Are you selling products or solutions?
How many of you buy lottery tickets? Probably, quite a few of you. Why? It can’t be the chances of winning. Because we can say, with near absolute certainty, that nobody reading this blog is ever going to win the lottery. By the way, that is more about the odds of winning than the number of people who read the blog!
So what is it? Most likely the dream of winning – the hope, no matter how tiny, that you might get lucky. That you can then sit back on a beach somewhere – never having to write another presentation, justify your sales performance, or read a Friday afternoon blog ever again.
The National Lottery is not really selling lottery tickets it is selling hopes and dreams. As an example, the Canadian Lottery used to focus much of their communication on how little a lottery ticket cost. But people don’t buy a lottery ticket because it is cheap.
As soon as they changed their communication to focus on the end benefit – the dream holiday you could go on if you won – sales increased significantly. The same product, sold in a different way, in tune with the reason why people were buying.
Why is this relevant to the FMCG world? Well, a lot of our attention is, unsurprisingly, spent on selling products. We focus on the functional elements – why our product is better than the competitive set. Yet many shoppers are not really buying products, they are buying solutions. The product is just a means to an end.
For instance, take food. Most shoppers are buying meals not individual products and ingredients. Yes, when you look in their basket you see ingredients. But when you look at their dinner table, you see meals. It is the end solution they are most interested in. What am I going to have for dinner tonight? What am I going to feed the family this week? This is why things like Dine in for £10 or the lunchtime meal deals have worked so well – simple solutions that make many of the decisions for you.
So, what if we reframed what we are really selling to shoppers? What if we moved away from focusing only on the what (products) and focused more on the why (benefits and solutions)?
Here are a few examples of what we mean:
Are you selling chicken, beef, pork or a stir fry? And if you are selling a stir fry, why is it a better option than all the other meals a shopper could choose? And why is your specific product perfect for a stir fry?
Are you selling a soft drink or are you selling refreshment? And if you are selling refreshment, where do you need to be (stores and locations in store) and in what product and pack format, to compete and win? This has been central to Coke’s ‘within arm’s reach of desire’ objective for years.
Are you selling a biscuit or a lunchbox solution? And if it’s the latter, what are the rules (pack format, size, easy to open) that will determine how good a solution you are perceived to be? And are you a better solution than the competitive set?
Are you selling a pack of chopped carrots or 5 minutes saved? If it’s time saving, not only can this be a competitive advantage versus other vegetables, it can often allow shoppers to justify paying a price premium to themselves.
To reframe the choice to shoppers we need to reframe the choice to ourselves. For example, if we think we are selling yoghurt, we will compete against other yoghurts. But if we think we are selling a lunchbox (or breakfast or dessert) solution, the competitive set multiplies. Yes, this brings more competition, but it also brings more growth opportunities – pretty important in a market struggling for growth.
It sounds a stupid question, but do you know what you are really selling?
We are going to take a break in August to get the creative juices flowing and will be back at the start of September. As always, if you have any suggestions for things you would like us to write about, please let us know.
For those of you going away, have a great break. Speak to you again at the start of September.