Most high-tech executives believe that marketing mainly consists of long-term strategic thinking and lots of tactical sales support with nothing in between these two. However, marketing’s main contribution lies in between these two, which is called product marketing. This is an essential basis for setting up the invasion force.
Based on our previous article on ‘Targeting the Point of Attack’, we spoke about targeting markets with a strong reason to buy your product. The next step is ensuring you have a monopoly in satisfying that strong reason to buy. To protect this monopoly, you should understand that:
The whole product concept is an idea developed by Theodore Levitt. According to the whole product concept, there is a gap between the marketing promise made to the customer, which is the compelling value proposition and the potential which the shipped product must satisfy that promise. To overcome this gap, the product should be augmented by various services and ancillary products to become the whole product.
According to Theodore Levitt, the whole product model has four different levels of whole product completeness:
First, we must discover how the whole product concept connects to crossing the chasm. If we consider the technology adoption life cycle as a whole, we can generalize that the outer circles of the whole product grow in importance as one moves from left to right. That means the customers who are in less need of the whole product support are the techies. They are used to fixing together chunks of systems and finding their way to a whole product that makes them happy. This is the happiness they take from tech products. Early adopters are not willing to fix a product on their own. Still, they’ve accepted that if they are going to be the first individuals in their industry to exercise a new system and gain a strategic advantage over their competitors, they should take responsibility for creating the whole product by themselves. The growing interest in systems integration services is a straight response to increasing the interest of early adopters in information systems as a source of strategic advantage.
You must first satisfy the pragmatists’ demands to move from the early market to the mainstream market. From the beginning, the pragmatists want the product readily available. They like Microsoft Office as every computer and laptop has it and supports it, files can be easily exchanged, there are books in every bookshop on how to use Microsoft Office, seminars to train in using it, hotline support etc. If pragmatists are offered Google Apps in exchange for Microsoft Office, they’ll be reluctant to switch as they fear some part of the product will be missing. Thus, pragmatists study and buy the whole product. The generic product is an integral part of the whole product. However, if there are more than one or two comparable products in the market, then investing in R&D at the generic level has a reduced return. However, there is an increasing return from marketing investments on augmented or potential products. The whole product planning aims to decide where to target these investments.
The most important insight from the whole product model in the chasm phenomenon is that the early market is willing to be responsible for assembling the whole product while the mainstream market isn’t. Unfortunately, many high-tech startups have failed to recognize this. As a result, there is no whole product planning but simply hoping the product will be fantastic to gather their attention.
For companies who wish to adopt a wise strategy, whole product planning is the main feature for developing a market domination strategy. Pragmatists will delay giving support until they see a strong product emerging as a leader. Then they will support that product with much effort to take away other alternatives and therefore bring the required standardization to ensure an excellent whole product development in their market. Although a generic product will be an advantage here, it’s not the cause for victory.
You must be wondering how much of a whole product is needed to cross the chasm. We will be looking into that next in a simplified version.
There are two categories in the simplified version of the whole product model:
The contract doesn’t necessitate the company achieving this promise, but your relationship with the customer does. The consequences can be dire if you fail to accomplish this promise in a B2B market. As the bulk of purchases in the B2B market is highly referenced, such failure can create a negative word of mouth which causes the productivity of sales to drop significantly.
It’s common for high tech to deliver 80-90% of a whole product to any number of potential target customers but 100% of the whole product to a few, if they are lucky to find any. If it’s less than 100%, customers either supply the remaining product themselves or feel cheated. It also means that the target market doesn’t develop as predicted.
If you wanted to discover disappointment with high tech’s inability to act on its promise to its investors and customers, lack of attention given to a whole product marketing is the closest thing to an origin. By solving the product equation for any set of target customers, high tech has tackled its single most significant challenge to market development.
We will revisit the “after” situation for the 3D printer example to see how this works after the new approach:
New approach – Sam and his client have been going through catalogs and pictures over the internet for a week and have finally settled on a design. This is a variation on a few products that Sam has sketched out with the client’s help. First, the design is taken to a fixture wholesaler who supports 3D printing. Next, the wholesaler works with a freelance designer who can scan Sam’s drawing and convert it into a CAD file. Meanwhile, the wholesaler works with Sam to choose a suitable material and finish for the fabricated fixture. Finally, the CAD file and material are fed into the 3D printer, and the outcome is a finished fixture. If the client wants to make more changes, it can be quickly done by updating the file and printing it again. Moreover, by adjusting the parameters in the CAD file, fixtures of various scales can be produced that all share the same design.
Now, we will analyze the scenario based on its implied whole product commitments:
The point to understand in this example is that even a target customer scenario shows a chain of commitments that any product manager who is serious about delivering a whole product to a developing marketing opportunity should follow for a good outcome.
In terms of the 3D printer, you can easily imagine a list of potential target customers and target applications in addition to interior designers like Sam:
As you can see, every new target customer puts additional new demands on the whole product. This means that the total sum of products and services required to get the desired benefit changes any time the value of the proposition changes. It also becomes more evident to the brightest product marketing managers that they cannot target every market in one go as they have to sequence and prioritize opportunities, and each opportunity has support costs.
As it’s necessary for a whole product to fulfil the customer’s reason to buy, what is the 3D printer hardware vendor’s responsibility? And what exactly is the product manager who has a 3D printer as his responsibility for ensuring that the whole product is delivered? This has got nothing to do with responsibility as it’s connected to marketing success. If you leave the customer’s success to hope, you give up your control.
Before crossing the chasm, there is some hope that the early adopters will replace the whole product through their system integrations effort. Once the product is introduced to the mainstream market, there is some hope that a third party will find the chance to make money fleshing out the whole product. However, when you’re crossing the chasm, there is no hope for any external assistance that isn’t specifically hired from you for this purpose.
Strategic alliances with partners and allies are always the trendiest piece in high-tech marketing. However, as a rule, these alliances do well in PowerPoint presentations than on the street. The company cultures are usually too contrary to cooperate with each other. Decision cycles are incredibly incompatible, leading to massive frustration among entrepreneurs and humiliating responses from management. Each side must have misinterpreted during partnership negotiations. However, some strategic alliances have been very successful. For example, the relationship between Intel and Microsoft, which some address as the Wintel duopoly and Cisco, EMC and VMware’s partnership to create a Unified Computing Environment for cloud computing which is now having great success.
These alliances have been powerful and made wonders of market capitalization. However, it should be noted that they are between equally matched peers. Even with that qualification, the complications of developing and maintaining such strategic alliances where sales happen are enough to make even the most experienced companies struggle.
On the other hand, “work” for product managers means tactical whole product alliances. These alliances have only one exclusive aim: to increase the whole product infrastructure formation in a particular target market segment for a segment-specific strong reason to buy. The essential requirement is to codeliver a whole product and market it together. This is an advantage to the whole product manager by guaranteeing customer satisfaction. It also benefits the whole product partners by expanding their market without conducting any marketing activities.
Whole product alliances are quickly started and managed at the product marketing management level. Usually, the first opportunity is initially brought to the company’s attention through the salespeople or customer support staff who have encountered a potential ally at a particular customer’s site. However, they can also be expected by analyzing the whole product solution to the customer’s buying objective. Once again, the main point to understand here is that these are tactical alliances emerging from the whole product needs.
Product marketing is vital for setting up the invasion force to cross the chasm. To target markets with a strong reason to buy, you must be sure you have a monopoly in satisfying that strong reason to buy. Therefore, you need to understand what a whole product consists of and how a marketplace should be organized to produce a whole product incorporating your company’s offering.
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