Most coffee drinkers will tell you that they like a ‘dark, rich, hearty roast,’ says Malcolm Gladwell. But if that’s what everybody wants, why is Starbucks’ menu so long?
It turns out people don’t all like the same thing. Sounds obvious, but plenty of people overlook this vital fact when it comes to building and marketing their business.
Embracing choice can be a game-changer, argues Malcolm Gladwell in his 2004 TED talk: ‘In embracing the diversity of human beings, we will find a surer way to true happiness.’ And that goes for businesses as well as customers.
You too can (and should) embrace your customers’ preferences. Whether you expand your product range or tailor your business to your customers, you can make variability work for you.
Spaghetti sauce is Gladwell’s go-to example, and while sauce is good, coffee is better, so we’re going to show you the marketing secrets you can learn from your favourite baristas.
Decaf, one-shot, skinny caramel macchiato
Thanks to Gladwells’ muse, psychophysicist Howard Moscowitz, businesses now invest much more heavily in researching what people want. It can be very insightful, as often people don’t always know what they want themselves. By accounting for these preferences, businesses have cemented customer satisfaction in old and new markets alike.
While Starbucks have subsequently mirrored this variety of desires in their products, this isn’t the only, or even the best, response. It can be as simple as remembering that you can’t please everyone.
There’s no shame in limiting your market if it means truly resonating with, and delighting, your target audience. Knowing your niche well will allow you to do this and, done correctly, will leave you with a tribe of loyal fans.
The marketing secret here? You need to know your audience to market to them.
Starbucks or Kopi Luwak?
Whether you’re the Starbucks of your sector or its ‘cat-poo coffee’ antithesis, it’s just as valuable knowing what you’re not as what you are.
For every Starbucks lover there’s someone who likes artisan coffee, and someone else who prefers tea. By knowing what your competition is doing you’ll also know what they aren’t doing, opening your business up to multiple possibilities, including success in untapped markets.
When competing for the same market, don’t be afraid of a little competition; rivalries often produce better ideas and better products.
A bit of healthy competition not only inspires better creation, but also encourages businesses to research and hone in on the particulars of their demographics. By using this knowledge you can offer what your demographics love and want to buy. This will resonate with them, so your customers will win too.
To drink in or take away?
That being said knowing who you are is integral to communication with your customers, because without knowing what you offer, and why people need it, how can you effectively sell it?
Just as people frequent coffee shops for certain things (comfortable sofas, location, better literature, maybe even better coffee), they buy products for specific reasons too: Quality, usability, style, portability, comfort, etc.
Your core product is important, but it’s not everything. For coffee chains, winning a taste test doesn’t necessarily mean winning the most customers. As much as anything else, industry-leader Starbucks has cashed-in on consistency, being reliably familiar the world-over, which some people care about more that than the drinks.
As with Gladwell’s spaghetti sauce example, some research could reveal elements of your product that you hadn’t considered as selling points before. Even if your product range isn’t varied, people’s reasons for buying it could be, so know what they are, and make them a part of your brand.
Fair trade or hand-made?
Speaking of brands: When people buy brands they don’t just buy them, they buy into them.
Anyone could tell you that Google isn’t the only search engine on the internet, yet neither Bing nor Yahoo inspire anywhere near the same loyalty or fandom.
This is due, at least in part, to Google’s dedication to its ethos. Google is more than just a search engine; it is a company built around innovation and connecting people to information. By keeping its gaze firmly fixed on this purpose, Google evolved into a prominent, profitable brand, operating seamlessly in multiple sectors.
Like Google, you need to look at what your business really stands for and move towards it, regardless of where it takes you. Like coffee shops, be prepared to think outside the cup.
(Hat tip to Sam Stewart Etc for the photo)