What is Your Company Product?


What is your company’s product? Your first answer to this question will most likely be the obvious. If you are a furniture company, then you would say your product is furniture. If you are a car dealer, then your product is an automobile. If you are a restaurant, then you will say food. This is all fairly obvious.

You are trying to differentiate yourselves from the rest of the world who does the same thing you do. Therefore, you must look beyond what you are selling and start trying to understand what your customers are paying for. And what they are paying for is very different from the wares you are hocking.

Herein lies the fall of many companies in today’s post-digital world. If you hit on a successful mix, the natural tendency is to expand your locations. The more stores or service centers you have the more money you will make, right? Wrong!

In 1982, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman authored a book called “In Search of Excellence.” This book profiled 62 companies who were considered to be the best examples of what to do in corporate America to be successful. Today, of the 62 companies profiled in the book, 31 have dropped down the rankings, 9 were bought by other companies and 10 have dropped off the Fortune list completely. And 5 are not even in business any more. (Did you get the math that over 90% of the companies went backwards? Hmm.)

Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema in their book, “The Discipline of Market Leaders,” talk about the importance of companies deciding on a specific discipline to follow. They describe three types of disciplines their research has uncovered. They are customer intimacy, product leadership, and operational excellence. Treacy and Wiersema explain that a company cannot try to be good in all three of the areas and expect to survive. It is too large of a task to undertake. Scattering the efforts of your people in this manner means that you may be good in a lot of things, but great at nothing. Customers today reward greatness.

One of the first steps is to define your product. The difference between what Treacy and Wiersema support and the thoughts here is one of focus versus product. They are concerned with a company determining their focus of strength. We are concerned with the company first determining their product. In this respect, the product must come before the focus. Your determined focus is based on what your product is.

What are some examples of company products? Let’s use one of the “poster” companies for service and culture – Disney. For Disney, their product is “happiness,” and if you think about it that is exactly what they provide.

Disney World, for all intents and purposes, is an amusement park. Six Flags is an amusement park. King’s Island is an amusement park. Knott’s Berry Farm is an amusement park. In your town, there is most likely an amusement park. Why do you spend the extra money to go to DisneyWorld or DisneyLand? What if DisneyWorld taught all of their people that their product was to be the best amusement park or entertainment? Wouldn’t Disney be successful? Yeah. Probably as successful as the local ones near you.

Walt Disney was successful because he knew how to get people to want to do the things that needed to be done – the very essence of leadership. He also knew that if he asked the cast members of Disney to make their park the best amusement park in the country, then they would forever be in a losing battle with everyone else. We call this a losing battle because if you keep yourself in the same league as your competition, then you are relinquishing market share. Your sales may go up, but your share of the market or your share of the customer will most certainly go down.

So, every cast member who has come to work for Disney has been taught that his or her job is to create happiness. If they are the street sweeper, their job is to create happiness first, then sweep the streets. If they are the managers, their job is to create happiness first, then manage second. The ticket taker? Well, you get the idea.

By defining their product, Disney separated themselves from the competition. They focus on what people are paying for not what they are selling. As an interesting side note, we did some consulting with Disney years ago when they first started retail stores. They were struggling to get the success from their retail store they were getting from their theme parks. The analysis – they changed the product when they went into the local mall – not intentionally, but they did and they closed those first stores and started over.

What is your company’s product?

If you were in the coffee beverage industry like Starbucks, your product would be romance. Now, here is a neat one. Everything that Starbucks does from the roasting of the beans in their own factories, to the baristas behind the counter who make your coffee fresh for you when you order, to the atmosphere and design of the stores says “Coffee is a romantic experience and not just another drink.” It explains why they are able to charge so much more for their coffee and why most of their customers pass three other coffee shops on their way to the Starbucks– because the customer is not paying for coffee, they are paying for romance!

We would love to give you a thousand more examples of company products, but unfortunately, this is the minority not the majority! This is your chance to distance yourself from the competition. Define your company product.

Today, its all about customer experience. If you are still selling products, then you are in trouble. Customers can buy your product anywhere. They want something more with their product – they want an experience. Customers still prefer brick and mortar over online, but only if the “product” is right.

Remember, your company product is not what you are selling – it was what people are paying for.

Copyright 2016, Matthew Hudson is an award-winning retailer, keynote speaker, master sales trainer and author of over 4 books on selling, corporate culture, retail, and sales and marketing.

Matt Hudson

Master Sales Trainer with 31 years of sales & marketing experience. Author of 4 books including Advisor Selling and the Retail Sales Bible.