Is It the Product or the Service Around It?

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Service oriented companies sometimes have it pretty easy. Service is their entire offering.

On the other hand, the product company studiously compares feature to feature, specification to specification in hopes of finding an edge with the customer. Maybe new positioning would help differentiate the product in a competitive market. Maybe pricing could create some much needed sales momentum. With everything that goes into marketing a competitive product it’s easy for a company to get caught up with how an item performs against others but neglect the encompassing service aspects that could make or break a sale.

A look into Cadillac’s new leasing focus is a good example of a product-focused firm’s heretofore careful work on product at the cost of the services surrounding buying process. As the article states, Cadillac has been producing an entire line of vehicles that can go toe-to-toe with European luxury brands but sales haven’t been reflective of those advancements in design, experience and technology. No real penetration into the luxury market Cadillac once owned a long time ago.

The cars were re-designed, the showrooms were overhauled, and the brand was re-positioned younger. The actual price of the car was competitive, but the lease costs – the method the target customer uses most to acquire vehicles – were not in line with the market. This seemingly sublime, box-checking component of the sale may be the aspect that has hindered Cadillac’s new market penetration it has worked so hard for.

Not having worked at Cadillac, I could only postulate why this aspect was overlooked, but I’ve seen similar things happen in other markets – especially in highly competitive B2B markets where sometimes it’s exactly everything but the product that sets the offerings apart.

If the firm builds products, it’s critically important to consider every aspect of the customer’s sales journey. Sometimes those mechanical bits that a little product myopia doesn’t see becomes the most important aspect in a sale. Responsiveness, delivery performance and even sales or warranty terms can be the make or break point for a sale. The savvy have to keep focus on all these aspects if the firm is to remain competitive.

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