Your products and services sit at the heart of your business and, in many cases, are the critical factor in whether a business succeeds or fails. This is why a great deal of care needs to be taken in not only the development of what you offer, but also the manner in which it’s communicated to your selected target audience. There are a number of elements that need to be pieced together to help ensure you can create an offering which appeals to your chosen demographic.

We’ve outlined a number of these below, which in turn will allow you to better define your offering and establish yourself within the market.

Segmentation

Segmenting what you offer is important. Over time, many businesses are likely to grow their offering and provide a greater number of products and services. Some of these might come as a result of an opportunity such as a gap in the market, while others might develop from a natural extension of your existing offering. Either way, when a business’s product portfolio grows, it often ends up providing products aimed at slightly different target audiences and so needs to segment its selection of products appropriately.

Segmenting your products can allow you to better communicate your message and provide clarity to the appropriate target customer. We like to use the analogy of seeing each product as a solid colour. When your products are clearly segmented you get a collection of clearly distinguishable colours sat alongside one another. However, if they are all mixed together into one offering it can become unclear exactly what you offer and those nice distinct colours become a mass of murky brown. This, from a buyer’s perspective, reduces the likelihood of them identifying that you have the right product/service they require.

USP

The Unique Selling Proposition (USP) of your product is what distinguishes it from others in the market. It’s also something that you should focus on to draw inspiration from throughout your general messaging. This is especially crucial in a crowded market place or when you find competition being relatively stiff. Therefore the “Selling” element in USP is crucial, as is shouldn’t just be any unique aspect of the product, but rather something that will help to sell it.

In the past we’ve also mentioned reversing this thought process and looking at it as a Unique Buying Proposition (UBP) – which helps to flip your messaging to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and focus on why they’d want to buy your product. The main difference here is a simple switch in mentality allows you to focus on your customer instead of being blind-sighted by your own opinion of your product, which can often happen. Simply put, focus on unique aspects of the product/service that’ll benefit the end-user and not elements that you are personally drawn to.

Value Proposition

Your value proposition should succinctly communicate why a customer should buy your product. It should be convincing enough to encourage them to probe further with the intention of making a purchase. The basis of your proposition can also be used for much of your messaging to drive the benefits of your product home and create a consistent message.

The value proposition can be approached from a number of angles. For example, it could include focussing on the credibility of the product (e.g. being trusted by major brands) or opting for a more ambitious slant and leaning towards its “ground-breaking” or unique features. The manner in which you go about it is primarily dependant on the marketplace you sit in and what you feel your customers will be most receptive to.

Why

When we think about our products or services we can get caught up in highlighting elements that the customer might not care for as much as we do. The “why” is what can really help nail down aspects of your product that your customers will be drawn towards. For example, a customer buying a washing machine is more likely to be concerned about the size of the load they can placed in the machine and getting their clothes cleaned consistently as opposed to the technical details behind the “new and improved” technology used for spinning the drum.

This is why it helps to understand your target audience and their pain points as it allows you to establish what they actually want from a product. You can then adjust your messaging and “why” they need your product to tie in with this.

Brand Extensions

Brand extensions involve the process of introducing new product categories while leveraging your existing brand. Over the years we’ve seen a whole host of businesses adopt this approach with some doing it successfully (e.g. Dove’s venture into men’s grooming products), while others have made a real hash of it (think Zippo Lighters’ women’s perfume).

Brand extensions should be approached with care, since associated brand reputation is likely to be affected across all products. E.g. if an existing brand is associated with budget/value products, it’s likely to find it very difficult to thrive if it extends into a luxury product. This is why brand extensions should be well thought-out and offer a logical fit with the brand itself. To add to this, brand reputation management also becomes more complex. If a customer of one product experiences bad service or has a complaint which causes a major public outcry it could well prove detrimental to the entire brand.

The Core

“The core” shouldn’t be mistaken for the tangible product itself. It is in fact the primary function of the product that the end-user experiences. For example, the core function when looking at a car is the convenience of travelling. Other aspects of the car such as its handling, speed, fuel efficiency and design are additional benefits.

To better understand “the core”, look at a product in 3 parts. The first part being “the core” as we’ve mention above, the second being the physical product itself, and finally the augmented product which are the additional benefits and features it serves.

Added Value

Adding value can serve any one of a number of purposes and can be achieved in a number of ways. Some brands choose to offer additional incentives allowing them to stand apart from the competition by allowing customers to get “more” for their money. On the other hand, some businesses use the process of adding value to also increase their margins, which in some cases might see them priced at the higher end of the market but remain competitive as a result of their value adding initiatives.

Finally, a product can have a perceived added value as a result of the brand itself. Take for instance the likes of Nike or Mercedes Benz. Both brands have spent years producing products at a consistently high standard which now means they can benefit from charging premium prices for their products. We should note that this is something that can only really work for brands that are relatively well established within their given market.

“Growing Star”

Brands that offer a range of products will often find that some will naturally perform better than others. However, in these instances it’s worth keeping in mind that one of your lesser performing products could well turn out to be worth far more in the long term. External factors such as an increase in production costs or even a change in legislation could well create a market environment that allows your “growing star” to thrive.

Carrying out activities such a SWOT and PEST analyses can help to outline potential factors that could impact the products you offer both for better or worse. Having a degree of foresight can help you to proactively invest resources in the right products to ensure if a “growing star” does exist within your business, it can reach it’s potential.

Final words

As you can see there is far more to what makes a successful product than what some might realise. Each of the points that have been mentioned above certainly play their part in ensuring your range of products and business itself can triumph, and we hope this blog has really helped to deliver that message.

So, having briefly touched on a number of key points above, it’s time wrap up. However, be sure to keep an eye on our blogs and social channels to stay up to date with our latest articles as we’ll be going into greater depth with each of these topics and much more in the coming weeks. If you feel you still need further help, check out our guide on what a marketing consultant can do for your business which clarifies the typical roles, responsibilities & what to expect by working with a skilled consultant.

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Ian is the founder of Opportunity Marketing marketing, with over 18 years of experience in successfully setting up marketing departments, creating marketing strategies and implementing these strategies across a wide number of SME companies in both the B2B and B2C sectors through a variety of channels.