Once you have a product that is selling in the market you can expand operations in two ways. First, you can improve an existing product to sell more of it or second, you can introduce a completely new product. Introducing a new product into the market is an expensive and high risk option. You have to create awareness about it in the market and make customers feel that your offer is better than competing offers. In the case of an existing product, you already have a lot of information of how it is being accepted in the market. You can use that information to improve the product or improve your marketing efforts to sell more of the product.
In this post we look at how a business can go about improving the marketing of an existing product. As mentioned just above, this can be done by:
- Improving the product or
- Improving the marketing efforts.
Let us look at each of these options.
Improve the Product
A critical task before you start improving an existing product is to find out what customers think about the product. Get answers to a few questions:
- Are they delighted with the product?
- If not, what changes do they want?
- Do they have any problems in using the product to derive the promised benefits from the product?
- Do they find it difficult to get customer support from you for using it as above?
- Do they find it difficult to purchase the product? For example, because it is not available at a store near them?
- Would they like to have some additional features for the product? For example, a lightweight version that they can carry around?
- Does your product lack any valuable features that are offered by one or more competitors?
- Why do they buy your product instead of a competing product? Does the competitors’ offers lack something compared to your offer?
Answers to the above questions will provide super value insights to help you improve your product. One more question will help you plan the best media to reach customers:
- How did they become aware of your product?
You can find answers to some of the questions from your internal database. For example, if you have received complaints from customers, go through these and list each problem customers have complained about. You can then use this list during face to face interviews to go deeper into each problem.
You can supplement the internal review with a field research:
- Assemble a group of existing customers for a focus group discussion and get them talking about their experiences with the product. The resultant insights can open up possibilities you have not thought of before for improving the product.
- Organize a field survey to get answers to specific questions. These would be questions that are not answered by internal data or by focus groups. For example, you can meet people who are not using your product and find out why they don’t buy from you.
- Observe users actually using the product to find out any problems they are facing in using it properly.
Once you have a clear idea about what customers think and expect, you can go about making improvements to the product in a meaningful way. Merely adding new features without knowing what customers really want can lead to costly mistakes.
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Product Improvement Options
Make it easier to use
By observing customers actually using a product, you could come across problems they face for using it properly. Make changes that will overcome the problems. Sometimes, you can solve the problem by providing clearly written instructions for using the product properly along with the product. To understand how valuable this can be, just think of a product you bought online but could not use properly because it did not come with a user manual.
Make it pleasing to the eye
Just transforming the aesthetics of the product – color, shape, texture, etc. – can often produce great results. Emotional factors play a major role in purchasing decisions. An attractively made product can indeed attract more buyers than a competing product that is equally functional but lacks aesthetic appeal.
Add a new feature that customers would be willing to pay for
Adding new features is a risky step, and is best done on the basis of feedback from customers. If the feature is not appreciated by customers, you might find sales falling. On the other hand a feature that fits in nicely with the product, and that customers like, can produce dramatic results. For example, think of the camera that was added to mobile phones, and added value to the product.
There are more options for improving the marketability of the product. We discuss these under the marketing improvement section next.
Improve the Marketing
Improving the product itself is not the only option to improve its marketability. Improving the marketing efforts can also produce higher sales volumes. There a lot of tactics you can use to improve your marketing efforts.
Transform the product packaging
Even a fully functional and aesthetically designed product can come across as cheap if its packaging looks cheap. On the other hand you can create a luxury feel for even ordinary products by changing the packaging appropriately. In addition to using good quality packing material, work on the color and design of the package. You can see excellent examples of great packaging if you walk around the aisles of a supermarket.
Make sure that the product’s USP – Unique Selling Proposition – is displayed prominently on the package
Don’t forget to use the space on the package to communicate your marketing message. Make them clearly noticeable and lay out the text and pictures cleanly. Ensure that the usefulness and value of the USP becomes immediately clear. The USP, and its usefulness and value, should also be communicated clearly in any literature that goes with the product.
Phrase the USP (and other elements of the marketing message) in a way that buying-decision makers will understand
For example, if the buying decision is made by a doctor, use medical terms. If the decision maker is the final consumer, use language which that person will understand.
Tell a story that will appeal to emotions
Consumers are influenced by emotions when they make buying decisions. If you can tell a story that triggers emotions while also showing how your product delivers customer value, it will be far more effective as a marketing message. Just make sure that it is an honest story, and not something you made up. Great examples include behind-the-scenes stories. For example, you can show in text and pictures (or in a video) how the product is made in the factory. Emphasize the details that point to the extreme attention you pay to achieve high quality.
Build a brand, not just sell a product
All the above things, i.e. improved product, great packaging, clear USP and emotion-triggering stories, can help you build a memorable brand. Brand building is done by projecting a consistent image. All the marketing communications about you or your product should project the same “personality.” If different characteristics are projected by different communications, no clear brand image will emerge.
Don’t damage your existing brand by launching irrelevant products under the same brand name
It can confuse the consumer. Have you heard of Ariel, the detergent and Vicks, the cold relief? Do you know that both these products are made by the same company, Procter & Gamble? Imagine what would have happened if they had promoted the cold medication under the detergent brand name or the detergent under the cold relief brand? It would only have confused cold sufferers and detergent users! And most likely led to lost sales for both products.
Selling more to your existing customers is far less expensive than trying to acquire new customers
Marketing to existing customers can be quite productive. For example, if you can create greater awareness about an infrequently used feature of your product that delivers real value, it could lead to more frequent usage and higher sales volumes.
You can also explore the possibility of adding a new feature that makes it possible to use the product for a different purpose
Be careful, however, not to drive away existing users by increasing price or making the product more complicated to use.
Try a new marketing tactic
It might or might not work. If it works, you could outcompete conservative competitors who stick to tried and tested tactics. Guerrilla marketing, for example, involves surprising consumers with new tactics. This surprise element can create greater awareness about your product. Even if the tactic fails, you would have learnt something. Just run low cost tests before scaling up.
Improving marketability of an existing product is less risky, and usually far less expensive, than launching a new product into the market. Marketability can be improved either by improving the product itself or by improving the marketing of the product. And under both these options, there are different ways of doing it. A careful reading of the post, supplemented by going out and observing real life examples of different tactics, could start you thinking about different possibilities for improving the marketability of your product.