Monday, October 11, 2010

All Products (Even Industrial Products) Are Intangible

Intangible products can seldom be tried before purchase. Intangible consumer products include travel, medical care, financial planning services, or even a simple haircut. Tangible products, such as a new suit, a car, or new watch can usually, to some degree, be tried before purchase.

In our world, the industrial sector, most of the products sold have a significant tangible component. Industrial marketers commonly assume that only the tangible component matters to their customers. I can prove this. Pick up a copy of your favorite trade publication and scan through the ads. The vast majority of the copy is about tangible products and/or product tangibles.

In reality, every product is both tangible and intangible. A watch is tangible, but the ability to be on time for appointments in intangible. A haircut is intangible, but the barbershop is tangible.

Industrial products are the same. A steam boiler is tangible, the reliability of the boiler is intangible. A railcar of polyethylene resin is tangible, but the technical service that helps you use the resin in intangible.

Industrial buyers buy differently from consumers, however. Professional buyers tell suppliers that intangibles are irrelevant, that only tangible features and selling prices really matter. Sometimes they’re being honest, and sometimes they, shall we say, spin the truth to their best advantage.

Commoditization is a problem for both consumer and industrial manufacturers. In many product categories, such as paper products, the biggest selling brand is the store brand, not the national brand.

But most techniques that work in consumer markets simply won’t work for industrial products. If you’re marketing pickles, you can package the pickles in an attractive glass jar, so people can see how fresh they look (and hopefully assume that they taste good). If you’re marketing, say, machine parts, you need a different approach.

To the extent that you can’t truly experience using any product before you buy it, all products are intangible, no matter how tangible they appear in nature.

No comments:

Post a Comment