What is your Product?

When asked, many small businesses will describe their product in very simplistic terms usually by reference to a particular good or service.  “We make jam”, they say or “we maintain gardens”.  What they are doing is describing the core aspects of their product usually referring to the physical aspects of a product or service.  Taking such a narrow view of your ‘product’ may give a false impression of your market and appropriate marketing strategies.

The product element of a company’s marketing mix has a central role and mismanagement of the product element may be fatal to the chances of a product being successful.  It may be possible to have a brilliant product, mismanage other elements of the marketing mix and still be successful. If a product is poor however it may not matter how good other elements of your mix are, the product will struggle in the market.

Take internet access services as an example.  An internet provider may offer competitive prices and brilliant customer service but if consumers and businesses experience poor download speeds and regular issues with accessing the web, they will move to other providers in large numbers.

It is better to think of your product not as the core physical aspect of your goods or services but as the total experience a customer or consumer receives when they deal with your company.

To take a slight detour it is worth defining the difference between customers and consumers.  A consumer tends to be the end-user of a product whereas a customer tends to be the person who buys a product from its manufacturer.  These can be one and the same person.  For example, if you go into a café, buy a sausage sandwich and eat it, you are both the customer of the café and the consumer of their product.  The café buys its sausages from the local butcher.  In that instance, the butcher’s customer is the café owner but the consumer of the product is the person buying the sausage sandwich.

A farmer who makes jam and sells it through his farm shop to members of the public is dealing directly with the consumers of his products and will need to develop a marketing strategy that fits his targeted consumer segments.  A farmer who makes jam but who supplies it to a supermarket chain will need to develop a different marketing strategy which, in addition to attracting consumers, will need to deal with the demands and needs of business intermediaries i.e. the buying department of the supermarket.

Marketers view a product not just as its physical aspects.  They define a product as its core and its product surround.  Their definition of a core product includes its packaging, design, price, function and features.  They split the product surround into two main elements services and intangibles.  Services are such things as warranties, after-sales service, before-sales service, availability of credit, delivery times and guarantees.  Intangibles includes such things as brand identity, corporate image and reputation, the value perceptions of customers and the quality perceptions of customers.

Intangibles and services,, the product surround, can add significant value to a product and allow for greater profitability.  A company that develops a strong product surround may be much more successful than one which solely concentrates on its core products.

Philmus Consulting Ltd can help your company to look beyond your core products and to develop strategies which enhance the wider surround of your products.