Product Management

Who’s Driving Your Product?

By Stuart Ayling

A colleague of mine is in a difficult situation – or so he thinks! He and a partner have developed a CD-based learning aid to be used in tertiary education institutions. They both have inside knowledge of what students require, they are well qualified in their field, and they know how to produce the product. So what’s the problem?


Or rather, the lack of sales.

Whilst they have a great product concept they have not yet developed a sustainable marketing scenario in which to make their product commercially viable. Their current fragmented distribution limits their control over the sale of the product and consequently they are having difficulty increasing revenues. They are not driving their product, their customers are.

[And guess what? They don’t have a marketing budget – yet!]

This situation is not unique. Many businesses have sub-optimal marketing procedures in place and focus valuable effort on the ‘symptom’ of low revenue (i.e. low sales) rather than address the real ’cause’ – poor marketing.

However, all is not lost for our friends. There are some effective marketing tactics they can put into place to gain control and add substantial value to their product. And even better, these activities don’t need to cost an arm and a leg. Just some perseverance and marketing nous.

Gain Control

  • Rather than sell the CD as a ‘standard’ item in an adhoc fashion, they can position it as an integral component of course material, with key materials updated each semester.
  • Invoicing of the product could be through the tertiary institutions, as they already have a billing relationship with the customer (the student). This can effectively embed the product in the institution. It will also alleviate any problems our friends may experience if they were to process payments. The institution would be offered a fee for handling the transaction.
  • Physical distribution of the product to the student would be via their classroom. This way students have paid in advance and simply collect their CD when they attend class.
  • Because the CD’s would be ordered in advance, there is now an opportunity to “personalise” the presentation/packaging and increase the perceived value to the customer.
  • The risk of students infringing copyright by burning their own CD’s has also been substantially reduced, as purchasers can be monitored (and non-paying students identified).

Adding Value

  • To increase the profile of the product and to create opportunities for cross-selling and future product enhancements our friends should pursue a marketing alliance with respected (and relevant) commercial services in their field.
  • Ideally the alliance partner(s) will provide relevant value-added offers for the purchasers of the CD. These offers may take the form of preferential pricing, limited time deals, or access to special services.
  • The alliance partner will benefit from focused exposure to high-potential-value prospects.
  • The product will benefit from the alliance through enhanced credibility gained from its association with a high profile player in the industry.

In just a few steps our friends have created an effective marketing environment in which they can control sales, improve their industry profile and plan with confidence for the future. And it’s a model that can scale up as their business grows.

There are many opportunities to enhance business results through insightful, targeted marketing programs. So where do you start? Work from your strengths and look for relationships and marketing opportunities that will have an ongoing benefit for you.

Always remember…when it comes to your product, you’re in the drivers seat.

Stuart Ayling runs Marketing Nous, an Australasian marketing consultancy that specialises in marketing for service businesses. He helps clients to improve their marketing tactics, attract more clients, and increase revenue. For additional marketing resources, including Stuart’s popular monthly newsletter, visit his web site at

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