As woodworkers, we often fret over what wood to use, and if using contrasting wood, which one, and in what proportions. What hardware, what finish? However, most of us don’t use an add-on that really helps sell the product, and at no cost.
That add-on? Experience. Let me explain.
Why does Starbucks do so well? Why does it attract the upper crust in society? You really don’t see blue collar workers in there; it’s more white collar workers, more likely women then men, and are usually dressed very well (incidentally, check out the women at Target as well for the same phenomenon). A more affluent class of people goes to Starbucks then McDonalds for coffee.
The cost of the coffee beans for companies is in the same price range, in terms of wholesale cost. Yet Starbucks charges (around here) $2.11 for a medium “bold pick of the day”. McDonalds, on the other hand, get about $1.19. That’s about 77% higher. Why? Some would say “the coffee tastes better” – and that may be, since Starbucks paid 10¢ more per pound. But still, a much higher price for the consumer. So why are they so successful?
Because of the experience of Starbucks, that’s why. You have a “barista” making your coffee for you however you want it; you have a hip, relaxed atmosphere with comfortable chairs and tables, like you were in an upscale nightclub. Free WiFi. The decor. The status. It’s more like Disney then Dennys. That is what you are paying for, and this is why the more affluent go there. The coffee? I like Tim Hortons better, actually. They have an “ok” atmosphere, nothing like Starbucks.
Are you getting my point? People with money are willing to pay for the experience, not just the product. If I took a Starbucks coffee and a McDonald’s coffee, did a side by side taste test on the street, where people don’t know which is which, people might choose Starbucks more often on taste, but I’ll bet they wouldn’t want to pay the same price that Starbucks charges. So the question is, what experience can you put into your woodworking product? More then you know.
At shows in which woodworking is displayed, I watch the women – who are the major purchasers of our pieces – as they peruse a vendor’s goods. What she touches, she is interested in; she’ll glide her hand over it’s silky surface, taking in the beauty of the wood and design. Yet, she will still likely walk away. However, if that piece has a story behind it, then you have another sensation she can add to her experience of the product that may cause her to buy. Let me illustrate here:
Suppose we have a beautiful hanging mission fixture for sale:
Woodworker A tries to sell it like this: “Yes, it’s beautiful, isn’t it? It takes three bulbs, up to 60 watts each. The straps are real leather, and the stained glass is real too. The wood is cherry. It’s $7,000. You’ll have to have an electrician install it, I can’t.
Woodworker B: “Yes, isn’t this a gorgeous piece? I’m sure you’ve never seen one like this before. Can you see this hanging over your dining table? It would certainly be admired by your friends during parties! The stained glass is done by an artisan in New Hampshire I picked myself. The leather straps are from an artisan in a small town in the Adirondacks; the cherry wood comes from a sawyer in Maine, where some of the best cherry is grown. It took me about 125 hours to craft this, and I’ve been working wood for 23 years. (After some back and forth with her, he also throws in this -) I’ve had a passion for woodworking since I worked in my grandfather’s shop as a kid. I’ve made a good living pursuing my passion.
So, which woodworker would get the sale, if a sale could be made? That’s right, the second one. Why? Because he gave an experience to the lady – he explained woodworking is his passion, he put many hours into this piece, he gathered the best materials and artisans he could to build it, there’s nothing like it, wouldn’t your girlfriend’s be jealous, etc. He was upbeat, and painting a nice picture. Contrast that to the first guy – he tells about the piece like it was a sports car, and throws on the wet blanket of the price and having to have it installed. Ugh. And by the way, that lamp? It’s real, and yes, it is $7,000. It’s made by a premier woodworker, Kevin Rodel. See it here.
Part of the beauty of places like CustomMade – and to some degree, Etsy – is that the experience for the consumer is one of having something made just for you. When you think about that, that’s pretty awesome, when you can tell someone how you want something done, and they can do it. I mean, think how nice it is at a McDonalds, for a cheap hamburger, let alone a piece of furniture! In my experience, it excites the customer, at least my customers. Adding to that, I also update the customer regulary with pictures, so they can see how it’s coming along, building anticipation. Even when I ship it, I give them a shipping number and ask them (or someone else) to be there to sign for it. Once again, building anticipation, like a little kid at Christmas – do you remember that excitement as a kid? Same thing here. They can track the package all the way to the door! All of this adds to a richer experience and adds value to the product, and it didn’t even cost you much, if anything.
Can they get that experience at a big-box store? No. So your task is to find a way to build an experience around your product so customers will pay more for it.
The affluent love exclusivity. They want to have what no one else (or few others) has, or what’s the point of being rich? Nobody buys a $1.4 million Lamborghini to get to work. A $32 million Picasso is just a piece of art, oils on a canvas – yet, when you own one, you are part of a very exclusive club. That experience – of being one up on their peers – is what they are paying for, be it as something as everyday as a coffee at Starbucks, or a million-dollar car, they are one step up. Sure, they probably enjoy that car or art, but having what very few others have, drives these people as well.
My point? Build the best damn “X” you can, and charge a lot for it; use experience of the piece (whether that be a back-end story, exclusivity, etc) to help sell it.