If You Lead a Customer to Booze Carriage, He Will Definitely Drink

When you’re in the sequin-studded slipper business, it’s not easy to keep customers engaged in your products. After a while, brand awareness doesn’t have the returns it used to, and everyone feels like they know your product line inside and out.

Sure, your shoes are shinier than the competition… but how much can R&D really do to keep your magical footwear relevant in the market after decades of stiletto stagnation?

Strangely enough, it turns out you had the power to boost your sales the whole time…

There’s no place like home

Dorothy Gale (we’re just as surprised as you to learn she has a last name) was a lot like your customers. Sure, she was willing to take a free pair of ruby slippers, but she couldn’t get excited over a product that didn’t offer an obvious benefit over the Keds she picked up in Kansas. Dorothy was looking for footwear that would get her back to the familiar comfort and backbreaking manual labor of her Kansas farm, and these shoes didn’t seem up to the task.

Fast forward a few furry friends and slain sorceresses later, and it turns out Dorothy’s shiny ruby shoes could’ve whisked her back home the whole time. Most rational humans would’ve been pretty peeved with Glinda the Sales Witch for leaving that itty bitty detail out. But Miss Gale was so happy to learn of her product’s “new” powers that all was forgiven. Heck, it was better than forgiven: Dorothy was ecstatic because the experience of learning about her product’s features endeared her to the Good Witch brand.

How does this apply to product development? Simple: sometimes the best way to intrigue customers is to show them a spiffy hidden trick your existing items could already do.

Maybe your microwaves have a secret function that thaws meat instantly. Or your most popular line of jackets can shrug off mud stains with ease. Perhaps your standard janitorial water buckets are just really good at murdering witches. Wow your audience by promoting lesser-known abilities that were always there.

Pay no attention to the R&D behind the curtain

Can’t think of any hidden ways to use your items? That’s even better: now you can crowdsource the answer. Ask your customers via survey, contest, or social media for ingenious ways they put your products to work. You’ll engage them in new ways, and you might just learn something yourself.

In the end, everyone wins:

  • Your old customers find new value in products they already own.
  • Potential customers get more reasons to buy what you’re selling.
  • You gain valuable feedback about how your products are used.
  • You’ve just created a “new” product without investing in R&D.

Here’s a great example from the wonderful advertising wizards at Philips. The company successfully promotes their line of (fairly standard) blenders by showing customers a neat trick for flavor infusion. By perforating and marinading various fruit them in the pureed juices of other fruit, home chefs can create foods that look and taste like something from the other side of the rainbow.

It’s not a new feature per se, but their audience doesn’t know that. Instead, customers are happy to discover additional value from what was otherwise a ho-hum product. In the end, Philips’ buyers learned that all they had to do was click their heels together and repeat, “There’s no taste like grape-pineapple.”


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