Selling Time With Your Product
As product managers we are always looking for ways to give our products a unique selling proposition. We add unique features, we drop the price, we try bundling the product with other products, etc. However, maybe we’ve been overlooking the single most important way that we can get our potential customers to turn into actual customers: start selling time with our product.
Now clearly we’re not going to be able to box up a bunch of time and offer it to our customers. However, AT&T is currently running a series of ads for their wireless service where they make their “rollover minutes” appear to be tangible things that people can keep track of. Instead of something that our customers can touch, maybe what we can start to sell is experiences.
If you are a product manager for a resort that is located on a Caribbean island, you are probably already doing this. However, for the rest of us, this comes back to that pesky “user experience” thing. Just how do your customers feel while they are using your product?
I must confess to having been a product manager who was in charge of a number of products that had fantastic functional value. However, I was so enamored by what my products did, that I spent very little time thinking about how my customers must have felt while they were using my product.
If you need a very simple example, then consider the ubiquitous progress bar found on most software these days. I for one can tell you that seeing a progress bar progress from 0% to 100% while a software tool is doing its job makes me very happy – I don’t like having to sit there looking at a blank screen wondering just what is going on. The progress bar makes my user experience much better and makes me feel like I have more control over my time.
Allowing Your Customers To Control Their Time Better
Taking the idea of “selling time” to your customers one step further, the next thing that a product manager can do is to put the control of how long something takes into the hands of your customers.
Internally we are always looking for ways to speed up the buying process. What can we do to move a potential customer from lead to prospect to paying customer as quickly as possible so that we can book the revenue and move on to the next customer?
The problem with this approach is that it can cause the customer to feel pressured to buy. If instead we put control of the buying timeline in the hands of the customer, then they get to control just how fast the process goes.
The clearest example of this can be seen on web sites where you can allow the customer to “build” their own product. Putting them in charge of creating their own pizza or computer means that once it’s been built, the customer already feels a sense of “ownership” and is much more likely to buy what they’ve specified.
Product managers can take this time control process one step further and equip sales teams with the tools that they need in order to guide customers down several different paths. How long each path is and what is covered can be controlled by the customer so that a contract is not placed in front of them until they are truly ready to buy.
It’s All About Attitude
How your customers feel about time will be something that is constantly changing. Just because you’ve found something that works now, doesn’t mean that it will keep working tomorrow.
You can expect your customers to become bored with the steps that they have to go through to use your product today and want to be able to do things quicker and better. It’s going to be your responsibility to be constantly coming up with new approaches that work for them.
What All Of This Means For You
The next time (sorry about the pun) that you are faced with a competitor that appears to have a better or cheaper product than you can offer, take a step back. Think about how you can start to offer your potential customers what they really want – more time and better control over their time.
There are a number of different ways that you can do this. The key is to understand how your customers are using your product and to then make the time that they spend with your product even more enjoyable.
Selling time is the one product that will never go out of style. Sure you can’t box it up and no, you can’t store it in a warehouse, but all of your customers will keep coming back and asking you for more of it…!
Do you think that you could boost your product’s sales if you started to advertise the user experience more?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
As the global economy snaps back, product managers are going to start traveling once again. One place that we should plan on spending some time will be at industry trade shows. No, these are not the most enjoyable things to go to just to hand out your business card; however, maybe you feel this way because nobody ever told you how to get the most out a trade show…