10 steps to successful marketing: Step 5 – Define your product or service

The first thing to understand here is that a product or service only has meaning from the point of view of the customer.

We’re not interested in what you think your product or service is – you need to get into the minds of your target market and understand their definition.

A product or service incorporates all of its features and benefits and the reasons that the customer bought it – this could include its physical characteristics, its uses, its desirability, even its convenience.

So, for example, a restaurant’s product is not just food. It is the way that it is prepared:

  • safely and cleanly (vital unless you want to be sued and go out of business)
  • how it tastes and it is presented on the plate (both vital – although good tasting food which looks a mess will probably do better than good looking food which tastes like the inside of a dustbin)

And food is only the start of it. We don’t go to a restaurant for just ‘food’. So ask yourself:

  • How it is served by the serving staff (are they friendly and helpful, or a modern day version of Basil Fawlty? Did they mention the war and get away with it?)
  • What is the internal ambience of the restaurant? Do customers want to spend more? Do they want to come back?
  • What is the geographical location of the restaurant (does it have a good view? – usually a plus point; Is it next to an abbatoir? – unlikely to be a crowd drawer unless you have a large number of people in your area fascinated by modern industrial slaughtering methods)

That’s only just a start. But the point is that your definition of the restaurant (‘modern British fusion cooking with an Oriental twist’, say) becomes irrelevant next to ‘the new restaurant with the cold, clinical interior with lighting which makes me feel like I am going to be interrogated by the Gestapo and waiters who aren’t that much friendlier’.

In simple terms, their definition will then impact on how you manage your restaurant, the design of the menu, how you advertise it in local media, how you deal with customer complaints, etc. So, from the point of view of your target market (or markets, as the definitions may be different), write a description of your product and service and see what it tells you!