Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What is a Whole Product

Everyone knows what a product is. For example - cell phone, laptop, office software etc. But when a customer makes a buying decision, he/she will buy not just the product - but the whole product.

A "Whole Product," is traditionally defined as adding more value to a product so that it adds more value to the lives of those who buy it. For example, Cup holders and DVD players in automobiles. Travel services for credit card holders. Products that started with one set of features and, over time, added more and more features to add more and more value.

Thus a whole product can be defined is a set of complex cluster of value satisfaction. I.e., A cell phone with color screen, camera & a whole set of add on features. Thus a whole product is a set of features which add value to the customer.

From this perspective, the company that provides the most complete cluster of value satisfactions for its market is the one that's closest to achieving Whole Product.

Whole Product is just not features

I think core strategic marketing has evolved from a product centric approach to customer centric. The core focus has shifted from "how good can we make our product?" to "how happy can we make our customers?" Two very different questions, looking at the marketplace from two very different perspectives.

This means that "Whole Product" really is a product, to the potential buyer, a complex stream containing numerous clusters of value satisfactions.

Your cluster is just one stop along a meandering "solution stream" of actions and events that ultimately takes customers to "Whole Product." A stream that begins to form and grow the moment a need is recognized, is fed and swelled by tributaries—other "value satisfactions"—as it travels toward satisfying the need, and doesn't end until it either disappears or returns to its source.

Your cluster may be a small element of that stream— songs in MP3 format for iPod (or plastic skins for the iPod) or it may be the central element - iPod itself. It is important to have all the clusters necessary to make the complete product - A portable music system.

From this perspective, the company that provides not the largest cluster but the largest number of clusters all along the solution stream for its market is the one that's closest to achieving Whole Product.

Tracking Your Customers' Stream of Clusters

That's what your job really is when it comes to Whole Product specification. To understand your customers' needs, map out all the clusters of points which result in customer satisfaction - then you will have a map which best describes the whole product.

Once the map for the whole product is done, we can ask the correct questions:
  • How many of these clusters can we profitably supply?
  • How many should clusters we should build?
  • How many should we partner to create value?
  • How many clusters should we ignore?

And with this we will end up with at least a plan to develop and deliver components which make up the whole product.

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