Tag Archives: marketing

What People Actually Buy

People don’t actually buy a product. And the marketing notion of “solutions” is not really something customers buy in to, either – it’s closer to the truth, but an over-simplification that can distract you from what it’s actually about.

When you purchase a cup of coffee, you’re buying a caffeine shot, or a bit of pastime, or an enjoyable moment chatting with friends – or a combination thereof.

When you purchase a car, you buy the ability to get from A to B with some additional requirements/benefits, it may serve as a status symbol, and so on.

It’s about purpose, the difference between the means and the goal. When product developers and companies forget this, both their product and their communications go weird. And when community advocates don’t keep this in mind, they won’t understand client behaviour.

Take someone on their way to work who is going to get stuck in morning traffic. They might buy a cup of coffee, but a hot drink can be dangerous in a car. They could get a croissant or other pastry, but that can get grease and crumbs over the business attire. So they might instead go for a milkshake – it’ll have a cover and a straw, and takes a fair while to drink. It satisfies the objective: pastime. That’s what that person is actually buying.

I think it’s a neat example because it shows that for this market, coffee, pastries and milkshakes are actually direct competitors and the specific “features” for selecting one or the other are not at all what you might otherwise expect. For instance, it’s not primarily about the quality of the coffee: this buyer group has dismissed the coffee option well before even getting to that consideration, so making improving the coffee quality is not going to make them change their mind. Good to know!

I’m writing about this today because I’m seeing so many articles and blog posts about Apple after the passing of its co-founder Steve Jobs. There are lots of technological (hardware and software engineering) and business ideological (licensing) aspects so Apple is very interesting to review in this way, and much can be learnt from it.

But it’s really very important to realise that when someone purchases an iPhone, they’re buying productivity, status, ease-of-use-through-familiarity, easy integration with other hardware, and so on. Similar analysis can be done for the iPad and Mac laptops/desktops.

It’s definitely possible to point to other hardware and prove that it’s better, and to another software environment and prove that it provides more freedom. But if “better hardware” and “software freedom” are not high on the consumer’s list of requirements, even winning that argument wouldn’t make a difference to their behaviour.

If you were intent on having them care for either or both of those things, then you need focus on that prerequisite first. In a nutshell, “better” or even “fit for purpose” is relative to the objective, and it’s not at all about speed and features and quality. For some those things can be a factor, but you need to figure that out and chances are it ranks lower than other issues. Someone’s reason for choosing Windows or OSX “over Linux” is not the same as your reason for choosing Linux over Windows and OSX.

Years ago I purchased a MacBook. I’ve written about this before, what I was actually buying then was the ability to suspend/resume reliably, and have working wifi on my laptop. It was something Linux didn’t offer me at the time – that’s sorted now and I now actually run Linux on my old MacBook hardware. My next laptop won’t be an Apple, or at least not for the purpose of running OSX. I like free (as in open) software, but I also have work to do. So every time it comes up, I have to make a pragmatic choice.

At many tech conferences, including those in the Open Source space, you will see a huge number of MacBooks. If you want to know why those people bought them, ask. You’ll find it most educational. Just make sure it’s not perceived as an attack of their choice or ethics or whatever, because chances are you’re not the first to ask and there have been others with an agenda.

If you want to potentially convince people to buy different stuff, you really need to first understand why they’re currently purchasing the things they are. Don’t presume. Then either find or create a product that matches their specified needs better, or come up with a need that will rank higher but hasn’t previously been applied.

Yes, that’s what Apple has done under Steve Jobs’ leadership. And whatever you may think of the hardware, software, marketplace and licensing, I regard it as a great accomplishment in product development and marketing. I appreciate that that doesn’t rank highly from a tech perspective, but I do believe it’s not only worthy of respect but definitely worthwhile understanding.

If you are active in this field either developing products or in the community, and don’t yet understand that Apple didn’t just create another computer, walkman and phone, do learn about this as it’s essential to what you’re trying to do. It’s not about then copying that, but about understanding how it works.

Spam selling contacts

From an email to my private address:

I hope you are the right person to talk about new companies interested in having business relationship with you.

If yes, then let me know the specific industry you are interested in, i will come back to you with a sample file of companies and their contacts with complete contact information such as business email, direct phone number etc of each executive.

These companies and contacts index can be used for your upcoming multi-marketing initiatives.

We also clean or append your inhouse marketing database. Just send me a minimum of 25-50 company names in an excel spreadsheet format, we will fill complete contact information such as e-mail address, phone, fax, mailing addresses etc. This way you can understand the quality of our service.
P.S.: If you want to stop receiving emails from us, please send a reply with the email subject line as “Leave Out”.

So many things wrong.

  1. Under the Spam Act 2003 (Australia) it is illegal to send, or cause to be sent, unsolicited commercial electronic messages. (see also the general info at ACMA)
  2. Offering contact lists. If not illegal (through your local legislation, or because of the way this company has acquired the info), it’s ethically dubious and use of such info would at the very least make you an originator of unsolicited contacts. Do you want to be such a company?
  3. “clean up and append your inhouse marketing database” – that’s a new one to me, makes it look all the more nice doesn’t it. So you give them your incomplete info, and they fill it in with their data. Doesn’t make it any more ethical though, or legal. You’d have to be very careful about what the origin of their data is, and how can you check?
  4. The opt-out clause. Sounds lovely but that’s not relevant to AU legislation. I shouldn’t have to exert any effort as they weren’t entitled to send me email to begin with. But even if it was legal, is it reasonable? You don’t really want to be part of and identified with that huge pile of junk emails that people find in their daily inbox, do you…

That’s why we have Upstarta principle#10: No spam. Not if you call it “email blast” either. Newsletter for clients is fine.

Spam may be “effective” in terms of being highly profitable compared to direct cost – but good business people care about more than just that.