Product Lust: Could Desire Really Be A Bad Thing?

by drjim on August 16, 2010

Could Product Shortages Make Your Customers Not Like Your Hot Product?

Could Product Shortages Make Your Customers Not Like Your Hot Product?

Way back when you were just a green product manager and you were still learning the marketing ropes, I’m going to bet that someone once upon a time sat you down and told you that sometimes when there is not enough of your hot product to meet customer’s demand, this can be a good thing. Well, it turns out that they were wrong and I’m going to tell you why…

I Love You / I Hate You

We seem to hate what we most desire. Uzma Khan teaches marketing at Stanford and she’s been doing some very interesting research into how our customers behave when they can’t have what they want. The results just might surprise you.

In some very carefully controlled experiments, the researchers set up some situations where people desired a product but couldn’t get it because it was unavailable. Later on they were finally able to get it. What the researchers found out was that there’s a big difference between wanting and liking something.

What’s Wrong With Not Being Available

It turns out that although our customers may be filled with both desire for our hot product and they may think that they like it, these two emotions are completely separate. However, the researchers have found out that they are related: the more that we really want something, the greater the probability that once we get it, we’re not going to like it.

One of the reasons for this is that our very desire for the thing has been artificially pumped up. Simply because we couldn’t get our hands on it, we wanted it more and more. However, the downside to this desire is that the more that we wanted it, then once we had it the less we liked it.

The (Reverse) Power Of A Strategic Shortage

So now we swing back around to the world of product management. I must confess that on more than one occasion I’ve been in a position where I could cause a “strategic shortage” to occur for one of my products and I’ve been tempted to do it. Customer complaints that they really want my product but can’t find it anywhere are like music to a product manager’s ears.

Based on the research that Dr. Khan’s team has done, it’s not pretty clear that this strategic shortage scheme is a dangerous tool. It can quickly and easily backfire on you in the form of increased returns and a drop off in repeat purchases. Are you willing to sacrifice your product’s future for a bit of a sales bump up right now?

What All Of This Means For You

So what’s a product manager to do when you really do have a hot product shortage? You can almost feel your future customer’s product lust increasing and yet even though you know how dangerous this is, there’s nothing that you can do about it.

Good product managers realize the danger of a situation like this for their products and they take action. They set up clear channels of communication to their future customers in order to make sure that they know when the product is going to be available to them. At the same time they look for ways to boost their customer’s satisfaction with the product once they get it. This can include such things as including a free give-away, or even boosting your company’s ability to deliver world-class customer support to new customers.

No matter how you go about doing it, a product manager needs to carefully manage the availability of their product. It’s great to be wanted by your future customers, but you are looking for a long-term relationship, not a one-night stand…

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: What do you think the first thing that you should do if a shortage of your hot product develops?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

What do most product managers do whenever their product sales start to decline? No matter if it’s because customers have lost interest or if it’s because a new competitor has just shown up, we all tend to do the same thing:slash our prices. In the new competitive global marketplace this doesn’t work any more. It’s time for some new thinking on how product managers deal with prices.

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