Getting the big picture
As a brief digression – the “Whole Product” is what a customer buys to solve a problem. It is almost always more than the product itself – for example, when I buy a car, I buy transportation, but I also buy safety, convenience, and status. What’s more, I generally also buy reliability (warranty) and potentially even safety (roadside assistance). If you think about features and attributes that are commonplace in automobiles today, such as roadside assistance, five or ten year warranties, anti-lock brakes and so forth, these are features that drivers ten or fifteen years ago would have never dreamed of. Moore’s point is that as buyers become more aware and more savvy, they demand new features and buy a solution rather than a product. We as marketers have to understand the entire solution they want to purchase, and understand that often the product is a piece – a vital piece – but just a piece of the solution.
As an example, consider the business intelligence platform we discussed earlier. Controllers who wanted more insight into operational data needed a dashboard, but did not want to build it from scratch. They wanted an out of the box solution that could be tweaked to individual needs. So we built a set of solutions on top of our platform to extend the product and help it fit the “whole product” definition of the controllers.
Other capabilities and features must exist for the product to be considered "Whole" - the IT staff also needed some training classes and documentation, so these items must exist as well to complement the software solution. All of these capabilities, plus consulting, maintenance and support agreements and a help desk form the whole product. As marketers, we must identify the “whole product” for each customer segment we plan to address. So once you’ve completed your “drill down” to specific customer segments, you must step back and understand the problem or challenge from the standpoint of the customer. What is their “whole product” definition of their problem? Can you offer a complete solution for their needs – remember, the product or service you offer is almost never a complete solution in the eyes of the customer.
Institutional issues and investments can also get in the way. A great example of significant institutional investments hampering change can be found in our monetary supply. When the $2 bill was introduced, many people thought that it would meet with great acceptance. The big challenge to the bill was not with consumers but with merchants. They had expensive cash registers and counting machines tailored for $1s, $5s, $10s and $20s. There was not even a slot in the cash drawer to hold the $2 dollar bills. Small but significant historical investments can block adoption of a product, so in this case the whole product was not considered from the retailers' point of view.