Picture this scenario: it’s Friday night, and you head out to a nice restaurant after a long week of work.
While you’re relaxing over a glass of wine, the waiter comes over and informs you of the special. “We have a delicious salmon risotto tonight,” he says.
That sounds perfect, you think, so you order the dish. The waiter jots it down and heads back toward the kitchen as you continue your wine and conversation.
So far, so good, right?
But then the chef comes out and walks over to your table.
“I understand you’ve ordered the salmon risotto,” she says as you nod in affirmation. “Well, risotto is a bit tricky, and it’s important we get the salmon right, too… have you ever made it before?”
Before you can respond, the chef turns around. “Tell you what, I’ll go ahead and get the olive oil started … you wash up and meet me back in the kitchen.”
I’m guessing this experience has never happened to you, and I’m also guessing that you probably wouldn’t enjoy it if it did. After getting past the initial surprise (does the chef really want me to come back in the kitchen and help prepare the food?), you’d probably find it very odd.
You know that the food in the restaurant costs much more than it would in the grocery store — you’re paying a big premium for atmosphere and service. If you wanted to make salmon risotto yourself, you would have done so. You didn’t go to the restaurant to learn to make a new dish; you went to relax and have people do everything for you.
What does this scenario have to do with running a business or plotting a course toward freedom?
Your customers don’t want to make their own dinner
Instead of offering people what they really want, too many business owners have this idea that it’s better to involve customers in the behind-the-scenes … because that’s what they think customers want.
We’ve become experts in telling people things they don’t want to hear about, and teaching people things they don’t want to learn.
It’s all the fault of the old parable:
Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.
This might be a good idea for homeless fishermen, but it’s often a terrible idea in business.
Try a better idea
A better idea is to give people what they actually want, and the answer to that lies in understanding something very simple about who we are. Get this point right, and a lot of other things become much easier.
Most of us don’t want to learn how to fish. We work all week and go to the restaurant so that someone can take care of everything for us. We don’t need to know the details of what goes on in the kitchen; in fact, we may not even want to know the details.
Instead, we want the fish brought to us on a plate, deboned, lightly breaded, and pan-fried with a slice of lemon.
To give people what they want, first you have to define value
What is value, exactly? Here’s a basic definition:
Something desirable and of worth, created through exchange or effort.
Perhaps an even easier way to think about it is: value means helping people.
If you’re trying to build a business and you begin your efforts by helping people, you’re on the right track. When you get stuck, ask yourself: how can I give more value? Or more simply: How can I help my customers more? Over the past two years, I’ve been traveling the world, interviewing “unexpected entrepreneurs” as part of the research for a book.
I learned to understand the clear value proposition that each person offered their customers. In most cases, there was a clear distinction between the actual product or service, and how it made the end-user feel.
Copywriters talk about getting to the real benefit of the product. The successful entrepreneurs I talked with had learned to market that real benefit — to “give their customers the fish.”
- Jaden Hair provides recipes and stories about food from her popular website SteamyKitchen.com … but the real benefit is “spend quality time with your family.”
- Megan Hunt makes custom dresses and wedding accessories from a co-working space in Omaha … but the real benefit for brides is “feel special on your big day.”
- Ridlon “Sharkman” Kiphart takes clients on adventure tours to exotic destinations … and the benefit is “Live adventurously by joining us for the trip of a lifetime.”
- Kelly Newsome left a high-paying job as a New York attorney to operate a private yoga practice in Washington, D.C … and the real benefit to her clients is “relax and prepare for the day through a personalized, guided practice.”
The stories go on and on, and you might be able to tell a similar story from your own experience.
When it comes down to it, what people really, really want is pretty simple.
We want to be happy. We want to have our lives improved, either through the addition of something positive or the subtraction of something that causes stress and hassle. Are you doing that in your business?
Are you giving your customers what they really want?
About the Author: Chris Guillebeau’s upcoming book, The $100 Startup, launches on May 8th during the world’s first 7-continent book tour. He also writes for a small army of remarkable people at ChrisGuillebeau.com.