Inside Products by Linda Koco
What will it take to spur people to open their wallets and start spending again? Ive been hearing that question, again and again throughout the recession, from people both inside and outside the insurance sector.
This column will not offer any turnkey answer, for I dont believe such exists for all. Rather, well explore the folly of pressing for a “one answer, one person, one product” solution to current sales woes and explore a way to start addressing that issue.
Well start with an example from retailing, because this puts enough distance from the insurance sector to clarify the issues. Then segue to insurance and financial services.
Right now, many retailers are getting worried that year-end consumer spending will be a bust, due to recessionary pressures on employment, paychecks and confidence levels. So, they are pushing holiday sales–with deep discounts–very early in the selling season.
From all the sales extravaganza hubbub, youd think the retailers “know” the promotions will goose sales. I recently spoke with a regional retailing executive who confirmed exactly that message.
“We always get more sales when we advertise and less when we dont,” the executive told me, “so were going to push the ads harder than ever this season.” The firms sales have been down substantially this year, so the company figures this aggressive strategy is necessary, she said.
Since I rarely encounter such confident, we-know-the-way marketing anymore, I was dumbfounded.
Well, what about next year, I asked. Does the company have similar confidence about 2003 sales and a sure-fire strategy to go with it?
Yes, she quickly replied, “weve budgeted for 10% growth.” My eyes popped. As you know all too well, a lot of companies would be happy just to break even, at least in the first quarter. So I probed: How will you do that?
“Oh,” she said, “weve got a new product launch coming up, so that will account for a good part of it.”
That got my attention. After all, new product launches, especially when combined with intensive advertising and well laid out promotion, have long been viewed as a sure-fire way of putting a nice bulge in the revenue stream. But launches of truly new products can be costly, so during the recession, a lot of companies have been curtailing them.
What product are you planning to launch? I asked, wondering if it is an innovative design. “Well, actually, well be tweaking one of our existing products,” she said. “The original version hasnt been selling as well as it used to, so we think the upgrade will give it some new life.”