In my business I see a lot products and services, all of which I'm responsible to promote. Conceptually there are some winners, honorable mentions and out right stinkers. At the end of the day, if sales are less than projections, the knee-jerk reaction is to fault your marketing efforts. "Was it the strategy, the creative, the list?—Lets try it again, this time only different."
Sound familiar? If so, sit back you’re not going to like this.
You’re product or service may be a stinker.
The classic advice dispensed by self-styled gurus is to make sure that your "new thing" addresses an immediate need. "Sell aspirin, not vitamins" they say.
Even in today’s organic-wheat-grass-drinking culture, it's easier to convince some guy to part with 8 bucks if you're eliminating a bitchin’ hangover rather than simply enhancing his general health and making his pee smell funny.
Sounds good right? I cut my teeth on that catchy yet simple advice, unfortunately it’s wrong. The problem with this mantra is that it limits your efforts to solving obvious problems. For example, "party boy" knows he has a headache; they may not be aware that he’s on the verge of coming down with scurvy and could really use some Vitamin C.
The alternative to the aspirin/vitamin dichotomy is the "Microwave Test".
To determine if you’re product or service passes the test, ask yourself three simple questions:
Does it have a clear benefit?
Does it deliver immediate satisfaction?
Is it easy to use?
1. Does it have a clear benefit?
Yep. It's a solution that found a problem – for those of us old enough to remember, taking an hour to cook dinner wasn't considered a slow and painful death until the microwave came along.
2. Does it deliver immediate satisfaction?
Duh, it’s a microwave. You can use it anytime. And besides, who doesn't like to watch a cup or bowl spin around? And if you’re looking for cheap entertainment you can nuke a piece of aluminum foil. Oh, try this too. Lick a piece of popcorn and put it to your ear. No. It has nothing to do with a microwave or marketing but it’s pretty cool.
3. Is it easy to use?
You know it, just push a few buttons and ding! Beefaroni's ready, hot and plenty of it.
Long story short, even though the microwave is more of a vitamin than an aspirin, its ability to fill an immediate need and deliver instant gratification makes it a clear winner.
Even if your existing offerings fail the test, you can use the criteria to reshape them. A modern example is how Palm rebounded from its failed Zoomer handheld (what a piece of "S" that was).
The original PDAs failed the microwave test. The benefits were unclear, the gratification was delayed by complexity, and ease of use was fatally crippled because it wasn't easy to use.
Palm then delivered the Palm Pilot, which addressed those issues and passed the test. The Palm Pilot had a clear benefit (a date and address book on crack), was immediately gratifying (you could synch with your existing contact database), and was incredibly simple to use (no boot time, no extras, just the facts ma'am). And like the microwave, the Palm wound up creating its own immediate need. Just ask the millions of—look at me I'm so cool—Palm junkies around the world. The new logo didn't hurt either.