Saturday, May 19, 2012

Product fail? Misunderstand the total product and the service component

Okey dokey. Well this is a nice landing page for my 27 or so MBA students in Marketing Management. We talk about a lot of stuff, and that includes "what is the product?"

When I try to get people to think through a marketing lens I get them to consider:

  • What is the product?
  • Who are you selling it to?
  • What need are you satisfying  for them, when they buy it?

One of my most recent obsessions is golf. Sounds boring I know, but since the age of 30 I've done Aussie rules footy (a big stretch at 29), skydiving, netball, volleyball and two walks of the Kokoda track. And golf, done seriously, is serious.

So I joined mount Barker Golf Club about three months ago, play twice a week and have started paying for lessons again. Okay, back to the story.

About ten years ago the Kent Town Hotel changed its name to the Tap Inn. A golf hotel. Cool. I paid no attention at the time but thought that if a golf fanatic wanted to go there then they would be amongst like minded souls.

I have enjoyed their driving range. A driving range is where you hit balls and don't have to go look for them. Hit a bad ball - think about it then hit another ball. Better, hopefully.

The Tap Inn - like all indoor driving ranges - can only let you hit about 50 metres but it's something you just live with. Especially with all the other cool stuff.

For $16.70 you get a card - it automatically tees up 100 balls as quickly as you can hit them:

"Golfers can hit 100 balls in half an hour without having to touch a ball, and will experience a full 50metre hit each time."

You can hit twenty balls, pull your card out and come back the next day and hit another 20 balls. Just quietly, I had a lesson ten days ago, hit horribly on the course three days ago and wanted to hit twenty balls a day to work on the new action.

Anyhoo, the machines are broken. The guy gave me a bucket with a hundred balls for my $16.70. He couldn't understand that I felt it was a ripoff.

"what's the difference?" - he asked

when I mentioned about manually teeing up 100 balls I got:

"golf is about not being lazy" - as a good natured gibe


Surely this guy is not the one who owns the business. I play two rounds a week now. I walk 8km each time. It's not hard, but it's not lazy. And when I want to work on a swing at 16 cents a ball I don't like the product being changed on me.

A bucket 'o' balls vs a card for an automatic machine - that's dodgy. A guy behind the bar asking me to justify it to him? Well that's just not golf.

It's all small stuff. But it does remind me of a couple of things about marketing:

What is the product?
In this case the core benefit is to hit some balls and not need to go find them. But the actual product is automatic teeing, automatic tee height setting, not using all the balls in one go. The augmented product is friendly service, a clubhouse with a few beers, maybe a loyalty club. For the core benefit I can hit 30 balls at my club, or 100 at Holden Hill for a lower price. It's even a better core benefit, because their 250m range will let me see what my slice or hook is doing.

Who are you selling the product to?
Perhaps the Tap Inn has a clear head on this. Perhaps they don't really want the serious golfer. Perhaps being able to hit at an indoor range between beers - that may be enough for the customers they want. I think the Patawolonga driving range with - adequately - automatic teeing and a full 250m range might suit this customer better.

What need are you satisfying  for them, when they buy it?
I think I answered that one above. If I go to the Pat, I'll get a pro shop with a guy who at least pretends he cares about golf. And I can even find a pro to give me a lesson if I want it.

An importantly - all products are a combination of a tangible good and a service. The tangible in this case is about hitting a ball and not having to go pick it up. The service is having a person serve you who gives a crap about your experience.

But I'm having my 45th birthday in August and a "driving range party" at the Tap Inn could be a great idea. Because in that context I am just the right golfing customer for the Tap Inn. If they're still playing in that space at that time.

And just quietly, Tap Inn guys, I'd love to.

1 comment:

  1. My good buddy Paddo responded on FB with

    #firstworldproblem Cullen!
    Personally I think they have a more fundamental problem trying to integrate the golf 'theme' into all the other products they do rather well. People buy in context and I can't help feeling the place has incongruities throughout. The context keeps changing. It's like a schizophrenic branding exercise gone wrong.

    and he has a point, hence my response:

    Fair call Paddo. They have a difficult gig. And I wonder how well it's working for them. Certainly the range was busy when I was there. But it's a lot of expensive floor space - the whole place - to fund. And the first world problems point is right, for sure. I even felt precious at the time.