Want to Sell More Products? Sell Experiences Instead
Retailing today is not about selling products any more; it's about supplying the customers with the tools they need to create the experiences they crave.
To succeed in business, you have to think about business in new ways
I just got back from the National Stationery Show where I followed Seth Godin talking to an audience of stationery manufacturers,marketers and retailers about how to sell more stationery. Our messages were basically the same the way to succeed in business today is not to keep doing business the same old way, but to sell a new concept, a new idea, that is important and meaningful to the customer. The fact is nobody needs anything that the stationery industry has to sell anymore because stationery has been supplanted by digital media for communicating information, facts, dates, places and times.
Rather, the customers have need for different experiences that the industry's product make possible. These products become the means to deliver those experiences, such as:
- To enhance and build connections between people
- To share feelings, sentiments, emotions
- To create a personal bond
- To express creativity or
- To make and save memories
At the show I met a bright enterprising young entrepreneur. Her challenge: She had picked out a particularly tough segment of the market the high-end luxury category offering album and notebooks priced in the $200 and above range. She was justifiably proud of her products, but I kept thinking that if she really wanted to get her products noticed by retailers with the right clientele, the last thing she wanted to do was virtually to "hide" her products among a thousand other stationery companies selling the same kind of stuff, only most of it a lot cheaper.
If she really wanted to sell her products, she needed to go where:
- Her products stand out and
- People who really need them and will value them are likely to be.
In other words, the National Stationery Show might bring her some incremental business, but she needs a more expansive vision of who her target market can be. She needs to find retailers that will attract customers who will value the product experiences that she sells beyond a narrow-band of high end stationery, gift and card shops. This market would include luxury-leaning bridal shops, jewelry stores, airport specialty stores, art galleries and funeral homes, among others, none of which define themselves as being in the stationery business. And specialty retailers in all different categories themselves could become a nice target audience too, if they bought one of her beautiful notebooks to put by their checkout counter to capture customers' names, cell phones and email addresses. Further, she needs an internet website that romances what she has to sell to people who are in search of her kind of special, luxury paper experience.
Focusing on the customer experience rather than the product is the secret to selling more stationery or anything else
Retailing today is not about selling products any more; it's about supplying the customers with the tools they need to create the experiences they crave. Product-centric, vertically-organized industries made up of manufacturers and retailers that define themselves by the products they sell are founded upon the mistaken notion that people need more of that stuff they are trying to sell. The sad truth is most people don't. The customer craves experiences, and the stuff you sell is only the mechanism that can deliver those experiences. So you, whether marketer or retailer, need to define your business around those customer experiences (i.e. verb), rather than by the product (i.e. noun).
The true breakthrough, whether you are a manufacturer, marketer or retailer, is to think outside of the product "box." Stop trying to sell more stuff and focus on delivering unique, special experiences to the customer. Sell the means to the end, rather than making the product the end in itself.
Tomorrow I'll share the speech I delivered at the National Stationery Show.