The Merchandising Stack
Stack 2 of 3
I have a personal product/business philosophy that overlaps significantly with many popular perceptions but also has unique wrinkles. I separate product-centered companies into three stacks: Productizing, Merchandising, and Fabricating.
An actualized Productizing Stack leads to a tight alignment between product and market. An actualized Merchandising Stack leads to healthy and expanding sales/growth. An actualized Fabricating Stack leads to high-performance development of the product. All three stacks are necessary pillars for any product-centered company.
I’m starting with the Merchandising Stack, because it is the easiest for me to write an article about. Partly that is the case because I’ve never really been a salesperson myself (unless you count telemarketing), so I don’t have much to say. But the big reason is because I’m stealing my definition from Doug Leone’s “Merchandising Cycle” as referenced on Invest Like the Best. So that allows this article to be concise.
Note: I expect I’ll alter this stack over time as I think about it more and gain more exposure to various experiences. In the meantime…
Doug calls this the magic. One of the key responsibilities of the founders/CEO is to elucidate what the vision for the product is. If that foundation doesn’t exist, there’s not much hope for any part of the stack above it.
Put in the form of a question: “What exactly are we building?”
If you don’t know what you’re building, how are you supposed to know how to sell it? There are multiple facets the the “What” in that question. It means what features we’re building, but also what experiences, which problems we’re addressing, etc.
This is where you determine positioning, and the story you tell about the product and the company. This is where exercises like “what three words describe what we do?” become useful in a practical sense.
I’m going to be honest—I need to research this more. I have a superficial idea, and that’s it.
But… since right now I’m just parroting what an industry legend is saying as a first step to making it my own down the line, I’m just going to leave it here for now.
This is the end game, and where any exploration of problems and solutions in the Merchandising Stack should begin. There are two realities that apply when you look at the top of any stack. On one hand, no matter where the stack is broken, it will look like the salesperson is at fault. On the other hand, as Doug says, “if you’ve got product-market fit, even shitty salespeople can sell.”
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