I don’t mean your customers are no longer buying your products. Because if they aren’t buying from you anymore they are no longer customers. And that’s a different blog post.
I mean the main reason your customers bought from you in the first place–and the reason they continue to buy from you–isn’t because you have the best products. In fact, the retail industry’s relentless and nearly single-minded focus on product is the main reason so many retailers are in trouble. So-called “merchant prince” Mickey Drexler of J. Crew finally admitted this.
But it’s always been true. People buy the story before they buy the product. And they continue to carry our handbag, wear the hat with the swoosh, come to our restaurant or wait in line for the next version of our stuff because of how they feel when they experience our product or service. And that goes way beyond the objective, rational superiority of our features and benefits.
While I am hardly the first person to make this point, every time I make it I invariably get challenged on my lack of merchandising skill (guilty) or how I just can’t see how critical good product is. If these people only drink tap water I tend to listen a bit more carefully. But that doesn’t make them right.
Here’s the thing. I’ve never said product is unimportant. But when we confuse necessary with sufficient, we are on our way to making some big mistakes.
Brand success is most often determined at the intersection of desire and scarcity. You may sell what I want (or need), but if it isn’t special I’m not buying it (or I’m only buying it from you because you have the lowest price).
For most customers, in most categories, good product is far from scarce. A truly remarkable experience, a feeling that move us and that we are compelled to tell others about? Well that is very much in short supply.
Perhaps you DO need to improve your products. But if I were a betting person, I’d wager you also need to tell a better story.
It matters which you choose to prioritize.