Knowledge Bank Blog, Behaviour Change, Shopper Communication

Solution Selling

A few years ago, a fast-food restaurant was trying to increase its milkshake sales.

So, they did some analysis.

First, they defined the market segment by product – milkshakes.

Then they segmented it further. Profiling the demographics and attitudes of frequent milkshake buyers.

Then they did some research amongst this group. They asked them how they could make the product better. Thicker? More chocolatey? Cheaper?

They got clear feedback. They made changes to the product. But there was no increase in sales.

So, they did some more research.

This time a researcher spent a day at the restaurant. They discovered some interesting stuff.

40% of milkshake sales were in the early morning. The customers were usually alone. They didn’t buy anything else. They consumed the milkshake in their cars.

The researcher asked the customers why they bought the milkshake.

Most bought it to do a similar job. They had a long boring commute and wanted something to make the drive more interesting. They wanted something to stave off hunger until noon. They were in a hurry. They were wearing work clothes. They had (at most) one free hand.

There were alternatives. A bagel? Too dry. Add jam? Too sticky. A banana? Too quick – didn’t solve the boring commute problem.

The milkshake did the job better than any of the alternatives.

The fast-food chain didn’t need a better milkshake. They weren’t really competing with other milkshakes.

They needed to show that their milkshakes were the best solution for the morning commute.

So they did. Milkshake sales increased.

Why are we talking about this? Often in our industry we have a product mindset. If you are selling biscuits, you want to have the best biscuit.

But this is limiting. It’s no good having the best biscuit if biscuits aren’t being chosen for the mid-morning break moment.

When you think “product” it narrows the competitive set. It narrows the opportunity.

Instead you need a solution mindset. You’re not just thinking about being the best biscuit. You’re thinking about being the best solution for the mid-morning break moment.

When you think “solution” it expands the competitive set. It expands the opportunity.

So, how can you do this?

Solve a Problem. This means less focus on the product’s attributes and more focus on the problem the product is solving or need it is meeting. This could mean matching products to different needs. For instance, Silver Spoon calling out “Best for Baking” or “Best for Tea”. It could mean solutions to make shoppers lives easier. For instance, Ben’s Original One Pan Creations “Get creative in 10 mins”. It could mean matching solution to problem. For instance, E45 lotion “For Dry and Sensitive Skin”.

The more shoppers are buying with the end in mind, the more likely they are to buy.

Own an Occasion. This means less focus on being an option at all occasions and more focus on being the best option for a specific occasion. This could mean a time of year. For instance, Nutella “Pancakes love Nutella”. It could mean a day of week. For instance, Old El Paso “Fajita Friday”. It could mean a meal occasion. For instance, Soreen “Lunchbox Loaves”. It could mean a type of meal. For instance, Hellmann’s “BBQ tastes better with Hellmann’s”.

Shoppers are more likely to buy if they have a specific occasion to buy for.

Be Best Friends. This means less focus on selling products in isolation and more focus on selling products in combination. This could mean building an association with a complementary product. For instance, Colman’s “meat needs mustard”. It could mean cross communication. For instance, Alpro and Kellogg’s “Try a splash of oat with your flakes”. It could mean cross merchandising. For instance Peroni and Kettle Chips “A perfect match”.

Shoppers are more likely to buy products that are (or could be) used together if they are sold together.

Step by Step. This means less focus on telling shoppers everything and more focus on telling them the most important things. This could mean simple steps in a regime. For instance, Colgate’s “Replace, Brush, Rinse” communication. It could mean simple steps to a meal. For instance, Tesco traybake “Start with your base + select your hero + add your sauce”. It could mean simple steps to an end drink. For instance, Aperol Spritz “3 parts Prosecco, 2 parts Aperol, 1 part soda”.

Shoppers are more likely to do what you want them to do if you make it easy for them to do it.

So, ask yourself are you selling the product or are you selling the solution?

As legendary Harvard Marketing Professor, Theodore Levitt said, “People don’t want a quarter inch drill. They want a quarter inch hole.”

Sell the hole not the drill.

Feel free to forward. We’re taking our annual summer break. Speak to you in September.