Guilt won’t work. If you want people to support your business then create, communicate and deliver exceptional value.
You’ve probably seen the memes on social media, bemoaning that fact that people will spend (read “waste”) money on the latest overpriced crap endorsed by some famous person or the other, but won’t buy products from their cousin’s MLM business, or support their friend’s efforts to crowd fund their start up.
Perhaps someone has tried to make you feel guilty for buying your coffee from Starbucks, instead of a small, independently-owned café, or insisted that you support local entrepreneurs rather than “pay for the CEO’s next summer house”.
Why, they cry, do people always seem to support big names/brand/companies over friends and family?
If you are an entrepreneur and this is your business development strategy, I have some bad news for you.
Nobody, apart from your mother, cares about your business. They only care about the value you provide.
You Must Add Value
Here’s the harsh reality: people spend their money on products and services that (they believe) add value to their lives.
If you can’t convince potential customers that your product or service has more value to them than the price you’re asking, they won’t buy it.
You can argue until you’re blue in the face that many of their other purchases don’t add value to their lives. And you’d probably be right.
After all, does the Lady Gaga perfume (RRP £80 for 100ml) really smell better than Charlie Blue (£15)?
Are Beats headphones really worth the equivalent of a week’s salary at the minimum wage rate?
And why the hell would anyone pay $7,000 for a Porsche bike when you can get a similar-spec Cannondale for 1/5th the price? Does it make you a cup of coffee, do your tax return or sort out your relationship problems?
But none of that matters. All that matters is that people believe they are getting value (even if they belief is only fleeting, and they regret the purchase later).
You can’t guilt people into supporting your business. Even if you succeed in getting a few more sales, they won’t stick with you for the long term and will probably resent you for it.
For example: Apple product launches always have a huge amount of hype around them. People camp out in the cold for days to be one of the first to get their hands on it! Why do you think people buy Apple products? Not because Apple begged them. In fact, the legend goes that Steve Jobs didn’t care what people thought. As far as he was concerned, they would know what they wanted when they saw it in his stores!
But wait, Steve jobs may have cult-like status, but this strategy wasn’t always successful. The original Macintosh did not match up to expectations, even though their 1984 ad campaign is one of the most memorable in advertising history. Ever heard of Macintosh TV? Me neither. And the Newton flopped because its much hyped handwriting recognition software didn’t work very well.
The point is that these products did not add value to people’s lives, and so they strggled or failed. It’s really that simple.
That’s Your Choice
I’m not saying that you, as a consumer, can’t make a personal decision to support your family, friends and business networking acquaintances. Or that you shouldn’t buy from local or independent stores, if you choose to.
The whole point of a free market is that you have that choice. If you get more value from your purchases by shopping at these businesses, and that’s fine.
But as a business owner, your number two focus has to be on providing better value than your competition, by offering a superior quality product or service or lower prices. Or perhaps your values and business practices better match those of your target market.
And your number one focus should be on communicating your superior value to your potential customers through your marketing. (Otherwise they won’t know!)
When customers or clients keep coming back again and again, even though they have plenty of other options, you know you’ve built a solid business.
But there’s another benefit. It’s a well-known fact that consumers will always choose the lowest price, right?
People only choose on price when they are forced to. If you are offering, or appear to be offering, the same product and everyone else, then consumers have no other option but to go for the lowest price.
But when you differentiate your product and offer more value than your competitors, then something special happens: you can charge more, stop competing on price and get out of the endless race to the bottom that is discounting and price competition.
And that is the holy grail of small business!
When They Fight For Your Business
So if you want your business to be successful you must create value, communicate value and, to keep them coming back, deliver exceptional value. Here’s one last example to prove my point.
I was working recently with a client who provides pole dancing/fitness classes to groups of students who want to get fitter, improve their self-image or just try something new. She operates out of a studio that is also used for yoga, dance, ballet and so on. The studio was sold and the new owners gave her two weeks to get out.
When her students heard this, about they were so alarmed at the prospect of losing my client’s services that they offered to look for alternative venues in the area. Within days she had a list of options, without having to do any research herself.
When your clients fight for the survival of your business, you know that you have added value to their lives!