Monthly Archives :

May 2018

Top 5 Common Product Flaws that Yield Poor Sales Results

1024 682 andrew

Some Background Info on Myself

I have managed many client marketing projects from top level campaign planning to creative digital asset building. I’ve touched upon industries from cryptocurrency, hardware tech, wearable tech, fashion and a lot of e-commerce projects.

I have extensive experience in dealing with clients in these industries and have learned a lot of valuable lessons along the way which I hope will help shed some light on reasons why campaigns fail and succeed and common areas I have identified in my over 9+ years working in this field.

The Core Belief

If your product isn’t selling, it is because:

1.) You aren’t telling the right people the right things about your product

2.) Your product sucks

It’s really that simple. And I firmly believe that the struggles of a marketing campaign either stem from these two issues. In this article, I will focus primarily on the product side of marketing.

Your Job is to Get Sales Not Re-Design the Product

In the early days, I approached clients as their “marketing” consultant. I understood very well that I’m not an expert on hardware manufacturing and I didn’t really hold much authority in suggesting changes to the product design that I believed could help clients sell more products.

For example, if I was dealing with a client that wanted to sell phone cases, I may have suggested that the phone case, while it does its job of protecting the phone, doesn’t have a visual appeal that other top selling phone cases have. In this case (like so many others) the client’s are so convinced that the features or functionality of their product is so good that aesthetics don’t really have a big impact on sales. This is absolutely wrong!

I was absolutely wrong for letting my early clients get away with telling me things like, “I appreciate your feedback, but this is my product and I hired you to market it for me, not re-design my product.” I’ve heard lines like this as well, “If I wanted to re-design my product I would have hired a professional product designer!”

Of course, I was much younger back then and I would rather not get on their bad side and loose my precious client! It is an important lesson to learn that if you firmly believe the client’s product is bad, you need to inform them about it, suggest the changes, and either circumvent those limitations or let your client know to adjust their expectations moving forward because you have discovered that their product does not align with target audience wants and needs!

1. The Problem is… Your Product Sucks

The fact is many product “designers” are people who know how to use a 3D program, they understand manufacturing processes and try to find efficient ways to manufacture the product, worry about injection molding, etc. Product designers aren’t doing any consumer research, surveying the target user and trying to find out what the user wants. In the end, usually these product designers are designing things that they may find aesthetically pleasing with no regard to the target consumer.

And most business owners enter a field, not because it was their dream to be the world’s greatest phone case maker, but usually as a result of opportunities, backdoor connections, or luck. Many businesses I work with have found success through B2B relationships and decide it’s time to take on the mainstream consumer market!

And this is where they begin to find struggles. While perhaps a B2B business relationship is mainly concerned with features, efficiencies, and functionality, these client’s are totally unaware that mainstream consumers are a little more fickle. Consumers care about things like whether or not the color matches their purse, whether the price is competitive with competitors, or if they can modify it or use it for their particular use case.

As an effective marketer your job is not only to “get sales,” but also to understand the market, define the consumer’s wants, expectations, and ensure that the product you are selling matches those desires and needs!

2. The App UX is Unusable

I’ve had experiences with clients who want more app downloads or whose hardware interfaces with a mobile app. In some of these cases, the app has a steep learning curve or the features are hidden in random menus or screens.

A good marketer should conduct user experience testing and figure out areas of confusion, especially user testing with people who match the target user demographic! If certain features are frustrating in the app or if the user has troubles understanding the app then this is a huge problem!

You need to address these issues to the client, don’t be afraid to step out of your “realm of authority” and tell the client what you truly think about the product. A mature conversation needs to be back and forth open dialogue. If the client can’t handle criticism from you, then they certainly won’t be able to handle criticism from an influencer or reviewer who is trying to use the product but can’t even use the app!

And this is a very important reason of why the UX of the app needs to be pristine! The client may be wondering, “What does the user experience have to do with sales? I need sales first before I can address the features of the app!” And if a core of the marketing campaign relies on heavy influencer promotion and work, then good luck with getting an influencer to have the patience to deal with a poorly designed app.

3. The Product is Ugly

Never mind if the client’s phone case can survive a fall from 4 stories high, if the product looks ugly then it’s not going to stand out in photos and customers aren’t going to have any incentive to post pictures of their purchase to social media or share with their friends.

Having an ugly product in no way helps your client achieve their sales goals to mass market!

And you may come into trouble with your client because “ugly” is very subjective and while they may be convinced their product is a work of art, you will need to justify your reasoning by comparing their product to competitors, showing design trends, or hot selling products to help back up your case. This is why surveying target users is so important!

This is what is truly meant by the “customer is always right.”

4. The Competition is Much Better

Many clients I deal with love to brag about how much better their product is than the competition and they are very confused about why theirs isn’t selling. They often get angry when they see successful social media posts from the competition and they act like their competition is completely trash and not worth looking at.

Regardless of what your client may think about the competition, never take their word for it! I mean, it should be obvious that this is the last person you want to believe when talking about competitors. But these clients might be experts in their fields, they may have a way with words that might convince you otherwise.

What a good marketer should do is really take some time to analyze the competition. What is their product doing right? Why is their marketing effective? Most of the time this really just comes down to a much better product.

Most clients just wont get it and you’ll have to tread very carefully and maturely in this space, especially if you are a lone consultant. It does help to work with teams where you can reinforce your thinking a little better.

Q: Why are clients so ignorant about their competition?

A:  It’s not usually the case that they are ignorant. Often times these people have spent a huge amount of time and money developing their product. They have become so engulfed in the fact that they spent 10 years “perfecting” their product that they are at a point where they don’t want to make any further changes, they don’t want to acknowledge that their competition who is younger, newer is better.

Another thing to consider is that your client might not want you getting the wrong ideas about their product. It may be an ego issue but it also my be a way to ensure consultants don’t go running off to the competition with all the behind the scenes secrets. In any case, it’s very common for people’s emotions to get the best of their judgement.

5. The Features Are Not Wanted or Needed

Often times clients are so bent on making something “new” and “unique” that they try to implement features that might seem revolutionary to them and even to you, but it is important to relay those ideas to the target customer and test if this really is the case.

I have experienced clients who have grand ideas (usually for apps or software) and they have spent a great deal of time working on these features or ideas because “no one else has done it in this space!”

Two thoughts that come out of this, the first is that probably someone else has tried the idea before or the idea itself is just not viable in the space. To elaborate more on the viability, it may also be the case that the budget required to build up an audience for this “feature” that nobody thought they ever needed is tremendous!

Engineering user behavior vs. letting the user decide what features or use case they want is very important to identify, directly confront your client about this, and make sure that you are making informed decisions based on what the real users want.

Closing Thoughts

Hopefully this has helped give an idea of some product related issues that might come up regarding marketing campaigns and how to approach your client with your concerns.

Honestly, if you don’t believe in the product or you don’t think the target customer will be very excited about this product, those concerns needs to be addressed early on. Don’t keep your mouth shut because you are afraid to piss off the client. And it is true that clients can be very defensive and close minded about the flaws in their own product.

You need to make sure you can maturely discuss the concerns from a results oriented mindset and ensure a successful campaign. The last thing you want to do is to allow a mistake from Month #1 of the campaign to be a lingering concern or compromise the campaign by month #12. Obviously you want to do your research, make sure you conclusions about the product are informed and correct before approaching your client with these concerns, and if the client is initially unwilling to accept these facts you need to:

1.) Clearly and openly inform them that they should adjust their expectations and that while you will try your best to market the product, the results may be less than what you had originally agreed upon. If the client gets upset and decides to drop you as a result of this mature conversation, then you should accept that they would have dropped you anyways even if the sales perform exactly as you had anticipated.

2.) Consider allowing the client time to perfect their product, these things take time and you don’t want to waste the client’s money by charging them for marketing services when you have nothing to market if they truly do decide to take your advice and implement the changes! This also shows your transparency and willingness to understand the client’s financial obligations and they might trust you more than ever before!

Some thoughts:

What if the client accepts my suggestions but the sales don’t increase to an acceptable level?

You might want to look at a few things:

1.) What are the customers saying now about the new and improved product? (Of course you’ll never have the PERFECT product) Is their feedback better? What are they still concerned about? Anything you can do to assure them that the product is exactly what they need?

2.) Is the client bottle necking the campaign by being cheap on ad spend or influencer promotion? I had a client who wasn’t willing to pay $1,000 for an influencer in their niche who was willing to review the product on their youtube channel with over 500,000 fans! I also had another client who got upset when we spent $20 on a particular ad and received only 1 sale from that ad. The product sold for $150! Make the expectations of your client clear and realistic and avoid dealing with crazy clients who expect unrealistic sales figures in unrealistic time spans or for unrealistic budgets!

3.) Were your changes really the right changes? If they were in fact shown to be mistaken and you cost your client a large amount of time and money to improve their product, you should probably consider changing professions!