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Do you understand what your business is selling?

I am a Starbucks addict.  Whilst I realise that may be akin to starting a conversation by declaring which rugby or football team you support, I hope you’ll indulge me.  Perhaps I should start with a disclaimer to do with personal bias.  When I’m travelling, seeing a Starbucks in an airport is something that gives me a great sense of calm – for some reason the queue melts away, as does the crowd of other SB-fans, and I feel as if I’ve sunk into an armchair sized space created just for me with a beverage that carves out personal time for me within an otherwise hectic environment.

In the times I’ve lived near an outlet, it’s become a quantified hide-out when I need some space to myself.  They know me there…..  And that’s just the thing – Starbucks don’t sell coffee.  They sell a feeling.  They sell community.  They know your name and they can make you feel like Christmas!  I am NOT a coffee connoisseur, but Starbuck’s coffee just feels better.

Whether it’s your network provider, who services your car, which personal products you use or where you go for breakfast on the weekend, if you take a moment to consider the brands you stick to, and try and explain to someone else why that’s the case, the chances are good your conversation will whittle down to consistency, trust and how it/they make you feel.  There’s likely to be a certain element of “they know me there” involved.

Why is that?  The most successful businesses in the world understand.

There are a few key points that underlie this feeling, but I’ve picked what I feel are the two most pivotal – understanding that you’re selling a feeling; and what exactly that feeling needs to include.

UNDERSTANDING WHAT YOU SELL

Starbucks sells coffee, right?  But so does Costa’s, Barista’s, Dunkin Donuts and Gloria Jean’s.  What is it then, that attracts me to Starbucks?  This is something that fascinated me to the point of research!!

It’s not by accident that Starbucks have the friendliest baristas who, if you’re a regular, know you by name and want to know if you’d like your usual or to try something new.  It’s not by accident that they have the latest newspaper available and soft jazz playing in the background.  It’s not by accident that they have all manner of different seating to cater to your mood today, or that if you don’t quite like the way your coffee tastes or accidentally throw it on the floor that they’ll replace it free of charge.  Would you like a free app download to go with that too?

Starbucks sells a sense of community. They make you feel at home.  And they make that possible whether you’ve just finished the school run or have a layover at Schiphol Airport.

What do you sell your customers when they buy your product?  And the answer to that is a feeling – hopefully a positive one!!

WHAT IS THAT FEELING THEY REMEMBER YOU FOR?

What that feeling is depends on what you’re selling and what your unique spin is that makes you the top choice.  If you’re selling walling, that feeling is probably security.  If you’re selling an airline ticket, hopefully it’s comfort, compassion and performance.

However, there are a few common themes that run through all successful products/services.

  • Consistency – Whether I buy my Grande Vanilla Cappuccino in New York, London or Hong Kong, I’m pretty confident it will be exactly what I’m after!!  I know that this works because they’ve proven it to me.  Across the board, they understand their brand and a vanilla cappuccino is a vanilla cappuccino is a vanilla cappuccino.  This consistency leads me to:
  • Trust – I trust their brand.  I trust that they have what I want, that it will always be the same, and that I am guaranteed service with patience and a smile that will take my worries away.  I know Plan A will work and I don’t have to figure out Plan B.  I trust that because they’re consistent!  We live in a high-stress world.  That I can count on someone to get something right – especially when it’s my coffee – is a huge load off.
  • Integrity – The guy in Hong Kong may not have quite as heavy a hand as the guy in London when it comes to how much vanilla….but I know that if I ask for a little more, that’s all part of the service.  This brand stands for community and supports the uniqueness of their customers in the fact that everyone likes their coffee a little different; and that sense of focus is consistent throughout their coffee houses.  I have NEVER had to ask for a manager in Starbucks.  The guy behind the counter knows what they do and has full autonomy to make it happen!
  • Positive Energy – I can’t imagine that writing peoples’ names on coffee cups all day long is that riveting, yet I’ve never been greeted by a grumpy barista.  I know I will be greeted with a smile and the necessary attention to make sure I leave with what I came for.  It’s possible that that energy is a reflection of my own – but my own positivity is buoyed by the fact that I’m at Starbucks and therefore it is, at the very least, reciprocal!

Now I hope I haven’t lost you if, by chance, you happen to support another team. And I hope that you’re able to get past my obsessive support and see what it is I’m on about.  Starbucks makes me feel all sorts of good things – and THAT’s what keeps me coming back.

Do they sell the world’s best coffee?  I’m not sure – we’ve established I’m not a coffee connoisseur, and it’s probably not going to come as too much of a surprise that I haven’t tested out many other outlets in comparison.  I have tested a few.  They don’t taste as good as Starbucks feels…

By Christen Killick

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