(N.B. Title may not apply to any readers who own FTSE 500 businesses)
Last night, I had the pleasure of dropping in at a friend’s – let’s call him ‘K’ – cafe and catching up with him. During the evening, K told me about his plans to expand his “brand” and make his cafe one of a national chain.
We spent the next hour discussing what exactly K’s “brand” was.
I asked him, what did he think was the cafe’s unique selling point. What was going to distinguish his establishment from the multitude of other independent, arty coffee shops out there?
“We source the best products…”
Sure, but every cafe-owner would say that. That’s not unique, it’s common-sense and also entirely subjective.
“Well, we serve organic food…”
Ah, now that was a USP for sure. Guaranteed to get Guardian readers in by the bucket-load. However, it subsequently transpired that it was a fairly flimsy USP in that not all of the products were organic. A cafe branch known for selling “mainly organic produce” is not quite as distinctive as a cafe that can say “100% organic food”.
As my friend struggled to describe what distinguished his cafe from every other one out there, it became increasingly apparent that the main thing about his cafe that made it stand out from others was K himself.
A key reason why his business was such as success is because he knows every customer by their first name, is aware of what is going on in their lives and takes an active interest.When you go to K’s cafe you not only make a financial transaction but a relational one too.
This is not to say that K’s food isn’t delicious or worthy of repeat-custom – of course it is! But the point is that if K. was to devolve the managing of his cafe to another person, no longer would customers be getting a bacon ciabatta with a fat-free slice of “The K Effect”, but instead merely a bacon ciabatta.
If you are running or representing a SME or an intensely people-facing business, take from this episode what you will. One thing social media continues to affirm is that people value and prefer to do business with people – who are not only competent – but also that they know and like.
Two other great articles that illuminate what I’m trying to say further are Scott Gould’s The New PR (or check out anything of his under the People-to-People tag) and A.J. Leon’s The Economics of Relationships.