When Your Product Sucks (And What to Do About It)

Let’s say you have a product that is wonderfully mediocre in serving your customer. But you have a pretty sweet marketing budget and you need to use it or lose it this year. So you run more ads, do more on social media to promote the product, and angle for some nice publicity for your shiny product, to name a few tried and true tactics. End of the year, sales are flat – so you are doing OK. Plus, you received great media coverage on how amazingly you’ve marketed your product.

You have a party to celebrate. The product stays the same, the people behind the product get nice annual reviews and you, as the lead communications or marketing person, are content. Hopefully this doesn’t ring a bell for you personally but you have a friend….

I was thinking of mediocrity the other day while listening to Rashad Tobaccowala, chief strategy officer at global agency Vivaki (part of the Publicis Groupe), speak at the DigiDay Social conference. He was a far from mediocre speaker – in fact, he was one of the most inspiring speakers I’ve heard lately. He was funny, noting that his agency is “pathetic, but less pathetic” than his competitors so that gives his agency an edge. And he was insightful, conjuring “the people’s network” – that in the social media noise, let’s not forget we are talking to people not technology.  People – not digital/technology — are at the core, and we need to “recognize that people are analog in a digital world.”

So, back to your “friend’s” product that might technically “suck.” What does Tobaccowala recommend one do to increase sales and get more word of mouth online and offline? Improve the product! That’s right – spend time actually making the product better. Take everything you’ve heard from customers and that you know in your heart of hearts is holding this product back and make it better. Focus less on the new out-of-the-box campaign to promote your product, and direct some attention on the product itself (and then unleash some fresh marketing/communications efforts behind a brand you are now proud of). And if your team isn’t on board?  Tobaccowala spoke of two choices: You can change people’s mindsets, or you can change the people.

So what’s stopping your product from soaring? Is it the people on your team? The product itself? Both?  Don’t get fixated on the outer-lying strategy or tactics until you’ve fixed the core.

As management consultant Peter Drucker noted: “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

— Diane Schwartz

Twitter: dianeschwartz


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