Once you understand what your customers need, set up your product or service to meet those needs. What you learn can help you decide how and where to sell. You might even find a new opportunity, eg adding service features to your product or adding products to your service.
Customer insights can tell you what people need, how they make choices, where they usually buy, how often they buy, and what situation they’re in when they buy what you sell.
Now it’s time to shape your products or services, and where you sell, to suit your customers.
Ask yourself questions to test how well your product or service fits your customer insights.
Customers want your product or service to fit what they expect. One of our case studies is about Manu’s lawn mowing service. Manu’s customers expect a tidy result and healthy grass. Customers probably also expect Manu will:
For any service, customers expect it to:
And for any product, customers expect it to be:
Customers might take these features for granted, but not providing them is an instant fail. For an example, see our Manu’s Mowing brand case study below.
Sometimes your product or service might be different to what customers expect. Ask yourself if the differences make it more or less attractive overall. An extra feature can make it more appealing, but not if it becomes hard to use or too expensive. For example, customers wanting fast food will be put off by a complex ordering system.
Based on your customer insights, think about how well the product or service fits its intended use. For example, products used outdoors need to be waterproof. Kitchen products need to be easy to clean and resist damage from oils or foods. A service for high-stress workplaces must be reliable and easy to use.
Make sure you consider all the settings your product or service could reasonably be used in. Checking could help you spot useful features you’ve missed out, or assumptions that don’t hold up.
Manu offers a no-nonsense approach to gardening. He focuses on a few services so his customers quickly learn what to expect — that he can consistently carry out these tasks to a good standard. Manu carries this idea into his simple but memorable choice of business name, Manu’s Mowing.
In keeping with this direct approach, his brand emphasises clarity, trust and value for money. The visual elements of his brand are based on a simple double M logo. His work vans display this MM logo and also have personalised MM registration plates. It all helps to emphasise the brand.
The product’s design or decoration can affect its appeal. For example, a child’s bike available in red or green may have a strong effect on children’s preferences. Minor features like handlebar streamers could win the deal, even if they don’t improve the bike’s basic function.
Packaging can add appeal, eg a noodle packet with serving suggestion pictures. The styling can help it fit your brand, such as appearing modern or friendly. Customers who value sustainability may choose products with plastic-free packaging.
Appearance and packaging can be important for services too. For example, Manu’s lawn mowing service uses clean, well-maintained equipment and vehicles, in part to be more appealing to customers who value cleanliness.
A memorable name and brand help customers find you. Your logos, messaging and other branding help customers spot your offering and connect it to your business. Your website and online advertising do the same thing for products or services sold online.
For example, a brand that emphasises reliability expects to appeal to customers who prioritise safety. But they’ll need to find your product and understand your brand to realise you offer what they want.
It may help if the name fits what customers need from the product or service. For example, a product for changing car tyre might benefit from a name like ‘Easy-change’ or ‘Quick-tyre’. It reflects what customers want. A name like ‘TQ3000N’ misses an opportunity to promote the product and its strengths.
Your product or service could be different to what competitors offer in several ways, eg:
Rate how you compare for price, performance and customisation.
Where you sell your product or service can influence who finds it and buys it. It’s also useful to think about where customers might find out about your product, service or business. You could have a presence in directories, on Google Maps or on social media, eg a Facebook page.
Businesses sell in a range of physical or online places, eg:
If it helps your customers, it’s a good idea to offer multiple options, eg face-to-face and online.
Direct sales suit businesses that want to keep control of the sales experience, eg for premium products. Having your own store helps you:
But you’ll need plenty of money to set up and run your store. You might also miss out on customers who would discover your products in a bigger store or in a chain. For example, selling ice cream from your own store will limit reach compared with supplying ice cream to supermarkets.
Choosing a distributor means:
But you have less opportunity to talk to customers directly. They’ll see your product alongside competitors. Not everyone will choose yours. Exposing yourself to competition can help you quickly see how your product fares. It’s a good chance to make changes and catch up.
These questions can help you decide where to sell based on your customer insights. You might end up choosing more than one place.
Choose somewhere that helps new customers find you, eg:
Choose somewhere that helps customers easily buy from you, eg:
Reflect on the experience of buying from you vs buying from a competitor. Think about:
Pick ways to help customers decide, eg:
If you’re confident your product/service and presentation compare well, it may help to locate your premises near competitors to encourage comparison.
Where and how you sell can also make a big difference to your efficiency as a business.
Think about your operations strategy. Common examples include:
Answer several short questions about your situation to get tailored tips and information.
Seamus’s furniture importing business has just added a high-end European brand that no one else in New Zealand sells. He wants to open a new location to showcase this brand. He’s not sure whether to display it in a CBD department store, or in his own location further out of town, giving him more control over the customer experience.
For expensive purchases like furniture, Seamus knows customers want to make informed decisions. People like to compare competitors. If he’s too far from his competitors, people might not make the effort to go to his store. Seamus doesn’t want to take this risk, especially as he’s selling high-value, low-volume products.
Seamus decides to open a store near his competitors, because he feels confident his new brand will stand out from their offerings.
Every business has a brand. Discover how to build yours and use it to attract customers and forge connections.
How high is too high, how low is too low? Plan a pricing strategy that suits your customers and your business.
Online or face to face, there are many ways to communicate with customers. Here’s how to choose and plan.