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Saturday
May262012

Aspirin, Vitamin, or Viagra? How to Know What You're Selling, Who You're Selling to, and Why It Matters. 

Aspirin, Vitamin, or Viagra? How to Know What You're Selling, Who You're Selling to, and Why It Matters.

 Is Your Product Optional?

Interesting question.

Which of these categories does your product or service fall into?

What exactly are you selling?

That's often the first thing a VC will want to know about your company. And even if you haven’ t the slightest desire to found a new startup and couldn’t tell a VC from a paperboy, your answer may just hold the key to profitability (or perhaps, even survival) for you and your struggling enterprise. 

Want more? Read on.

OK, so it’s an interesting question, but why should we be so concerned?

Bring On the Painkillers!

Josh Linkner put it like this: “ If you have a burning headache, you’ll do whatever it takes to subdue it.  If it’s 3:00 am on a cold, snowy night and you are out of pain killers, you’ll bundle up, drive to a 24-hour pharmacy, and desperately pay nearly any cost to alleviate your pain.

And the Vitamins?

Vitamins are a different story.  They are a nice-to-have, not a gotta-have-right-now.  You certainly won’t race out in the middle of the night for them.  You’ll think twice about the cost, get to them when convenient, and likely forget them altogether on a semi-regular basis.

As a marketer, entrepreneur, or business leader, ask yourself… are you selling aspirin or vitamins?

It turns out that selling vitamins is roughly ten times more difficult since you are marketing an “optional” product.  Vitamin purchases lack urgency, are frequently price-sensitive, and offer the customer the viable alternative to doing absolutely nothing.”

What Else Is There? Viagra?

In a post from 2006, JaysJotts even took it bit further: “The question to ask yourself is: “Is your product a vitamin, an aspirin or Viagra?

Vitamins often are optional, non-critical solutions for a consumer or business. The problem with vitamins is you have to convince someone of their value and in the end, they still are considered discretionary.

On the other hand, aspirin relieves pain, that is, it solves a problem a consumer or business has. There is clear value in an aspirin. However, aspirin’s problem is that its a one-time solution.

The goal is to create a product that is like Viagra. Viagra opens up new possibilities. It’s something people desire over and over again.”

Don't Make This Mistake

And if those two weren’t enough, this article from Startupjunkies.org lets us know that : “A fatal mistake made all too often by rookie entrepreneurs is in mistaking a vitamin for an aspirin. Don't over estimate other people's need for your product or service.”

Think about it like this: Confusing your offering with it’s (true) acknowledged place in the market can be a disaster.  Making sure of your target market is crucial because it touches almost every aspect of your company.

And while it’s all well and good to want a Viagra product, the fact is that most of us are peddling vitamins.  At the very least, we should take another look around for a market that needs aspirin in the form of better products and solutions to specific business problems. 

Of course, to do that well, you need to know the “pain points” in your customer's industry. Startupjunkies goes on to say that you might want to consider the problems at your current (or past) employer. Which ones would they have paid good money to solve? 

Plenty of fertile ground there, I think.

Dude - Where Are My Margins? Apple Knows.

Is it possible for a product or even an entire market segment to transform from one category to another? I think so. 

Apple is a master of the art of taking things to another level. 

Think of the Iphone, Ipod, Itunes, and the MacBook Air.  Every one of these “products” technically belong to the “vitamin” class, but when Apple produced them, the market scrambled to catch up and for many people, they became a “must have” (Viagra).

By re-characterizing their products from aspirin (“My computer’s broken”) or vitamin (“A new computer would be nice”) to Viagra (“there’s nothing else on the market like it” and “Won’t I be cool!”) , Apple’s profile as a company soared – and their profits along with it. 

What if you sell “cost saving solutions”?  You know, the “New and Improved” or “As Seen on TV” kind of things.

Well, if you’ve ever had to spend your afternoon trying to convince someone of  the benefits of using your product or solution, we can safely say you’re pushing “vitamins.”

But even if they fall into the “vitamin” camp, why not take another look and see if you can’t leverage those into something more for your client? If your solution allows them to reallocate budgets in favor of support, service, or innovation isn’t that moving them in the right direction? 

Kind of.  But still a vitamin. 

Yes, they may be better, faster, and stronger but unless you can translate those into immediate benefits, you may still be stuck at the starting gate. In that case, you have a lot of work to do – or your client selection needs to be better, or maybe both.

What Does Your Customer Think They're Buying? 

I’ll ask the question again: What are you selling – aspirin, vitamin, or Viagra?

Just how your answer affects your marketing, your budget, your R&D, and even your hiring strategies will have to wait for another day.

But something else you may want to consider is what exactly does your customer think they’re buying?

Finding out that you were sold aspirin or worse yet, a vitamin, when you feel you paid for Viagra is disappointing to say the least. Not a good moment – for them or for you.

And what they’ll do on your grave ain’t gonna pass for flowers.

Just saying.

 

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