I’ve had the same coat for more than 10 years and it’s falling apart. I tend to hold on to, and wear down my possessions until there is nothing left- whether it be my car, my clothes, my furniture, or in this case… my coat! The reason is a combination of laziness and a drive to get my money’s worth- something that was instilled in me from an early age! 2 weeks ago I came to terms with the fact that my coat was absolutely falling apart and was not going to last through the Winter. I decided to go shopping! What I found was remarkable!
Now, I must be honest and say that I’m quite out of touch with fashion. I always have been. I really don’t like shopping. I will always take a good deal over a “good image” and I will take comfort over “cultural status”. With that said, I do like certain styles better than others.
My search started on Amazon.com (of course!) but after spending over an hour looking for a coat in the style I would want that would actually fit (I’m 6 foot 6 inches tall!) I finally gave up and drove to the mall!
The mall is a fascinating place. It is one I don’t care for on a personal level, but from a marketing level, a lot can be learned! I walked into my first store. I was not greeted when I entered and the woman behind the desk was talking with her boyfriend on the phone. I found the coat in the style I wanted pretty quickly and was thrilled to see that it was discounted from $79.99 to $59.99! Woohoo! I was curious, however, if I could find a better coat or a better deal elsewhere. I was in the mall after all! Why not take a look around?
The next store I went to immediately seemed slightly more “upscale”. The staff member at the front was attentive and greeted me when I arrived. Furthermore, everyone who worked there was dressed very well. I found the type of coat I was looking for. In this case it was $99.00. Strange… $20 more than the regular price and $40 more than the sale price at the other store! This got my curiosity going, so I ventured into one more store!
The third store I walked into had a completely different feel than these other two stores. Immediately when I walked in, I smelled scents- not too strong, and quite pleasant. Right at the front of the store was (what I assume was) very high end clothing, perfumes and accessories. Pictures of well dressed beautiful people were hung throughout the store! I was greeted by not one, but several well-dressed highly professional people all asking if they could be of any assistance. I politely told them that I was “just looking” and proceeded to the coat section. I quickly found the coat I was looking for on a rack that said “$100.00 off!” Wow! I thought- I’m in for a great deal!. Then I looked at the price tag… and almost passed out! The tag read “Regularly $350, now only $250!” I couldn’t believe it! This coat was more than 4 times the price of the original coat I looked at!
WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT THE POWER OF A BRAND
Now, I know you’re wondering (or if you’ve read the blog long enough, you’re probably not) so I will tell you the end of the story- I bought the cheap coat! Here’s the thing that gets me though- I think I’m in the minority! I’m not going to say that the majority of people in western society will buy the coat that costs 4 times the price, but I will say that the majority of them want to! Why is this? This all got me thinking and researching. My assumption was the more expensive coat must last more than 4 times as long, or perhaps the quality of material keeps one warmer. I started researching.
It turns out that the coat I bought and the coat that costs 4 times as much are both made overseas… in the same factory! One could argue that one brand goes through more rigorous quality checks or uses high quality material. This may or may not be true (I didn’t research that far), but the fact is, consumers will pay more (a lot more) for the name printed on the coat!
CREATING THE “PREMIUM BRAND”
My sales have been down this month and it’s been discouraging. I’ve spend a lot of time reflecting on the type of business I want to have in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years etc. When I’m honest with myself and think about branding, I realize that differentiating myself as a “premium brand” is difficult on Amazon and eBay alone. Amazon and Ebay are excellent platforms to get instant traffic to your products and sell them! They can be used to make a lot of money! These platforms can even act as a great launching pad for your brand- a way to get your product into the hands of a lot of customers very very fast. Once that customer gets the product, however, is where the brand building really starts! You have a few moments in most cases to get that customer to remember your product, store name or brand! This will be a big part of my focus throughout this year!
WHAT HAS WORKED AND WHAT HASN’T
I’d like to finish this post by talking about 3 elements that have worked for me to build a “premium brand” as well as what hasn’t. I currently have 2 private label brands on Amazon. Both do fairly well, but one has a loyal “off-Amazon audience” while I struggle to build an audience for the second brand. Below are the elements I’ve observed that have contributed to this:
1. Start with a great product
If you get this wrong, you’ll get nowhere. Ideally you want a product that is not only high quality, but also low cost, high profit, high demand and low competition. Getting all of these elements to fall into place perfectly is ideal, but not always realistic. It is possible, however, to find high quality products that fit most of these criteria. In the case of my brand with a loyal audience, I was among the first to introduce this product to the marketplace! This was an ideal situation since it made the product virtually competition-free for a long time! I took a different approach with my next brand in that I introduced a product similar to other products that numerous others were already selling. This definitely comes with less risk (since you know it will sell) but the tradeoff is it’s harder to build your own following. If you can follow the trends and get on the cutting edge- introducing a product before anyone else, you’ll be well on your way to differentiating yourself as a premium brand!
2. Keep in contact with your customers on a personal level!
The fact is, when someone buys a product off Ebay or Amazon, in most cases, they don’t care about your business, who you are, what else you’re selling, what makes your store brand or product brand unique etc. They buy because they want a product- and right now they are loyal to Ebay or Amazon. Your job is to show your customers that you care about them- in ways that Amazon and Ebay never can! Sure Amazon’s customer service is great from a standpoint of fast shipping, free returns and 24 hour staff, but what if you have a problem with a product, but you don’t want to send it back. Will they offer support for that? Let’s take it a step further. Does Amazon’s overseas support staff member know what your interests are, your hopes and dreams, or the names of your kids? Does he/she care? Of course not! Probably the most successful thing I’ve done is building relationships! I know numerous customers by name! I know the things they are interested in, what they like to do in their free time- several of them have sent me pictures of their homes, their vacations, and even their friends and family! Customers who feel that you actually care about them will be customers for life!
So how do you get in touch with the customer in the first place? Create a compelling reason for the customer to contact you (remember on Amazon, you cannot contact the customer to talk about anything other than the specific Amazon transaction.) This can be a discount on their next purchase, a digital product or reward, a forum, an instruction video or any number of things! Get creative and get to know your customers!
3. Get people talking about your brand.
Honestly, I (mostly) dislike social media. As an introvert, it’s very difficult and overwhelming for me to meaningfully engage in it. I’ve found, however, that people talking about my brand is the next best thing to actually participating in the discussions (which I do recommend if you’re into that kind of thing!) So much of my business has come from referrals from others who have had an amazing experience! To get people talking about you, start by creating a great customer experience! To get them “in the door” offer something (like a coupon- see above) or reach out to people who already have an audience- Youtube channel owners, blog owners, Facebook fan Page owners etc. Look for contacts within your niche to spread the word- and offer them something to make it worth their while- a free product, a contest where you give their audience free products, a shout out to your own list about their blog, channel, fan page etc… use your imagination!
What are you doing to differentiate yourself from the competition? How would you like to be the one charging 4 times the amount for your “premium product” or charging more just because someone came to your “premium store” rather than the countless other stores that sell the same thing? What’s working for you and what’s not? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
If you’re just starting out, I’ve got a great free resource to get you started! Download it free below!
As always, thanks for your interest and support!