One Way Successful Companies Think Differently About Their Product

8 min read

Every company strives to deliver a successful product, and for good reason. Payoffs of a successful product can be huge: an increase in customer satisfaction (CSAT) and customer lifetime value (LTV) drives higher revenue while decreasing customer acquisition costs (CAC) and churn, thus creating operational efficiencies and scalability. Basically a successful product is at the heart of your business success. Yet, according to the Harvard Business School, out of the 30,000 new products that are launched every year, 95% of them fail. But why?

According to Sequoia Capital, to succeed over the long term, a product must meet several conditions, including product-market fit, positive unit economics, and the ability to scale and grow. Product-market fit requires a highly engaging product that delivers genuine value to its users. Positive unit economics (basic, quantifiable items that create value for a business such as CAC, LTV, MRR) must be present. Effectively scaling requires, among other factors, a sustainable organization.

Launching and maintaining a successful product is complex and includes many different factors. In this article we will discuss one specific strategy that many successful companies have in common: 

Sell An Experience Rather Than a Product

Believe it or not, successful companies aren’t selling products or services anymore. They’re selling experiences. They’re selling all-encompassing product journeys from the first interaction with the customer to encouraging them to return and buy again with ample post-purchase resources, support, and convenience. 

In fact, 86% of customers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience and 75% are willing to pay more for self-service experiences. Creating a desirable product experience not only benefits the customer but drives the metrics we mentioned at the start. Customers want to pay for the experience that surrounds their interactions with the product and company just as much as the product itself. Creating an incredibly valuable product may be important, but it can’t speak for itself. Products should be built on a solid foundation of supporting experiences for the customer to consume in order to ensure its success—products and services simply cannot magically succeed on their own. 

So, let’s go over some different ways you can work to sell an experience, rather than a product, to achieve product success. 

Consider Your Product or Service

Before even reviewing your product’s experience and success, you first should build a strong understanding of what exactly you’re selling. Considering your product’s qualities, appeals, possible downfalls, functions, and differentiation can help you better understand how to build an experience around it. To do this, try asking some of these questions:

  • What are your product or service’s main features?
  • Who does it appeal to? Niche or larger audiences?
  • How does it compare to similar products? What sets you apart?
  • Are the results of your product or service proven?
  • What problems does your product or service solve?
  • What problems does it not solve? 

Answering questions like these will help you shape a solid image of what your product is, what it does, and who it serves (which brings us to the next point). 

Deliver To Target Audience Needs & Fill Market Gaps

In order to be successful, a product or service should solve a specific problem or fulfill a need. This means shifting how you think—from selling a generic item to meeting a specifically defined demand. This can be tricky, but when done well will create an audience of customers who need exactly what you provide. And that’s how you create success for the customer, and ultimately the product. To do this:

  1. Define who your target audience is, specifically. This can be done by creating buyer personas, undergoing market research, looking into your existing customer base, or competitor’s customer base. When defining your audience make sure to include valuable specific details like region, age range, occupation, level of experience or expertise, etc.
  2. Discover your target audience’s problems and needs. A problem creates a need for a customer, and your product should fulfill that need. So, using what you know about your target audience, and what you know about your unique product, outline your target audience’s specific problems and needs.
  • For example, if you sell compact umbrellas, your target audience may be everyday bus commuters and campus students, their problem being the lack of an easy, convenient way to stay dry on their commutes. So, their need is a convenient umbrella to store away during the day. 
  1. Search for gaps in the market. While defining problems and needs are important, it’s also critical to not choose an overpopulated problem. There are millions of similar umbrella brands out there so what sets yours apart? In the example we used above, it would be it’s compact, travel-sized capabilities. So, rather than contributing to the overwhelming umbrella market, you would contribute to the narrowed down compact-umbrella market. Finding a unique problem with a market gap is a great way to authentically pull in an audience who will succeed. 

Guide Customers To The Right Products For Them

On average, 30% of all online orders are returned while only 8.9% of in-store purchases are returned. These returns happen for a number of reasons like customers receiving a damaged product, receiving a product that looks different than expected, receiving the wrong item, and more. But, many of these returns can boil down to customers not knowing the product or service that is best suited for them. When you shop in a store, you can receive personalized help from an associate, explaining different features, comparing models, explaining compatibility, and recommending best products for you. So, if you can bring that experience online, you can help aid your customers’ success with your product by ensuring they receive something applicable to their needs while reducing returns. Studies have found that 56% of customers are more likely to choose a retailer that offers them some form of personalization. Most customers who go online to shop want an enjoyable and convenient experience. Therefore, guiding them toward their ideal product match is a great way to do so.

Let’s look at KitchenAid, for example. They deployed their Mixer Assistant to guide users to their perfect mixer and since going live, they’ve seen a 65% increase in average order value. The Mixer Assistant goes beyond a simple survey and provides helpful tips on each response option and different multimedia forms. They include video attachments and images to help educate users on how to answer these questions best and keep them engaged. And, depending on how you answer each question, the next ones will adapt with tailored follow-up questions.  

KitchenAid self-service guided selling product success
KitchenAid self-service guided selling product success
KitchenAid self-service guided selling product success

Build Customer Knowledge Before, During, and After Purchase

Guided selling is one way to build customer knowledge, but certainly not the only way. A critical aspect in whether or not customers can succeed with your product is how you encourage developing their knowledge and provide access to educational materials. Most products and services today, especially in the electronics industry, are not self-explanatory. Customers need help with all different things from before the purchase to after. Here are some different ways to build customer knowledge throughout their buying journey:


  • Frequently asked questions can provide information on the most common concerns that customers face before deciding to purchase. 
  • Offering compatibility information on different products can help your customers understand what will or will not work for them before purchasing and running into possible issues. 
  • Providing convenient warranty and return information can ease some of the customers’ pre-purchase questions and prevent contacts. 

During and Right After Purchase:

  • User onboarding is crucial to ensuring the customer understands how to fully use a product and reap all of its benefits, especially with more complex services. Using in-depth interactive learning and engaging visuals can help customers achieve success with the product. 
  • Getting started guides are a great tool for your beginner customers who are just learning how to set up their new product. These guides can cover any number of topics and are super flexible. 
  • How-to videos can serve the same function as getting started guides, but with the added engaging and entertaining visual component. 
  • Content covering different features, specific functions, and use cases are also quite useful. Oftentimes, the customers seeking these resources already have a general understanding of your product and are looking to further their knowledge. So, providing information on all the different ways the product can be used is how you help customers get the most value from their purchase. 

Post Purchase:

  • Product docs and manuals are the most basic level of post-purchase content you can provide, but also might be the most important. Providing the product documentation and manuals in a convenient, searchable, and online place can make customers’ lives much easier. 
  • A knowledge base is fundamental to generating customer knowledge. It is where you can pull in all of these different resources we’ve mentioned to one convenient, searchable, and easy-to-access place for your customers, partners, dealers, and even internal teams. It should be the center of knowledge for your entire company community, and working to build it out is an important step in building this customer knowledge. 
  • Offer a learning center of educational tools like an academy or training portal. This is a great place for users who already have a good foundation of knowledge on your product but are looking for a more in-depth view. This is also where you can send partners, installers, or employees to gain that level of well-rounded information. 
  • Utilize your community. Oftentimes customers want to learn more about the products you offer, but generating that much content for hundreds (or even thousands, yikes!) of products can be impossible. Creating an educational community resource where members can help each other and learn from all different internal and external assets can be a big help! You can also take this to social media with separate accounts made solely for helpful tips, live videos, or Q&As for your users. 

A great example of a company generating a wealth of knowledge for their customers throughout their purchasing journey is Webflow. They offer the Webflow University, with a great support knowledge base, community, engaging (and even comical) how-to videos, info on new features and updates, crash courses, popular tutorials, and getting started resources. And, it’s all neatly organized with one integrated search engine that pulls together any relevant content you may need. 

Webflow knowledge base self-service
Webflow knowledge base self-service

Provide Easy Self-Service Transactions

People don’t want to talk to sales and service reps anymore. Today, customers expect to easily find information and complete transactions they need on their own in order to be successful with your product. And this is where self-help experiences come in. Successful companies today are transforming their static sites and help centers into dynamic interactive guides that lead users on a journey based on who they are, what they own or wish to own, what problem they might have, or what they’re interested in. Allowing users to complete these common transactions on their own can reap many benefits for the customer, your company, and is critical in ensuring customers succeed with what you provide. 

But, deploying self-help experiences can seem like a daunting task. They can exist anywhere and everywhere, so where do you start? Pick the most common or important transactions that your target audience needs to succeed like product registration, warranty, feedback, contact us, search, helpful links, etc. Choose these starting points to help guide your customers in completing the more complex operations on their own with simple and fluid transactions.

A great example of providing convenient self-service transactions is Uber. Uber is one of just a few companies that started the bandwagon of a fully self-serve business model. All of the employees are self-employed and the customers fully experience the business via self-service. You can do everything from ordering a ride and delivering dinner to your doorstep, to applying for a job and receiving paychecks, to finding lost items or leaving ride reviews on your own without contacting the company, through self-service. The transactional options are endless and the business seems to run seamlessly. 

Uber self-service transactions

Be Available When & Where You’re Needed

One of the biggest aspects of ensuring your customers are satisfied and succeeding with your product is simply being there when you’re needed. And this doesn’t have to mean offering 24/7 live agent support around the globe. That’s simply not feasible for most companies. But, “being there” can come in many forms. It can be the self-help transactions and providing knowledge we mentioned above, or it could be staying active on social media, providing a chatbox option, responding to email or phone contacts consistently (even if not right away), being available on mobile, offering site services in multiple languages, localizing content, and more. 

Through the target audience research you’ve already undergone, you can analyze where and when your customers are looking for support or product content the most, and work to provide to those areas. For example, if you see many users are asking you product-related questions on Twitter, you can work to not only promptly respond but put out proactive informative tweets with helpful product information. 

Track & Analyze Data To Improve 

Launching a successful product is tricky, but maintaining one might be even trickier. Once you’ve done all of your research and deployed the services and content to help your customers receive the most value from your product, you’re on the right track, but you’re still not done. Next, shift your focus toward how you can improve. The market is constantly changing just like customers’ wants and needs evolve. Therefore, tracking and analyzing real-time data on how your customers respond to any changes you implement is the best way to understand what you’re doing well and should continue doing versus what areas could use some improvement. 

This is also important for understanding what future products your customer base is looking for. By understanding their needs and tracking feedback, you can make predictive measures in developing future projects aiming them toward specific market gaps. 

Take Netflix for example. From the start, the creators of Netflix were after the media streaming market. But at this time, traditional in-person video stores were booming and people were not quite ready to make the turn to online streaming. So, rather than just introducing this online service, Netflix started with mail-order delivery to slowly transition people into what they offer. This kind of market and audience research is what led Netflix where they are today and what encourages so many users around the world to have success with the consistent updates and features they release.  

Going Forward

Ensuring that a product succeeds includes many complex factors from across the company. But, going forward remember that selling an experience rather than selling a product is one of the best strategies for ensuring product success. 

For more on encouraging product success, learn about guided selling, building customer knowledge, and the role of branding in product success

I love to write with one goal in mind - to help you build amazing customer experiences. Our content is tailored to help you understand your customers, design great products and deliver world-class customer self-service. I share my knowledge and experience through my articles, videos, podcasts, templates, and more - so you can take your customer experience to the next level.‍

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