Unity Marketing founder Pam Danziger is our featured guest blogger for this post. She is an internationally recognized expert on consumer behavior and specializes in the luxury market. Pam is an author, consultant, researcher, keynote speaker and has appeared on numerous television news shows.
I just got back from the National Stationery Show where I followed Seth Godin (The Purple Cow author and founder of Squidoo.com) talking to an audience of stationery manufacturers, marketers and retailers on how to sell more stationery in today’s digital world.
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 what is important and meaningful to the customer. We must stop trying to sell more stuff and focus on delivering unique, special experiences to our customers.
Connect on an Emotional Level
Stationery customers desire products the industry already makes that help deliver those experiences:
- Enhance and build connections between people
- Share feelings, sentiments, or emotions
- Create a personal bond
- Express creativity
- 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 albums 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 a lot cheaper.
If she really wanted to sell her products, she needed to go where:
1. Her products would stand out and
2. Where people who really need them are and will value them.
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 could be. She needs to find retailers that will attract customers who will value the product experiences 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 a website to help brand the romance 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 have a need for more of the stuff they are trying to sell. The sad truth is most people don’t.
Customers crave experiences, and the stuff you sell is only the mechanism that can deliver those experiences. So define your business around those customer experiences (i.e. verb), rather than by the product (i.e. noun).
If you are in the gift business, remind your customers of the excitement the recipient will have opening their gift including seeing the beautiful packaging. For food retailers, focus on the sensory aspects of your products in your store through sights and smells and online through delicious images. A good example of this is Sensory Branding and Starbucks.
Sell the means to the end, rather than making the product the end in itself.
Editor’s Note: Pam needs help from Nashville Wraps’ customers for her latest research. If you’d like to share your ideas on social media and the internet, including its importance to your business, please connect to a short survey Pam has prepared: Take Pam’s Survey