A typical small business venture starts like this: Julie is a talented artist. She discovers she has a real love of working with metal and semi-precious stones and fashioning original ideas into jewellery. Her friends and family are so impressed with this talent that they ask her to make custom pieces for them. Eventually they start urging “you should start a business selling jewellery!” Intrigued by the notion, Julie thinks about the various artisans she’s seen at outdoor markets selling their wares, presumably making lots of money, judging by their prices.
She decides she’s going to do it. After all, you hear nothing these days except “Follow your dream”. So she invests in loads of tools, materials, and gets to work crafting beautiful pieces that come from her heart. She signs up to rent a table at a local market. Her first day is a complete let down: she sold one necklace for $40. The next few weeks aren’t much better. Now she’s starting to sweat: can she even cover the cost of her expenses, never mind her time? Julie was sure if she just did exactly what her heart told her, the money would follow. Isn’t thought how everyone’s business works?
Actually, not really. Although of course there is absolute truth that your entrepreneurial business needs to stem from some kind of true passion, that’s not all you need to make a business work. A large piece of the puzzle that people often mix up is the idea of a “feature” versus “benefit”. Most people’s marketing will extol the features of a product (for example: fast, less expensive, high quality) but you shouldn’t assume that once someone knows the features of a product that it will be enough for them to buy. They also need to know how this particular product will benefit their lives: i.e. they will have more time for their kids, they will be able to do the stairs at work without losing their breath, etc…
The “feature” of Julie’s jewellery is that they are one of a kind, made with high quality materials. But so are the other pieces of jewellery that you find by another market vendor just a few stalls away. What if Julie’s brochure included a blurb about the stated health benefits of wearing real silver? Or what if she teamed up with a local fashion designer to create pieces that were directly inspired by her collection? Now someone could walk into that shop and buy an entire outfit, including accessories made perfectly to match, without having to travel all over the city? That’s a real time savings for busy people, and a definite benefit!
Once Julie was able to see and (promote!) the difference between a “feature” and a “benefit”, she saw sales start to really climb. Once people could perceive a real difference in value between her jewellery and other local artisans, it was much easier to sell her pieces, and the business took off!