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Electronics Sales: Ford Had It Right

Too often, we make customer attraction and retention too complicated. It really is quite simple: take away the extraneous — make it easy for your customers to choose your company and your products.

When Henry Ford introduced the Model T, he dispensed with the idea that a dizzying array of options, features, and customization was the key to success. Rather, through the Model T, Ford demonstrated that a simplified product offering is what customers want. More than 100 years later, I believe that Henry Ford is still right.

The other day I went to a company's webpage to learn more about their product offerings. The company offered five different products, each one seemingly more complicated than the last. I spent about 10 minutes trying to identify the differentiating factors and trying to determine which product, if any, would meet my needs. I never did purchase a product from that company, instead I purchased the product from another company — one that offered me a clear choice and made the process easy.

When you look at your electronics product offerings, be honest. Are there product lines that are not popular? Not profitable? Eliminate those.

When you are putting together your product offerings, make it easy for your customers to see how your product will benefit them, how much value it will bring, and how they can purchase it. In this process, strip everything down and take away the jargon. When you do this you will be left with the essence of the product — that's what your customers want.

One exercise you can do is to have someone who is not familiar (a family member or friend, for example) with your products take a look at your offerings. Do they understand what is being offered? What questions do they have? Taking a step back and having an outsider provide insight and input can be invaluable.

By taking the time to streamline your product offering and by presenting products in a clear and concise manner you are not only demonstrating that you have a solid offering, you also show customers you respect them.

11 comments on “Electronics Sales: Ford Had It Right

  1. FLYINGSCOT
    August 16, 2013

    I recently had to nuy my kid a first car and after researching the product offering and after sales customer care (things like breakdown cover etc) I believe Ford is still doing many things right.  I was very happy dealing with the Ford motor company (and I approached the task with no bias to any particular manufacturer).  We in the electronics supply chain could learn a lesson from Ford.

  2. t.alex
    August 16, 2013

    It is actually not easy to have a simplified product offering portfolio. Many companies that do not understand the market well enough always try to bet on different a wide range of products to test the market.

  3. prabhakar_deosthali
    August 17, 2013

    Though having a limited no of varieties makes the decision making quicker – we must also consider that quick decision can also be negative.

    We today are in a world where customer wants more choice to be placed in front of him, even many times preparedness to offer “made-to-order” products. many a innovative manufacturers have implemented “made-to-order” capabilities in their assembly lines where the customer selects the look and feel, the optional features and so on and the product is automatically rolled out as per the customer choice selection.

    So the key is how to navigate the customer through your website easily so that the customer does not get bogged down by too much of the variations upfront but is guided through the drop down lists based upon his preferences to the right product.

  4. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    August 18, 2013

    @Flyingscot, what stood out for you in terms of Ford's attitude, approach, and products? What would be the best lessons we could take away from that organizatoin do you think?

  5. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    August 18, 2013

    @t.alex, this is true in many businesses. I think of restaraunts that have a menu with 100 different dishes on it. I keep thinking, when i see this, that the chances of them being to manage all of them well, or perhaps any of them, is very small. It's the same in the electronics industry–it's hard to be knowledgeable and helpful about such a broad range of products. I gree, though, that fear is a big part of why organizations dont' take the percieved risk.

  6. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    August 18, 2013

    Has anyone been involved in shrinking down teh number of products being used or sold? How about being involved with cutting down a roster of vendors to a much smaller list of approved vendors? What lessons did you learn? Any advice?

  7. ahdand
    August 19, 2013

    @Hailey: I don't think there are many who cut down on products that they have been using so far. There are  but surely not a lot at all.     

  8. t.alex
    August 19, 2013

    Hailey, 

    I realize in big companies it is not just about understanding the markets, but also the internal politics. Different product managers try to defend their portfolios using powerpoints, market shares, potential sales, strategies, etcetera, etcetera. It ends up being difficult to pinpoint on only a few specific offerings.

  9. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    August 19, 2013

    Thanks, t.alex, really important point. In all of our discussions, we are using our brains and logic as we sort these things out. but in the real world there are visceral realities that impact the landscape.

  10. elctrnx_lyf
    August 22, 2013

    It may be not as simple as it is said, but it is definitely possible to position the products in a simple manner to make it easy for the cystomers to make choice. If there is too many offerings then it would probably result in a confusion and customer may end up not puraching the product.

  11. Mr. Roques
    August 28, 2013

    Companies believe they need to be in every product line. Instead of focusing on the ones they do really good (or at least, better than the rest) because they see those as entry points for customers… but they didn't think it could push customers away, as it was your case.

    When I'm buying something I know about (say, PCs or cameras) I want to buy exactly what I want so I would go for a dell-type approach of letting the customer choose what he wants. But for some other gadgets, just give me the standard product and maybe a premium which has sooo many more things that it's clear that I want the other.

    But there's a logic to doing what they want, similar to fast food restaurants. You get the basic for 2.99 but a large is only .30 more, and an extra large is .99 more… why not get the most expensive one then?

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