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Marketing Tips: Insight from the Consumer Products Arena (Marketing Memo, January, 2001)

Product development and R&D people worry a lot about product specs, and marketing departments worry about the user and the marketplace. However, who looks at what users do with products? Here are some lessons for the New Year that I learned from experts in the consumer products world. These tips apply to any business that provides a product or service:

Try out your own products and services: Whether you sell network management software, razor scooters, or hand cream, when you use your own product or service you will quickly learn things that you would probably miss. You will pick up major things, for instance that the software has insufficient documentation or that the scooter wheel comes off when going over bumps or that the hand cream stains clothes. And, you will also learn small things that annoy customers and cause them to turn to your competitors. Examples are software that is difficult-to-install, noisy scooters, and awkward hand cream pumps. While testing your own offerings seems to be an obvious thing to do, marketing consultants report that many marketers fail to "open the package" and use the product.

Watch your customers using your products and services in their own environments: What features and functions annoy them or cause them to find workarounds? What can you do to eliminate these annoyances? Screens for your software might be too large for network administrators' monitors; the razor scooter might be too difficult for a young person to fold while running to keep up with friends; and the hand cream container might be too large to fit on a typical nightstand. Watch for environmental factors that affect how customers use your offering. Customers' offices and homes are often very different from how marketers imagine them, and these differences can affect product performance and customer satisfaction.

What features and functions delight your customers? Be sure to include them in the next upgrade. Based on your observations of how people use products and services in their own environments, what extra features can you build into the product or service? Consumer products companies call these features "delightables."

Do you have any marketing tips to share? You can reach us at

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