Most small businesses sell a product, not a brand! So, what is the difference and which should they be doing?
A key difference is with longevity. When you sell a brand, it need not have a shelf life, it can go on indefinitely. Think of Nike, Toyota and so on. The products they sell may come and go, but their brand remains! Both those examples are very strong brands, which means that they have a very loyal customer base. People will buy their next shoe or car, just simply because it is a Nike or a Toyota.
If you sell a product, that product may well have a limited lifespan. You put all your effort into just selling that product, so what is next when that product reaches the end of the road? You need to find yourself another product and start all over.
For those that put their emphasis on selling their brand, it is not to say that they don’t also promote their products, but because they have put so much effort into their brand, a good proportion of the job of selling their products is already done.
Another difference can come with pricing. If your focus is on selling your product, then price can become a major factor. Your product may have different features that you promote, but without a strong brand behind you, price is likely to become a key determinant. People won’t really know who you are and what you stand for. If your focus however is on your brand, then they may see your brand as meaning great quality and brilliant after sales support, so be willing to pay more!
Think of shoes or glasses. They are both competitive industries with a number of major players, yet two companies came along and successfully disrupted those markets. Those companies? Zappos and Warby Parker.
Zappos is now a well-established online shoe company (it sells much more than shoes now!). Initially they struggled until under the guidance of Tony Hsieh they took a different approach. They identified the problem with selling shoes online and solved it. They allowed people to get up to 6 pairs of shoes at a time, try them on and return what they didn’t want all free of charge. Their customer service has become legendary. In the early years they did little advertising with most sales coming via repeat business. 75% of Zappos customers were repeat clients!
Zappos poured their efforts into building their brand, with a key component of their brand being outstanding service. There are many examples online, but here is one: Zappos sent an email to a client following up on the return of some shoes. The person sent a response explaining that her mother had just died, so she hadn’t had time to return them. Zappos then sent UPS to pick up the shoes and sent her flowers!
In terms of glasses Warby Parker have disrupted the market, by focusing on their customer experience to make it so optimal that people will keep returning to them. People can try on up to 5 pairs of glasses in their own home, all for free! They also provide an app which using augmented reality allows you to see a picture of yourself with the glasses fitted. They also have a quiz to help you find the right style of glasses! Warby Parker have become renown for making the purchase of glasses easy (and cost effective). When people think of Warby Parker, they don’t think about a particular pair of glasses, they think about the great service.
Warby Parker and Zappos have both successfully focused on their brands first rather than their products. That is not to say products are not important too, but with a great brand, you are already well on the way to more sales, without having promoted your particular products!