In the last five decades, management thinkers have reflected and debated on how to increase the effectiveness of organizations. Different theories have been put forward, argued, and often withdrawn. Even nowadays, only a couple of management precepts enjoy universal acceptance. The bottleneck principle is one of those few.
This rule predicts that the positive short-term benefits of any action will always be the greatest when efforts are focused on removing a bottleneck from a process. For instance, when the production of furniture is being slowed down by assembly difficulties, such bottleneck could be removed by using a simpler fastening procedure.
This formula has been applied successfully thousands of times to speed up manufacturing and service operations. On the other hand, its application has been rare in the field of marketing and sales. In general, entrepreneurs find easier to create new products than finding customers willing to purchase them.
Selling water to thirsty tourists in the desert places you in the ideal marketing position. In that context, you would be able to charge a high price and hardly hear complaints from customers. The reality that most businesses face in our age is precisely the opposite. Large numbers of players compete in each market and customers have become increasingly difficult to reach.
If we try to apply the bottleneck principle to sales, we are going to face, first of all, the question of identifying the critical problem. In the example of furniture manufacturing, we were able to see the assembly difficulties. In contrast, when it comes to marketing, the primary obstacle frequently remains invisible and might consist of any of these cases:
- Lack of credibility in the marketplace.
- Potential customers are unaware that a solution exists to their problem.
- High perceived risk of purchasing an unknown product.
- The advantages of the product are difficult to explain.
- General scepticism of potential buyers about anything new.
- Established suppliers dominate the market although they make inferior products.
You will not have to seek long to find evidence of this phenomenon. Software programmes are installed and run without charge for six months. Novel delivery services offer you vouchers to transport your packages at no cost for a week. Exotic restaurants invite you to try out their menu without having to pay the bill.
The system of free samples can be practised in dozens of different ways. Complimentary demonstrations of new products and services provide the best proof of their value. Whatever your field of business or professional activity, if you are not already using this sales approach, you may be missing one of the most powerful tools for acquiring new customers.
[Image by pasotraspaso under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]