To succeed in selling, first know your customer.
It seems obvious. There’s no guarantee you will sell something just because you made it, or you like it. Your product must appeal to someone else: your potential customer.
Get to know that potential customer well enough, and you’ll be able to tell him about your product. Put it in front of him when he shops, when he is relaxing or even working, until his awareness develops into desire.
Get to know him even better and you’ll be able to tweak the product to work more effectively for him. If it solves his problem better then he’ll want to buy the improved version, and before you know it you’ll have a lifetime customer spreading the word about your great product.
But maybe you just think you know your customer.
What if you are making assumptions that turn out to be wrong?
Let’s take a simple product. Dried herbs and spices have traditionally been sold in tall, thin jars, whether under big brand names or supermarkets’ own. Sometimes the plastic lid flips up to reveal a shaker top, sometimes it unscrews completely. Either way, that’s what producers assume the consumer wants.
Are they right? Do supermarkets really know their customers? How, for example, do they think shoppers choose which brand of spice to buy?
If they asked me, I would tell them I choose almost entirely on the colour of the packaging. Not the size, or whether it is glass or tin. Not even on my perception of the quality of the contents. My spice rack is open, you see, with the serried ranks of herbs and spices are on view. So I used to avoid Sainsbury’s own brand and Schwartz, thanks to their bright orange lids. Not a great look for weeks at a time in a duck-egg country kitchen.
For me Bart spices with their plain black livery were a worthwhile indulgence. Tesco have now followed suit with a simple black top, again both smart and able to relax into the background rather than shouting out in the kitchen.
Finally someone in the marketing department has taken a look at their customer’s needs in a much broader sense. They have paid attention not just to the contents but the packaging, and I imagine sales have improved accordingly.
Finding and solving new problems
Here’s the thing about spices. If you cook regularly you will know that recipes often call for much more than a sprinkle of flavour. Many of my favourite meals require two teaspoons of each of several spices, and in fact I much prefer to measure all my seasonings with a teaspoon rather than sprinkling or haphazardly shaking from the jar, when the risk of a sudden clump-dump is high.
Sainsbury’s found my perfect solution. Their new range of spices feature simple, wide-mouthed jars with screw-on metal caps. I bought some right away and they are a complete pleasure to use: easy to measure out spices or even grab a pinch, and easy to poke something in if the contents refuse to budge.
Why didn’t I see for myself that the mouth of a spice jar should fit a teaspoon? But now that Sainsbury’s have both identified my problem and solved it in one fell swoop I am a happy customer.
Really know your customer
So yes, be sure to know your ideal customers. To really stand out from the competition, walk in your customers’ shoes, understand how they will use your product.
Then solve their problems
… even the ones they have yet to see.