Do you have a fabulous product but no sales? It may be because you haven't answered the two most important questions you need to answer in order to find and sell to your customers. Sheila started a business six months ago but she is already in trouble. She has a beautiful product - but no one is buying it. Throughout her life, Sheila’s grandmother made these beautiful quilted scarves. Sheila loved her grandmother and loved her grandmother’s scarves. She was lucky enough to spend some mega bonding hours with her grandmother learning how to make the scarves herself. Sheila knew that this would make a great business.
Sheila discovered that she could get a batch of these scarves made in a local factory so she took a leap and placed a $1,500 order for 500 scarves. She worked out that if she sold the scarves at $9.99 she would be making a fabulous profit margin. Business started out gangbusters. She sold 50 scarves in the first week to her friends and family. But then things started to get tough. Once she had sold to everyone she knew her sales dried up and she still has 1,448 scarves left.
Sheila just can't figure out the problem? Why aren't people buying? The scarves are beautiful. Every time she wears one several people asked her where she got it. They are well made. She is passionate about her product.
She brings them to the school parking lot but the mothers aren’t buying. She posts them on Facebook but her friends aren’t buying. She took them to a flea market but the browsers aren’t buying. What’s going on?
Here’s the problem. There isn’t one. A problem that is.
Although the scarves are beautiful they don’t solve an immediate problem for the people she is trying to sell them too. Sheila has fallen in love with her product (a huge no-no). For Sheila the scarf is more than a scarf. It represents a piece of her history. It is inextricably linked with the love she felt for her grandmother. She has a huge emotional connection.
To her potential customers… it’s just a pretty scarf.
When you start a business there are two important questions you need to ask yourself.
1. What is the problem that I am solving? 2. Can I reach the people who have this problem? (preferably reaching them while they are experiencing the problem)
If you can’t find compelling answers to those questions you probably shouldn’t be starting a business. If you already have a business, you need to let go of your pre-conceived notions of what the product is and is not. You should spend some time being honest with yourself about the answers to those questions.
Let’s take a look at how answering those questions finally got Sheila her customers. When Sheila asked some of her friends and fellow school parents why they didn’t buy the scarves the most common answer was, “well they are kind of old-fashioned”. Sheila was shocked. She had no idea people viewed her scarfs that way.
Of course she didn’t. Love is blind. So if they weren’t solving the, “I really must have this unique and fashionable scarf!” problem. What problem was her product solving? Sheila let go of her attachment to starting a new fashion trend and honestly considered her product for what it was.
The scarves were a little bit of nostalgia. Not every woman of her grandmother’s generation was lucky enough to know how to make them, but every one of them remembered scarves just like them. And she discovered a problem. These ladies craved the physical connection to their past the scarves represented. But scarves like these weren't available anywhere these older ladies could buy them. So how could she reach the customer’s that had this problem? Sheila decided to do a test and bought a table at the local retirement community fair. Success! The scarves went like hotcakes.
Sheila now sells hundreds of her scarves per month. She sells them at retirement community fairs. She has found a few online forums for retired folk that she frequents. She even has a Facebook page that targets users in her specific older demographic. The best part about her new business is that local retirement homes now invite her to come in and teach a course on how to make the scarves. She is discovering tremendous joy in giving back and feels her grandmother by her side in every class.
Time to think this through. Have you answered the tough questions? What problem are you solving and how do you reach the people who have this problem. Let me know in the comments below.
*Photo by Edkohler