This post is intended for those woodworkers that actively sell their work and seek to attract the right clients. ( sorry rambled so long it need two posts)
There is one subject that drives me crazy when it comes to small businesses. They have the desire to grow and need to grow and see more business come their way but do not make it clear why one would want to use their service. They complain about a client approaching them wanting the earth for nothing yet fail to put out a message that tells the prospective client just what it is that they offering. So what do they expect when the wrong prospect approaches them.
When i get into this with clients there is always one big fear that comes to the fore. They fear if they say what they offering, they will narrow down the number of people that they can sell to and in so doing not get enough business.
What this leads to is either no marketing (as in communication in multiple forms to the prospective audience) or such diluted messaging that the person on the other end of the communication that may well be one of their target market does not have that message resonate with them and so their is no urge to act and contact them as a possible supplier of their service or product.
But this even extends into how they interact with a client when they get one. So now with a "bird in the hand" so to speak they alter their entire operating strategy in order to try and accommodate the "bird" and bend over backwards to make a sale. (low price ridiculous deliveries extras you name it).
Inevitably this leaves them feeling unhappy and this has the effect of playing out in their business and their demeanor and so when by chance the correct bird arrives at their doorstep, the manner in which this "appropriate bird for their business" gets treated is less than satisfactory to that bird and the bird decides not to close the deal as well. The net is a lose lose approach that goes nowhere.
Over time this process has a totally negative feedback loop. It destroys the business owners confidence, it destroys the belief in the entire business and business model. Don't think woodworking is alone in this case.
There are a few woodworkers that frequent our forum and are members here that in my opinion do the most excellent job of making clear what they all about. I take my hat off to these people because they understand the word differentiation.
Make no mistake about it. This subject is not at all easy to tackle. To come up with the single statement that differentiates you from the rest of your peers in your competitive territory is no easy task. And to stick to it is also no easy task simply because initially until you come to see fruits from holding your ground and taking a specific stand its nerve racking to the uninitiated.
But it may be the single best thing i believe you can do to change your business.
Here is why.
I give you a case of my hairdresser that recently closed its doors.
This lady would regularly subscribe to a local advertising service that delivered some form of flyer to each of the homes in the greater area. Excitedly she would say 20 000 copies Rob.
To which i asked her what the content of her advert was. She would say well the advertising guy said you get the best response if you put a discount in or promotion. So she offered a ridiculous price for haircuts.
I asked her so how did it work out because i still only see me in the room. Well she said people responded but they never come back again. Oh I said. Did you ever wonder why? Well she said they came for the cheap haircut.
Now she knew what had happened but this still did not dissuade her from rinse and repeat of the cycle. Many times too. Despite our discussions about this topic on each of my visits. I had a vested interest in keeping her in business. I had been with her for many years and i am one of those people that don't like to change the person who cuts my hair.
But for her she could not get out of her head the idea of reaching 20 000 people and get into her head that the right clientele for her business were not looking for the cheapest cut. Well now over time the debt that rang up on the adverts not even washing out the cost resulted in her closing her doors.
What this lady had failed to do was to determine for herself why the existing clients she had came to her place for their haircuts etc. I told her she had the most perfect business for this. She had each one captive in her chair for the period of the haircut. There was ample opportunity to begin the discussion and on the side make some notes of what is said each time. Then examine the notes and see a pattern. But despite this being suggested she did not. One can speculate as to why but that is not the point here.
Now one can argue that this is actually back to front because one would think that if one is going to go into a business venture one would be clear about what one is offering.
The trouble is not every small business person gets into business for themselves out of total choice. It is often an alternative to finding adequate work and so their technical skill of what ever sort is being put to use to make ends meet and provide some sort of service or product.
So in her case she saw hairdressing as getting a cut. She knew she offered other services as most ladies would want and even recognized the additional value these services brought in but she failed to recognize some essential attributes and would not even consider altering her outlook. And so she suffered the consequences. I tried talking to her about my reason, very simple, trust. I trusted her to do an adequate job, the result fit my requirements and i paid a price i thought was appropriate. Over time i would even increase the price despite here protests. I used to ask her annually, has the rent gone up, yes she replied, then i said so to does your price of a cut. But this did not change her outlook. She was caught up in volume game but in a niche business.
So to get back to woodworking, if you into making furniture for people, its not adequate that you just hang up a shingle saying yeah i do woodworking and make furniture, but hey i also do decks if you need. This statement may well in your mind open you up to business from what you perceive to be a wide audience and hey you gotta get some work that way right? Well if that's the case then why do we see posts about price or dealing with people that don't understand why custom woodworking costs money.
Go to the Barrett Jackson car auction and take a look at the prices paid for old cars that have been customized and renovated. Watch the series on History Television of "Counts Custom Cars" and ask yourself why people drop what would seem ridiculous amounts on having what would appear to be a rusted piece of junk fully restored or customized. Think of the cost of ownership when you need to get it fixed.
Start to think about what it is that your client wants (not what it is that you are prepared to do for x dollars per hour) and get into the mindset of what it is that is going to address the needs and wants of the people you wish to serve in the woodworking industry. At the same time ask yourself are you up to delivering what they want?
Yes you have to form in your head a profile of your ideal customer and the better you can get your mind around this persons likes, wants needs, outlook, (it does not necessarily have to do with income (if a person wants something bad enough they find the money and if you still dont believe that you should not be in custom business at all) desires, feelings etc.