What makes a great product? What causes us to shell out our hard earned money to buy that new widget or sign up for that wonderful new service? Three things come quickly to mind. Innovation, Value, and Excellence. All three of these constantly drive my buying decisions and I suspect they influence yours too.
We all love that new car with the latest innovations and are driven to buy the latest concoction at Starbucks while reading the latest trendy magazine. Things that are new and fresh inspire our imaginations. New colors, new scents, new songs… they all drive our purchasing decisions.
Why buy that practical but boring Honda Accord when you can have an exciting new Saturn Sky Roadster? Why just get an ordinary cup of coffee when you can have a Banana Coconut Latte Supreme? When I look at my purchasing decisions they are often-times driven by the desire to have the newest or most interesting item. Boring is out… flashy is in. I’ll pick the remarkable new widget every time.
Every time that is… unless I have time to compare and really think about the decision before I make it. Is this new item really a great value? Can I get by with last year’s model for $5000 less? Is that super latte what I really want (all 600 calories of it) or will a regular cup-of-joe do just fine? Questions like this overtake my impulsive decisions when I have time to think. This is where flash and salesmanship come in. Will my friends think I’m cool in last years Honda Accord? Can I see myself driving it??
Many a smart sales person have overcome my sense of value by painting a rosy picture and giving me a compelling reason to go for the new and more expensive item. Maybe it’s a small discount or an expensive option thrown in for free. Maybe they have painted a picture of my friends oohing and ahhing my new purchase. This is the real power of a compelling story. I’ve told myself these stories many times.
One thing that affects almost all of my buying decisions is quality. When I was younger most of my decisions were stictly determined by price and I soon found out that a low price many times brought trouble. With the advent of the web and online reviews it is much easier to determine the quality of a product or service. With modern manufacturing techniques the quality of many products is much higher than it used to be. In 2006, product excellence should be the goal of all companies.
An interesting study on the subject of quality is the eye opening book by Charles Fishman called, “The Wal-Mart Effect“. This book clearly shows the price pressure and compromises that many companies take to either sell to or compete with the world’s largest retailer… Wal-Mart. When low price is the primary objective, quality eventually suffers. It may be subtle at first, with plastic parts replacing metal ones or a thinner denim replacing the standard denim in those $13.95 jeans. But as the price spirals downward other things go south and soon the product becomes just another cheap commodity.
When excellence is the goal, things are different. Things get better with time. The new model is better than the last. The bar is raised and the competition must get better just to compete. A model citizen in this arena is Toyota. Their obsession with quality has changed the whole automotive industry. In The Toyota Product Development System: Integrating People, Process, and Technology, James Morgan and Jeffrey Liker compare and contrast the world-class product development process of Toyota with that of a U.S. competitor. They use extensive examples from Toyota and the U.S. competitor to demonstrate a process known as value stream mapping as a powerful tool for continuous improvement.
When Innovation, Value, and Excellence converge into a new product, I want to be the first on the list to find out more about it. This synergy of three creates excitement. It may be a revolutionary running shoe, or a flash based iPod, or even a new flavor at Starbucks. With the proper timing and marketing this synergy usually leads to business success. A Tipping Point is probably not far behind.