the overall experience you are trying to create?
My mom paid $50 for her knock offs; I shelled out $300 for what I am sure are fairly similar shoes. In a world where new product innovations are copied in weeks, perhaps the only lasting point of differentiation is where and how you sell.
John Warrillow is a writer, speaker and angel investor in a number of start-up companies. He writes a blog about building a valuable – i.e. sellable – company at Built to Sell.