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Products Don’t Matter – Whole Products Do

By Hank Barnes | March 22, 2022 | 0 Comments

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I often reference Geoffrey Moore, and Crossing the Chasm, in my posts.    One of the single most important ideas in the book was the idea of a whole product — basically surrounding your core product with everything that a customer needs to achieve the value they seek.   The idea of a whole product evolves as market matures–for a new innovation, they whole product may be 90%+ the core product; but later in the life cycle that percentage would drop dramatically.   Warren Schirtzinger (who was part of the team that developed the Chasm concept) plays this out well with his work on reducing risk in decisions.

When we start to think about whole product, new opportunities emerge.  Fundamentally, the entire SaaS (or any aaS) market was built by thinking whole product — taking away all the work companies have to do about acquiring servers, installing, managing, etc.

Whole product ideas continue to evolve.   In our most recent buying study, we focused on the single biggest purchase from one source.   We provided respondents with a variety of categories for that purchase.   But as we developed it, we wanted to capture the “exception” case–like IoT where you need devices, and software, and services, and cloud, etc.   We called it “Integrated Solution” and it ended up being t19% of the study (the single biggest category below the specificity of “software” or “services”).     And the average number of different “categories” of products/services in the these integrated solutions was 6.71.   Most commonly found categories were analytics/BI, app dev tools, and cloud services.

Clearly customers are thinking about everything they need to achieve value.    What is interesting about this is that the respondents who chose integrated solution where more likely to have their purchase meet our high quality deal criteria than every other “netted up” category except hardware.   And the difference was statistically significant against software and services (the other netted up category was managed services).

Why do I think that is?   Simply that those customers where more likely to have put in the effort to understand what they needed more completely and did not allow themselves to be constrained by the boundaries of a single product.

Now, creating whole products is expensive–Geoff talks about that in the book.   So it is hard to do and needs to be done at the right time.   But, at the same time, I am thinking back to my early career, where, to get funding, you needed to be a focused company–a software company.  If you had “too much services” that was a very bad thing.   Reflecting, that may have been a mistake to play it that hard.  Yes, you need the multiplier effect of software, but you have to focus on the customer and find ways to ease their path to value (and that importance of that actually rises as markets mature).

Perhaps the only problem with whole product is the name–it may continue to focus us internally vs. externally.  Anyone game for “Complete Customer Solution” thinking?

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