Product Marketing Rule #31: Prepare Your Marketing for the Final Three Feet
Product Marketing Rule #31 from the best-selling book, 42 Rules of Product Marketing, was written by By John Cook, Disruptive Products Guy, Nokia
In a Business to Consumer (B2C) environment, we often have to leave the task of selling the product to the customer to those who may be underskilled, unprepared, or both.
As product marketing managers, we spend a lot of time thinking about positioning our products.
However, in a Business to Consumer (B2C) environment, we often have to leave the task of selling the product to the customer to those who may be underskilled, unprepared, or both. That is where The Last Three Feet concept really counts. When selling through retail stores or distributor and consultants, you must give as much attention to crossing the last three feet of delivering your product as you give to the miles that it traveled before it reached the end seller.
We’re not selling lemonade in front of Mom’s house anymore. We often don’t sell the products we craft. That final sales task is frequently left to those who can’t highlight the right features, are unable to address customer concerns, or sometimes, may have no idea of what the product’s features and benefits actually are. In fairness, we must recognize that retail associates, sales teams and the like, are often expected to be “experts” in a huge range of products. We cannot expect them to know everything.
So, what’s a top-notch product marketer to do?
First, consider your selling channel as your target customer that can help that final interaction with the end-user. If you don’t sell into your channel first, (and well), you can lose the opportunity to sell to your end-user at that critical final three feet. As PMM’s, we drive the product’s sales cycle: consumer product consideration, sales, and support.
Product consideration and sales support are the bookends that support the all-important selling process. Your customer, the channel, needs to be armed with the facts to help the end-users get themselves through the consideration phase.
If your sales associates feel your company provides strong marketing support, they’ll be more confident to better answer those sticky, but critical, customer queries and do it effectively.
Consider these three questions:
- Do you spend time fine-tuning the web copy and data sheets from both an end user and channel sales perspective? Consider the audience carefully.
- What demo materials have you created that a channel partner can leverage? Will the demos work for an untrained channel sales person? Are they easily accessible in a busy retail environment?
- Who’s training your channel support team and major retailers? Shouldn’t you be involved in that?
In my years of B2C and B2B experience, these activities rank as high as the classic four P’s of marketing: product, price, place, and promotion because they are the critical last step, when the retail store clerk has to explain the product to the end customer.
A PMM team I once led took the channel-as-customer concept to the next level. It was as simple as integrating ourselves into the selling process. Along with our channel managers and sales teams, we briefed, (under NDA), channel partners many months before our products were due to come to market. Yes, we risked someone leaking details, but the reward was that we gained insightful feedback about everything that affected our mutual businesses at in-store placement opportunities. After we did this a few times with one major retailer, (at both their headquarters and ours), we actually ended up co-funding a research project. We now had valuable insights into our targeted customers’ buying preferences in a way we could have never obtained by ourselves. The risk paid off.
Your distributor, your direct sales channel, your retailer are your customers too. Don’t forget or neglect them and you’ll close that last three feet with more of your end-users, be they large corporations or your next-door neighbor.