Are You Benefitting From Your Industry's Tent-Pole Product

Tent-poles are an interesting Sales construct.

Most people are familiar with the concept of a Hero Product.

Usually a best-seller (whether today or tomorrow) it is also one that really does epitomise what you are about. Brand Management textbooks love talking about their reflected glow.

The term didn’t exist when I was at b-school. Bread and Butter Products was a phrase back then that comes nearest. Although they were slightly different for, as the name might suggest, the element of glamour was less prevalent. They leant towards products which gave good run-rate business, in the ‘maturity’ phase of the product life cycle, ones that guaranteed a steady, desirable level of income. And from there you build.

What’s useful about a tent-pole product, is that it is not necessarily one of yours. It comes from the film industry. Yes, I’ve heard of examples where a big blockbuster has all sorts of merchandising, toy and game tie-ins, hence the film itself is the tentpole holding everything else up. But I like more the definition where each year needs one big huge Summer movie around which the whole industry gets held up higher. (The first such movie ascribed this tag seems to be 1989’s Batman.)

It doesn’t matter which studio produces said mega-hit, everyone else also benefits. More people being lured into cinemas means more business for everybody.

The tent-pole gets people talking about going out to see a film, energised about movies, willing to spend more money on the experience.

Pretty much every industry will see this effect.

What product has the current buzz that can also encourage people to think about what you sell?

It certainly doesn’t need to be a direct competitor. Far from it. But it must be aligned in some way.

What’s earning column inches with the business process around those which you support?

One example that springs to mind in my career was over a decade ago when everybody started to dabble in crm, as opposed to sfa. A couple of vendors famously vied to be the biggest tent-pole.

Investment in crm lead to an allied increase in general training, conferencing, status symbol providers and incentive rewards. Such suppliers for a while were racking it in. Nothing directly to do with the dash to reporting system updates, yet the feeling was that salesteams could now reverse the stifled investment of the late Nineties, early Naughties across the board.

Take a look around. Any tent-poles who’s shelter extends to you?

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