Are You Throwing As Much As You Can Into The Marketplace, Hoping People Will Buy?

Changing Your PerspectiveDoes your traditional way of selling − your “selling chain” − always start with your products?

Of course, you present them to your potential customer be they retailers, distributors, corporate buying offices, contractors, etc. And, I’ll bet you are telling great stories about how good those products are for your customers.

But let’s be honest. You are reactive to those customers. Too often, when they say jump, you’re asking how high.

You may be afraid to take price increases, wary of losing volume.  Your products and programs are all aimed at their needs. You wait and hope that they take your products and market them – for you – to their customers, and you hope even more that your products reached their final destination: consumers.

I’ll bet you support these efforts with elaborate marketing plans, POP materials, promotions, sales literature, and more. You also may communicate with consumers through TV, trade magazines and promotions.

Are You Throwing As Much As You Can Into The MarketplaceYou may call it pull marketing, demand generation, or selling through, but what you are really doing is simply producing and throwing as much as you can into the marketplace, hoping people will react and that consumers will buy.

That’s a lot of wasted money and effort. Some even call this the “black hole” of marketing spend. (Your Ops team may even claim that every dollar they save through cost improvement is squandered in marketing.)

Changing Your Perspective A New “Selling Chain”

Time For ChangeYou need to turn your perspective completely around.

Instead of starting with the customer, start with the consumer. Now we ask them what they need. Strive to understand their problems and concerns, and determine their needs, at the retail level.

Task your teams to provide products and solutions that meet those needs and drive everything from new product development to merchandising and POP materials.

The better you understand your end consumer’s needs, the easier it is for you to communicate, and the consumer to accept, your products as a solution to their problems. Only then do you focus on calling on the next level, contractors and builders, working your way up the chain.

Share with them what the consumers shared with you, and show how your products are meeting their customer’s needs. Then, just like you did with the consumer, find out what are the builder’s needs, and show them you can help them stand out from the competition and sell more homes by providing solutions to their problems.

Next, work your way up to the distributor and retailer. As before, share with them what the consumers, builders and contractors are sharing with you. Tell the distributor about the tools you provide to meet everyone’s needs, about the products, solutions and systems that will help them make more money − solutions and systems that apply all the way up the pipeline.

Task your teams to provide products and solutionsIf you’ve done your job, you shouldn’t have to tell distributors and retailers much at all. They’ll already know about your products and solutions from their customers. They’ll know you talk to their customers, and their customer’s customers, and are creating demand for products they sell.

And all you’ve done is reverse the direction of the “Selling Chain,” and changing your story from one that highlights product features and turned it into how you’re introducing a simple approach to solving consumer problems.

Differentiating Yourself on Something Other Than Price

Differentiating Yourself On Something Other Than PriceDistributor and retailers still buy “product” and think in terms of discounts, profit, and “What’s in it for me?” But now, instead of increased profits from lower cost of goods, you can bring them higher profits from increased sales.  You can demonstrate this by telling them:

  1. What the consumer is telling us
  2. What the builder is telling us
  3. What the contractor/remodeler is telling us

Then show them the tools you have to meet those needs, including products, solutions and systems to help them make higher profits. Because they know that you have been talking with consumers and builders, they will be receptive to your presentations.

Listening to the Future

Listening to the FutureThere’s an old saying in sales that says, “We never make a mistake when we make a decision in favor of the customer.” The basis for that philosophy is formed by putting the customer’s needs first.

Remember that you need to think about your customers broadly…consumers, distributors, retailers, dealers, contractors, builders, the investment community, and so on. A customer-driven company defines their customer as broadly as possible…opening up incredible opportunities and difficult challenges.

A customer driven company also knows what their customers want in their terms, not their own. They have an external focus and bias to all they do.  They will do things in the short term that are costly in support of their customer needs, knowing full well that they will repaid 1000 times over

Task your teams to provide solutionsIt’s good to have these perspectives as part of a company philosophy, but it’s equally important that you remember that if you listen closely to the customer and put their needs first, you will benefit from a preferred position and market share while achieving outstanding customer satisfaction.  And it will touch every aspect of your company, including quality, brand, service and value.

Focusing on the customer is a key to your future – for without them, you have no future.  Any time you hear a customer request, listen closely, that’s the future talking.

Good Selling!

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8 Steps to Building a Customer-Focused Commercialization Strategy

8 Steps to a Commercialization StrategyBefore a commercialization plan can be developed and implemented, it must be driven by an overall commercialization strategy. By taking a strategic approach to your commercialization strategy, you will be better positioned to be successful with your new product launch.

The commercialization strategy should not contain a lot of financial detail or “how to,” but it must be consumer focused and customer centered and not technology focused. A key issue in a commercialization strategy is to set the direction to explore and understand the market. The commercialization strategy must focus on what satisfies the needs of the customer.

8 questions you need to answer in your commercialization strategy

1. What’s the Offering? (What are we trying to provide or create?)

Commercialization Strategy TipsAt a high level, clearly state what products and services are being offered to the market.

Identify what other products/services may need to be provided to be a credible supplier to the customer and the channel. Identify, at a high level the anticipated pricing strategy at the end-user level and for the expected distribution channels.

2. What is the Adjacency Assessment of the product or service? (How does the product or service align with the core business areas?)

Chris Zook in, Beyond the Core, addresses the concept of Adjacency or the relationship of an opportunity to your core business and competencies. Zook defines several things when looking at an opportunity:

1)    Core – Known business strengths and competencies

2)    Adjacency – Relationship to the Core ranked from 0 (identical to the core) to Diversification (a completely new area).

 3)    Shared Economics – There are five dimensions that when evaluated and measure the distance from the core and can be used to determine the degree of relationship to the core:

  • Customers – Are they the same as, or different from, customers currently served?
  • Competitors – Are they the same as, or different from, competitors currently encountered?
  • Cost Structure – Is the cost structure (infrastructure) the same or different?
  • Channels of distribution –Are these the same or different?
  • Singular capability/technology – If there is a singular capability (brand, asset, technology) that gives the core business its uniqueness, then is this relevant in the new opportunity?

3. Who is (are) the Targeted Customer(s)? (Who do we really think will want the product/service and Why?)

Identify who is (are) the targeted customer(s) – end-user, big box retailer, distributor, internal business unit, etc. Who are we trying to sell this product or service? Keep in mind that the targeted customer(s) may change as more marketing and Voice of the Customer data is collected.

Why is this customer believed to be the real customer? It is toward this customer that the Business Proposition will be initially oriented. It is toward this customer that the Business Plan will be structured.

4. State the “Business Proposition”

Strategy and Marketing traffic sign in the handThe business proposition describes what the product or service offers that no other product can.

It is important that the Business Proposition be benefit focused. For example, Coke quenches thirst. Coke is also a good rust remover but it will NEVER advertised as such.

The Business Proposition should take caution not to over advertise advantages – in other words, DON’T clutter the message. The more focused the message, the more likely to clearly communicate it.

Have a single Value Proposition – Keep It Simple – the KISS principle.

When developing a business proposition think of what people are buying.

Customers are not buying a product – they are buying what that product does for them. Customers don’t typically buy a product because they fall in love with the technology. Customers buy the SATISFACTION OF NEEDS. The Business Proposition MUST clearly state how that need will be satisfied.

Doug Hall, in his book, Jump Start Your Business Brain, addresses three key elements to Stating Value:

1) Overt Benefit to the Customer – What is the real benefit to be realized? Engineers love to talk specifications – “This car will go from zero to 60 in 3.2 seconds.” Buyers want to feel the wind in their hair and the thrill of feeling the force of their heads being pushed against the back of the seat.

2) Dynamic Difference – What makes our product/service any different that what is now available? Unless this product is for a total new and untapped market, customers have choices.

3) Real Reason to Believe – What gives the customer confidence that we can deliver the product or service we are offering? For example, “We have had Z years of 100% customer satisfaction as measured by JD Powers.”

5. State the “VALUE CHAIN”

Sales leadership stepsThe Value Chain relates to the business processes of the company selling the product.

Questions to be answered are:

  • Who will sell the product? Whoever has sales responsibility must be aligned with the Value Proposition – they must care that the product/service really does meet the customer’s real need.
  • Where will the product be sold? This may need to be clarified in later, but initially, choose the logical area(s) that fits in with your Value Proposition.
  • How do you distribute your product? What is (are) the expected distribution channel(s)?

The Value Chain and Business Processes must be aligned as close as possible to the Value Proposition. The closer the alignment, the greater the probability of success.

6. How will the product/service be Marketed?

Brand idea chartAt a high level, what is the basic marketing approach? Consider the following:

  • Who will provide the marketing activities?
  • Who internally will oversee that the marketing activities are done correctly?
  • Identify logical points to test assumptions, validate alignment with the Value Chain and/or Business Proposition, and logical changes/adjustments to the marketing approach, the Value Chain, or the Business Proposition.
  • What is the overall Communication Strategy for getting the message out to potential customers?

7. Provide a rough-order-of-magnitude Business Plan

Given the information available, give a high-level assessment of the business potential for the three years after commercial launch. Try to be realistic, meaning not overly optimistic nor overly conservative.

Items to consider are:

  • Sales
  • Gross Margin and Gross Margin as a percent of Sales
  • Operating Income and Operating Income as a percent of Sales
  • CAPEX
  • RONA

8. Major Commercialization Risks/Issues/Obstacles/Support Requirements?

What significant commercialization items can keep this effort from being successful? What support is needed from management, gatekeepers, resource managers, etc.

Write out what the risks are and rate them High, Medium or Low. Put a few ideas down on how you can mitigate these risk.

Don’t use a Ready, Fire, Aim commercialization strategy

readyfireaimTo maximize your chances for success, you need to be thoughtful in developing the strategies behind your new products.

Innovation can happen in the commercialization of a product as easily as in the product itself.

Think about all the ways you can build upon and leverage your commercialization strategy and you might find your sales teams more engaged in the product launch, your customers understanding what’s in it for them, and ultimately your new product goals being achieved.

Good Selling!

A special thanks to Lowell Dye for his help in better understanding the product development process and in writing this post.

Active Search Results (ASR) is an independent Internet Search Engine using a proprietary page ranking technology with Millions of popular Web sites indexed.