I then provided four tips designed to encourage both consumers and companies to think about the industries problems. Most importantly, I called on all parties to ACT on those tips to force industry change and reform.
As a consumer advocate I believe passionately that lazze-faire capitalism works only if all parties deal with each other honestly and with integrity. Monopolies are not necessarily bad for the consumer if they are honest, but coercive monopolies are certainly destructive and harmful.
The free market, when allowed to operate without government interference, encourages competition, efficiency, productivity, and low prices. It has inherent checks and balances, and these balances keep everyone honest. If the consumer is getting a poor deal from one company, he can take his business, and his vote, elsewhere.
The problem in today's market is that many companies are coercive. While companies can not force the consumer to buy questionable products, the mottos adopted by industry today seem to be "profits before people" and "bottom line before quality." From looking at many products on the market, "bottom quality" would be a more accurate descriptor of current industry conditions. Businessmen industry wide appear to be asking themselves "If we can get by with the minimum just like everyone else, why go the extra mile at our own expense?"
This approach is flawed, but easy to understand. The prevailing belief is that products are sold through advertising and that the company with the most magazine space and television time will prosper above other companies with less clout.
This approach is responsible for the lousy reputation our industry currently enjoys, and is the chief reason why the government has taken action that is responsible for the crippling paralysis of the market.
In fact, the dry-rot in the industry is so widespread that a CEO of a prominent supplement company was heard recently remarking: "If I put sugar in a pill and marketed it well enough, I would sell enough to make millions!"
In this article I am going to explain why a focus on advertising alone is not enough to guarantee supplement sales and corporate success. I am also going to provide four more tips on what it takes to sell products - and to keep them selling.
The Role Of Advertising
Modern advertising is expensive, flashy, and aggressive. It certainly is a necessary part of doing business in today's ultra competitive marketplace.
Advertising through press conferences, newspaper and magazine ads, or television commercials is the only way that a company can communicate with the public and deliver a message about its products.
But despite how expensive, impressive or psychologically sophisticated advertisements and marketing campaigns have become, their purpose for being is still what it has always been: increase public awareness and emphasize the benefits of the product or service. Aside from being a mechanism of communication from company to public, advertising does little else. If effective, advertising focuses the publics attention and awareness on a product, and it may create the desire to act.
As an example of the misapplication of advertising in the supplement industry, consider the advertising practices of MuscleTech Research and Development.
By now, almost everyone knows of their products. Their advertisements are in almost all of the major monthly bodybuilding and fitness magazines, and they have television commercials on several of the major American television super-stations. MuscleTech has been successful in creating brand-name awareness, and in communicating to the public what they believe to be the benefits their products offer.
The only thing unfortunate about their approach to advertising is that it's not working. Put another way, MuscleTech is doing way more advertising than selling. This is why they continue, monthly, to advertise aggressively.
Their practices are akin to going to a party where someone tells a ridiculous story that no one believes, and so the person keeps repeating the message in the attempt to convince. They do this on the assumption that if they repeat the message loudly enough with confidence, it will stand a chance of being believed.
Recent figures place MuscleTech monthly advertising expenditures at $1.5 million. This astronomically foolish number tells me that they misunderstand the role of advertising and that, if their products were as good as claimed, they wouldn't have to spend all this money on smoke-and-mirrors every month. They also wouldn't have to sell their products at ridiculously inflated prices.
As a company, it is impossible to brow-beat the public into buying your products with advertising. You can use advertising only to communicate respectfully, and say "our products are great. Come give us a chance to show you why."
Build It Well
All of the advertising in the world will not do you any good if you manufacture garbage and rip off the consumer. And, if you spend $1.5 million dollars a month advertising products that a lot of people don't want to buy, it's a sure sign that instead of throwing money into a never-ending black hole, you need to go back to the drawing board and work on product quality and concept. But creating a quality supplement is not easy. It comes down to achieving a balance between quality and price.
On the quality side, a company needs to consider the desires and wants of the consumer. A product must provide results, but must also be digestible with a tolerable taste. It must also deliver results quickly.
Consumers usually give a supplement a fair trial of one month. For the first couple of days the consumer will usually spend time justifying the purchase. So if the product takes a week or so to deliver preliminary results, its alright. But after a month the consumer is going to make an emotional judgement on the product. It is then that they will decide that it's a great value, a good value, or a terrible waste of money.
If the product is only an "ok" value, over time the consumer will begin to look for reasons why it wasn't so great. If this happens, you've just convinced your customer to never purchase your product again.
So it is of little use to manufacture a great product that delivers results three months down the line, no matter how great your product may be. By this time the verdict will have been in long ago, and someone else will have your customer - and his money. To deliver results, however, a balance needs to be achieved between results and safety.
Usually, the more results a substance delivers, the more active it is in the body. The more active a substance is, the more potential there is that adverse side effects will occur from administration. So the manufacturer must balance results with safety, because even if a product works, people wont stick with it for long if it does a number on their system.
Do It Cheaply
I have discussed this already in part one, but this point is worth repeating and expanding upon.
The quality and affordability of a product go hand-in-hand. The most obvious maxim in business is this: give the consumer the best deal possible. Translated this means: the most quality for the least money. But some pariah companies have created their own maxim: the least quality for the most money. This attitude is a mistake because it is in a companies long-term financial interest to do the job right the first time around. Here is why.
If a company markets a product and it fails to sell, the company may have to recall it and redesign the product. This will cost the brand name exposure, credibility, store shelf space, market share, and the company will have to write off a massive loss for what amounts to wasted and unsold product.
Not only that, but the company will strain or lose retailer relationships. The company will have to spend money on new development, additional labour costs, and raw materials. After all of this is paid for and the product redesigned, the company will have to purchase more advertising space, and fight for market share and respect, all over again.
Designing a quality product will allow a company to avoid having to do things twice, and this savings can be passed on to the consumer. Quality products build trust, and they make a company competitive.
To do things as economically and efficiently as possible, it is also important to reduce overhead and operating expenses. One look at Wal-Mart Corporation shows that a lean outfit makes for a profitable outfit that is able to pass savings along the line. As a manufacturer, it is useless to design a supplement that is so amazing that it is cost-prohibitive to produce. Even if you do make the supplement, how will you be able to offer it to the consumer at a competitive price?
Just remember this: most consumers will still buy a $700 refrigerator that uses $50 of electricity monthly, over a refrigerator that costs $900 and uses only $35 of electricity monthly. The first thing a consumer sees is the price tag on what you are trying to sell. So, your product does not have to be unbeatable, but to get the sale it had better be damned good - and cheap to boot.
Making good products and pricing them reasonably is the only way to satisfy the consumer.
It Starts On The Ground
No matter how great the advertising, quality or economy of your product, it all comes down to the sale - decision time.
Most companies never see the face of their customer. They do market research, manufacture products and ship them off to retailers for sale. But retailers DO see the customer face-to-face, and this is why it is imperative for long-term success that a company has good relations with its retail partners. Without a solid company-retailer relationship, there is no way for a company to stay in the game.
Quality is meaningless if the layout of your product is terrible, or if the retail display space afforded to your brand is hidden in a modular space so small that it is dwarfed by other products. To get sales, you want your brand where the action is: front and center, and making a strong statement in the heart of the battle.
Corporate sales depend as much on managerial planning as they do on the actions of the clerk making minimum wage behind the register. Am important point to remember is: every war ever fought has been planned by the General, but was won or lost by the man on the ground.
This is why a dissatisfied or disgruntled employee is a deadly liability. If an employee in a retail chain is not happy, or feels like he is taken for granted, he won't go out of his way to push your product. He will report for work when told, and he will be gone a minute after his shift is over. If this happens too often, it will eat away at your bottom line.
Being on good terms with retail partners is imperative. More than anyone, retailers have a good sense of their customers needs, socio-economic status, and the conditions of their region and local market place. Accordingly, retailers design floor placements and product features.
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Doing market research is all well, but the situation on the ground changes daily. If you want to stay current, or even ahead of the game, retailer partners are the people to talk to. They can give you accurate information -and fast.
But talking to retailers is a waste of time if you don't communicate your expectations. It is important to put pressure on retailers to improve morale if its lacking, to deliver better customer service if its poor, and to direct them to do what is necessary to move the customer toward making a decision to spend.
Closing the sale may be the bottom line, but sending products to market based on customer "demographics" that tell you about conditions last month is a great way to lose money. So make sure your partners are up to date on the most current information, and that they are doing all they can to make the sale happen in light of the current reality.
Designing quality products at affordable prices is essential not only to a businesses survival in the market, but also toward cleaning up the industries reputation.
Consumers will respond only when the messages coming from industry are genuine, and when every person from the top down makes a commitment to delivering quality products at reasonable prices.
Only when integrity is the basis for operation will consumer confidence return. If this happens, everyone will win.
The information provided in this publication is for educational and informational purposes only and does not serve as a replacement to care provided by your own personal health care team or physician. The author does not render or provide medical advice, and no individual should make any medical decisions or change their health behavior based on information provided here.
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Copyright © Clayton South, 2004 All rights reserved.
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