Last weekend, I read the best article I’ve ever seen about ketchup, mustard and spaghetti sauce. Now, I know what you’re thinking – how can condiments and pasta sauce be so intriguing? Well, this article taught me a valuable lesson about understanding our clients’ needs. If you have the time, I highly recommend hitting that link and settling in for an interesting ride.
My favorite part was the story about a man named Howard Moskowitz who, in 1986, was hired by the Campbell’s Soup Company to revamp their Prego spaghetti sauce line. Prego was in a slump and desperate for new ideas to compete with Ragu.
At the time, the standard approach would have been to conduct a focus group and gather feedback from consumers to determine how to improve the sauce. But things didn’t go as planned for Prego. The focus group sessions yielded frustrating results. The data collected seemed to lack a clear consensus, and it appeared as though no one could agree on how to enhance Prego’s sauce.
If you’ve ever tried to talk to your clients about what they want in a veterinary clinic visit, you’ve probably had a similar experience. While the idea that clients will simply tell us what we should do to serve them is attractive, I’ve personally rarely found it to be true.
However, this is where Howard Moskowitz had his breakthrough moment. Rather than giving up, he decided to reanalyze the data. And that’s when he discovered a pattern hidden within the seemingly conflicting feedback. It turned out that there were three distinct customer preferences when it came to spaghetti sauce: plain, spicy, and extra-chunky. The last turned out to be most important.
Instead of trying to improve their existing sauce, Prego did something bold and innovative. They decided to offer not one, but two varieties of spaghetti sauce. They kept their original sauce as it was and introduced a new, extra-chunky version, which no other brand had done before.
Prego Extra-Chunky was launched in 1989. Over the next decade, the category generated hundreds of millions of dollars for Prego. More importantly, it changed the industry.
It was here that food companies came to understand that there is no “perfect product.” Different people have different preferences, and attempting to create a one-size-fits-all experience often leads to no one customer being completely satisfied.
Since reading this, I’ve been thinking about how many veterinary clinics offer only one standard client experience. How many of us serve up medicine “original style” without considering the diverse needs and preferences of our clients? What if we were to acknowledge that people are looking for different things and strive to provide them with more variety?
I genuinely believe the future of veterinary medicine is going to be full of options for pet owners. I’m excited to see what veterinary entrepreneurs come up with to engage those pet owners who have never loved what we, as a profession, have been cooking. This is a fascinating time to be in practice!