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Defining your product in a customer-centric manner

 

What is the defining element of your product? Whatever it is must be the first thing customers think of when they hear of your brand - whether that's fast video streaming, comprehensive business software or a responsive internet-connected device. Describing your product the right way is the difference between increasing your customer retention and acquisition rates and suffering from a lack of sales. 

Create what the customer wants

You must start with a solid, cohesive product before attempting to market it. No amount of spin will sell something that doesn't make sense to customers. Fiat Chrysler learned this firsthand when it tried to enter the compact car market. As the Harvard Business Review detailed, when the automaker rereleased the Dodge Dart in 2012, it ignored key elements consumers expected. To start with, the first run of Darts were only available with manual transmissions, despite the fact that 85 percent of compact cars sold in the U.S. are automatics. In addition, Darts came with an optional dual-clutch transmission, a feature more appreciated in Europe than in America.

What Fiat Chrysler pitched to consumers wasn't what it delivered. The company advertised a product that was designed and redesigned until perfected. What it created, however, was something that matched the expectations of engineers. In the eyes of consumers, the Dart fell far short of perfection.

The Dodge Dart contained features U.S. customers didn't need, causing sales to suffer.The Dodge Dart contained features U.S. customers didn't need, causing sales to suffer.

By contrast, Porsche successfully expanded outside its traditional product line. Despite its reputation for sports cars, the company created an SUV that matched consumer expectations and, after 12 years, generates half its revenue. To do so, Porsche eliminated the six-speed manual transmission its sports cars were known for after concluding consumers interested in SUVs weren't excited about such features. The company also added cup holders to its SUVs, something it hadn't done before.

The lesson here is that businesses can't assume that offering a new or specific product will bring them instant success. Both automakers wanted to expand into different markets - compact cars and SUVs, respectively - understanding the benefits of capitalizing in these areas. However, Porsche succeeded by giving customers what they wanted.

Answer the customer's questions

Where Fiat Chrysler and other companies arguably failed is by defining their product based on what they assumed its features and benefits were, not by how they helped consumers. Don't try to describe a product by what it is or what it does. Instead, answer the consumer's most important question: What can this product do for me? Customers want value, and they'll quickly switch to a competitor if they don't see the benefit of choosing a particular product.

Part of answering this question involves finding out what customers want your product to do. What need does your business fulfill, or how do you make a subscriber's day easier? Solving this query requires in-depth market research, digging below the surface to find the unexpected. As VentureBeat noted, these answers shouldn't come easily. In fact, going for the most obvious solution keeps your product from standing out among the competition. You want to find recurring themes that are hard to spot, possibly ones customers themselves haven't thought of until you point them out. 

"Survey your product's specifications and see how each one answers or solves a customer's questions."

Once you have these answers, survey your product's specifications and see how each one answers or solves a customer's questions. Kissmetrics identified two ways to translate features into benefits: by framing them as a positive or a way to avoid a problem. 

Now, you can pare these benefits down into a central theme that customers can easily grasp. Kissmetrics provided the example of the Kindle Paperwhite, the main idea of which was making reading even easier. In some cases, as with the Netflix and the Nintendo Switch, the product summary becomes the title. In fact, for the latter product, Nintendo Everything pointed out the word switch holds a meaning similar to change

"We decided that this name would be the best fit for our product for two reasons,"  Nintendo said to the Japanese magazine Nintendo Dream, according to Nintendo Everything. "It represents one of the defining features of the Switch, the ability to seamlessly 'switch' between the TV screen and Switch's screen, while also embodying the idea of being a 'switch' that will flip, and change the way people experience entertainment in their daily lives."

People wanted an innovative game system and a way to easily move between console and handheld play. Nintendo delivered, and every mention of the Switch reminds customers how the product benefits them. Taking a similar approach allows your product to succeed on a subscription billing business model.

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