When does your product require servicing? Right after you sell it! It is then that your customers begin to experience it, not just the product you sold them, but your true intentions. Was it simply a trade, your product for their money? Or was it the beginning of a long-term relationship?
It is later that really speaks to the customer about how valuable you think they are. Do you think your relationship is over when they buy your product? Or do you see their initial purchase as an opportunity to demonstrate the kind of concern for their continued satisfaction that will turn them into loyal customers and advocates?
Never Sell More Than You Can Service
We advise all new product start-ups to never sell more than they can service. In fact, in the beginning stages, we like to say, “Don’t sell your product further away than you can drive to in one day to apologize!” Because when you get started selling that world-changing, disruptive product of yours, you will quickly find out that you will have to take the blame for a myriad of foul-ups that affect the customer experience, most of which are not your fault.
If your product is out of stock, for instance, they won’t blame the store – they will blame you. If your product is mispriced, they won’t blame the store, they will blame you. If your product is crushed, marred, or mishandled, they won’t blame your distributor, they will blame you. And that’s how you find out what “service what you sell” really means. It means that you have to fix it – and fast!
We advise new product start-ups to start slow in a small, limited market to find out what kind of service is required to deliver the excellent customer experience you aspire to. You will find out that the cost of sales will include expenses to fix distribution and retail problems you hadn’t even dreamed of.
Be Ready to Fix Problems
This was a huge wake-up call for us! We thought the retailer or the distributor was going to fix those kinds of problems!
So there really are no branded product businesses without including service businesses. We think not supporting sales is the # 1 reason that new products fail. It’s not because the products are flawed, overpriced. It’s because distribution issues go unresolved. Don’t even think about expanding your product business until you know what really needs to be done and who will do it.
It Takes More Than a Great Product
Unfortunately, most inventors and new product producers are in love with their products, and perhaps rightfully so, but once you get into the distribution channels, it takes a lot more than a great product at a great price. It takes constant vigilance and lots of elbow grease just to get your product on the shelf and keep it there.
When you’re selling a consumer product, you are in the service business. For us, the service was more important than the production. When our customers knew that they could rely on our product to always be in stock and always be priced right, they became advocates. The quality was there for sure, but what made them advocates was our dependability. They could recommend our product to others and it would be available at the quality and price they expected.
This unsung, heroic, behind-the-scenes work is taken for granted by your loyal return customers. Still, your success depends on the time and effort you invest in servicing what you sell.
Who We Are
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.
Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.
They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) & Shelf Smarts courses to help consumer product brand builders achieve success. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.
Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular business site at www.thebarefootspirit.com.
To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.