A Product Management Challenge: Pot

So you think that you have a tough job, eh? Just imagine how hard it must be to the product manager who works for one of the new firms that has just popped up to start legally selling marijuana! In the United States, a handful of states now allow marijuana to be sold either for medical or for recreational purposes. This means that there is a legal market for consumers. Just exactly the kind of situation that calls for a bit of help from a skilled product manager with a well-thought out product development definition.

The Problem With Pot

In the United States, the state of Colorado has legalized the recreational use of marijuana. However, change happens slowly and right now how consumers can get the marijuana that they want has not yet caught up with the new demand for the product.

What this means is that the pot dispensaries that are currently the only places where people can legally buy pot are not really places that you’d want to go. They are dingy, poorly lit, and have bars on the windows. The staff behind the counter wear hoodies and look like they smoke as much pot as they sell. All in all, this is not the type of place that most law abiding citizens would really like to go.

Making Cannabis Cool

The product managers who have been brought in to transform Colorado marijuana from an illegal street drug to an everyday recreational activity have their hands full. Somehow they have to transform the process of buying pot and make it more like going to Walmart.

The first step in the process is to change where marijuana gets purchased. The new dispensaries now have clever names like “Mindful” and they are trying to modernize the selling of cannabis. In these new stores, employees wear uniforms and the company logo is everywhere. If product managers can rebrand pot successfully, then they’ll really have something to add to their product manager resume.

The final step in the rebranding of pot is to try to work it into more of everyone’s everyday life. What this has meant in Colorado is having the Colorado Symphony host shows called “Classically Cannabis” and holding cannabis cocktail parties. Not content with those efforts, a new yoga class called “Vape and Vinyasa” has been introduced along with a new smartphone app that allows the placing of online pot orders.

What All Of This Means For You

Marijuana has become legal to sell, buy, and consume in a number of places in the United States. Now that there is a product to be sold and consumers who can legally buy it, it’s time for the product managers to step in. However, pot has been illegal for so long, what’s a product manager to do with this new type of product in order to make it a success? Our product manager job description never told us how to handle this situation!

In Colorado, the new companies that have started to grow and sell marijuana have discovered that they have a problem. There is no efficient way to distribute their product. The few stores that currently sell pot are very seedy looking and are staffed by people who are really best suited to interacting with people who use illegal drugs.

The new marijuana company product managers are starting to make changes in order to grow their market share. They are rebranding a number of ways that people refer to marijuana in order to make it more palatable to a larger audience. They are also starting to cross marijuana with other activities that their target audience is participating in.

It’s still early on in this new product field. The pot product managers have a lot of work ahead of them. They have to recast the image of their product from forbidden illegal drug to desirable recreational pastime. The good news is that it can be done. Now it’s just up to the product managers to find out how to do it.

What's A Product Manager To Do When Your Product Costs Too Much?

Product manager, just imagine that you find yourself in the following position: your company creates a great product development definition that it uses to make a new product that a large group of people want, in fact they might even need. Then you have the issue of what price you should sell your product at. Generally speaking, you’d want to set your price as high as possible, right? Is there any way that this could cause a problem? Is this going to be the kind of thing that you can put on your product manager resume?

Say Hello To Sovaldi

Let’s be frank here, hepatitis C is a very bad disease to get. The U.S. CDC describes hepatitis C as a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness that attacks the liver. It results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is spread primarily through contact with the blood of an infected person. HCV is spread primarily by blood-to-blood contact associated with intravenous drug use, poorly sterilized medical equipment, and transfusions. An estimated 150-200 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis C.

The pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, Inc. has just introduced a new drug called Sovaldi . This new drug has been shown to cure a hepatitis C infection in just a few weeks. Clearly this is a breakthrough in treating this disease. There have been other treatments, but these treatments generally just dealt with patients symptoms. There were a few that went after the disease itself, but often they didn’t work and they had some nasty side effects.

Sovaldi sounds like a miracle cure, right? What’s holding the product managers back from making it available to all of the people who need it? In one word: the price. Sovaldi costs US$1,000 per pill. A typical person’s treatment is going to end up costing them roughly US$84,000. Clearly this solution comes with quite a price tag!

How Product Managers Should Handle Pricing

The Gilead Sciences product managers are facing a real challenge. Advocacy groups and members of Congress are starting to investigate how the price for this drug was reached. There are other expensive medicines out there, but Sovaldi seems to have crossed some sort of magic barrier that has attracted a great deal of attention.

In defense of the product managers involved, it turns out that without the new treatment the cost of treating a hepatitis C patient can be quite expensive over time especially if their liver start to fail. Just as an example, the lifetime cost of treating an HIV patient is estimated to be US$380,000. 60% of the people who contact hepatitis C will end up with chronic liver disease.

So what should the product managers do? It turns out that Sovaldi is actually a good deal – the upfront cost of the medication is less than the long-term cost of treating the symptoms of the disease. Additionally, if you can cure someone of hepatitis C then they can’t pass it on to anyone else. These are both great stories that the product managers need to clearly communicate. What they need to do is to reframe the discussion so that people are not focusing on the per pill cost, but rather on the savings that they realize by using this new drug.

What All Of This Means For You

Every product manager’s dream is for part of their product manager job description to require them to be responsible for a product that has a built-in market: people who both want and need it. In these cases, it’s not if we’ll be able to sell our product, but rather for how much. Very quickly the question of what price we should set for our product comes up.

An example of this situation has arisen in regards to the medication that can cure hepatitis C – Sovaldi . This treatment is currently priced at US$1,000 per pill with a total treatment cost of roughly US$84,000. A great number of people are starting to ask if this price has been set too high.

As product managers, it is our responsibility to control the story around our product. Yes, a high price can easily cause both our potential customers and others to start to question our ethics, etc. However, if we control the story and make sure that everyone fully understands the value of obtaining and using our product, then we can allow both our product and it’s price to be accepted. Keep your eyes open and stay on top of your product’s story!

What's New In Marketing Events – Understand These Rules

Flash mobs are no longer viable, you want something new and happening that will resonate with your users. Event marketing in the modern world is all about the best stunts as standout events are the in things today. Various names for it are participatory advertising, live marketing and numerous other monikers. The aim is to blow everything up to protect, built-in technological overlay of real-world places. It is an art to convince the passersby and make them dance to the marketing tune as a means of engagement. What is the secret to arranging memorable events? It is important to ensure consumer engagement during not only the event but also long-time afterwards.

Creating events within another

It is important to talk with the consumer on a one-to-one basis even when you are communicating with them within a large gathering. In order to achieve this, ingenious marketers create separate events within the big picture. They aim to engage the consumer directly and interact qualitatively. One option is to arrange games and question-and-answer sessions like truth-or-dare questions complete with freebies to keep participants interested. You do not know what the masses are capable of doing once they shed their inhibitions. Dancing in the streets and spilling out personal secrets ultimately prove to be a fun experience for the participants.

Such events also become huge hits on the Internet through social sharing or coverage by the event marketing companies. The best results are possible with mass media as the participants tell their family and friends to watch videos, or go somewhere particular. This helps to create entire social media events that can bring limelight to any business. The main reason behind the success of such events is creation of new experiences for common people. They enjoy everything to the brim and can’t wait to share this with others, just because it’s so cool.

Event real time tracking and GPS

You cannot succeed in the field of marketing today without the proper use of technology. GPS and location can prove to be the tools in the hands of the marketers as it ensures participation of targeted cross sections complete with real-time coverage. Even if you are not present in a particular place, you can participate in the event and enjoy the experience. As people share what they see, it helps in building up of community and press around the event, making even small occurrences huge with big and positive implications.

Adding new dimensions

Most of the potentially transformative technologies are intangible and their use is growing constantly. For example, use of projections, augmented reality, and 3-D technology have become quite common at various events and offer natural experiences. When it comes to project demonstrations use of augmented reality can make a big impact on your audience. It no longer appears awkward a.k.a. special effects in Hollywood movies. Even QR codes are becoming acceptable and more natural making them ideal for interactions.

Maximize Your Spa Retail Space

Retail is a strong component of your spa business; if it’s not 20% of your total sales, it needs some attention. There are three parts of a successful spa retail space: (1) having the right product mix, (2) designing a space that is customer-friendly, and (3) employee training. (For this post, we are going to assume that you have a strong retail mix.)

Often, spas look at retail as a secondary tier to their business and therefore do not give it the time and attention that it deserves. Making some minor and possibly major adjustments to your retail space can increase your bottom line.

In a 2010 Day Spa Association study on retail, some telling statistics were the following:

Full-service salons, day spas, medical spas, holistic wellness centers, hotel and destination spas were surveyed. More than half of the respondents generated less than $400,000 in annual gross revenues while 25% reported sales volumes over the one million dollar mark. Almost 60% of the respondents had a retail-to-service sales revenue of 15% or less, while 35% had retail sales revenues of greater than 15%.
What do these statistics tell us? That you should be hitting above 15% in retail as a bottom line benchmark and striving for 20, 25, 30%. So let’s get to work:

How to Maximize Your Retail Space:

Take a good look around. Are you fully utilizing the space to the best of its ability? Ask staff for their input and ideas. You may be surprised by what you learn.

Designate a retail specialist, an employee whose sole purpose is attending to retail. Their job is to monitor, stock and merchandise on a daily and weekly basis and write orders. They are also highly trained and educated on all products and can help clients with their purchases.

Organize the retail space so its easy to navigate. Group lines together and create a feature product area for items that you may be promoting. A feature area should be inviting and interest clients to stop, test, smell and try a product. Brands that have the best eyes appeal/packaging should be placed in the most visible area.

Cleanliness and neatness are a must. Have a ZERO dust policy.

All retail spaces should be eye level, at least 2 ft off the floor and no higher than 5 feet. Think of Sephora for example, all products are mainly eye level and in reach. Clients should not have to bend down or reach too high. Pass on manufacturers displays if they do not work for your space.

Create retail opportunities within your space. Use hand cremes in the restrooms, have special feature vignette in key spaces: client relaxation areas, waiting areas, drying stations and treatment rooms.

Signage is key. You can have product price lists, event information and specials displayed within your merchandise space.

Vendors are your partners. If you feel stuck, have your brand representatives come in and help with merchandising. Additionally if you have items that are not selling at all, switch them out, or schedule more product education and training.

Stay Current. When is the last time you introduced a new product or brand? Is your retail platform looking a bit dull? Just like wearing the same thing every day, clients and staff need to try to use new products. Don’t get stuck and try something new.

View your spa retail as a whole and analyze your staff, brands and retail space. It is a multi-dimensional area, where your clients, staff and product intersect. Make your retail space the best it can be and increased profits will follow.