Conversation three: How do you solve their problems?
Your organisation’s products and services are the ways in which you solve clients’ problems or meet their needs – they are the helping hand that you offer them. Let’s take some time to look at what you offer and see if they are doing what they should.
By the way, if you’ve pinged in on this blog as your first stop, do take the time to skim my first two blogs in this series: what the problems are that you solve as a business and whose problems you’re solving.
So, let’s have our third conversation and discuss what your organisation offers the people to help them solve their problems. Let’s look at your products and services.
How do you solve their problems?
First, let’s chat about how you currently solve your clients’ problems or needs; what are the products and services you offer them?
Do you have a list of your products (I am going to use this word from now on to mean products and services) that you can show me?
Many businesses that have grown quickly don’t have a clearly defined product portfolio.
Unfortunately, not having a clearly defined portfolio of your products can cause problems:
- you can’t see where the gaps are in what you are offering customers – problems of theirs that your current products aren’t solving for them
- you can’t assess if you have a balanced product portfolio – a range of products to meet different needs and different price options
- if you aren’t clear about what you offer your customers, why do you expect them to be?
If you are a specialist or niche organisaation, then your product portfolio might well have one product. That’s fine if you are pursuing a niche strategy and are aware of the risks and rewards this can bring.
So, what can a good Product Portfolio look like?
I like to see a product portfolio laid out as a matrix or table, which clearly shows how your organisation solves its clients problems. This makes it easy for you and your team to spot your gaps and see what you’re not offering to your prospective clients.
Let’s take our previous working example of an IT Training Company. They want to help their clients’ organisations solve the root cause (not investing in their IT training up-front so it’s always a crisis purchase), rather than the symptom (which is understanding how to the TRS).
So, their Product Portfolio would look something like this:
|Category name||TRS usage||IT Training Strategy|
|Problem category solves||Helps teams understand how to use the Time Recording System (TRS)||They never invest in IT training so their staff always have to learn as they go.|
|Product 1||TRS Skills Online – online courses||[Gap]|
|Product 2||TRS Skills PLUS – Training delivered via seminars||[Gap]|
|Product 3||TRS Skills Master – 1 to 1 FastTrack Tuition||IT Training Strategy Consultancy – Developing an IT Training Strategy.|
Let’s break this Product Portfolio down.
First, you can see clear Product Categories based on the problems being solved.
Under each category, there is the opportunity for three ways to help the clients. A quick glance shows us that each Product (1, 2 and 3) offer different levels of support.
Straightaway, we can see that there are two gaps in the IT Training Strategy; there is no light touch or medium touch product; just the full on “Consultancy” option.
I’m interested to know why those gaps exist; is it that they feel they can’t offer a product at light or medium touch? Do they not want to? Or, given that they offer ones in the TRS Skills Category, is it because until they have looked at their Product Portfolio in this way, they didn’t realise they had a gap? If they want to fill this gap, it provides an excellent New Product Development (NPD) opportunity.
If they don’t fill this gap then one of their competitors will.
Some more things that we need to discuss
Now we have a clear idea of the products you are offering, we really need to chat about the relevance and quality of these products.
- Do you currently use all of these to solve your customers’ problems or do you just use some of them?
- Are they all still relevant to your customers?
- And are they still relevant to your business?
- Do you enjoy delivering these products?
- Does your team enjoy delivering them?
- Are you all equipped and skillful enough to deliver them?
Finally, the killer question: are all of these products profitable?
When I start to look at a clients’ product portfolio it soon becomes clear they are offering services or products that they shouldn’t be.
The temptation is to offer something for everyone; to hang on to “legacy” products; to work on “pet products”; and to make up totally new products with each slightly different customer demand. These approaches degrade your service offering. The quality of what you do diminishes. The market place becomes confused about what you offer. Even worse, they reduce your profitability.
Make sure your products are the right products for you and your customers to solve their problems and if they aren’t – ditch them.
Over to you…
If you haven’t done so already, then I recommend that you map out your products in this way as a Product Portfolio. If you struggle to do it and to put your products into categories, then that is interesting in itself.
Once you have your Product Portfolio mapped out, now you have answered the question, “How do I solve our clients’ problems?”
Do head over to the next conversation, Conversation #4. Market positioning: what do your prices say?
Kara Stanford is an award-winning Strategic Marketing Consultant who helps growing businesses gain marketing clarity.
If you want marketing clarity, then contact her here.