I’d like you to treat yourself over Easter. Take 16 minutes, somewhere comfortable, no interruptions, maybe a glass of wine – and watch two videos.
The first one is the making of an axe: the second another craftsman, this time making kitchen knives. Both of them are things of absolute beauty – and I was reminded of them last week when I read this story about a $10,000 bag.
No-one needs a $10,000 bag as hand luggage. A couple of weeks after Children in Need you might well argue that paying $10,000 for a bag is simply immoral.
Then again, there are plenty of people who’ll pay that much for a hand-made, everything-sourced-in-America, unique piece of luggage. Is making those bags a viable business model? Absolutely.
But I think it goes deeper than a simple argument about whether anyone should pay that much for a bag – or whether the Chicago entrepreneur behind the bags is going to make his fortune.
We live in a global economy. If I’m setting up a new business I can hop on to Fiverr and hire a web designer in India, a copywriter in the Philippines and an SEO expert in Russia. And yet if there’s one word that gives a client or a customer confidence, then increasingly I think that word is ‘local.’
As you might expect, over the course of my business career I’ve spent a few nights in hotels. Name a chain, I’ve stayed in it – quite possibly twenty or thirty times. Some of the experiences have been excellent: some really well-managed hotels that catered for everything the business traveller could want. So why do I now go out of my way to avoid hotel chains? It’s because I want a personal, local experience – and so do millions of other people. Just look at the success of a site like airbnb. I want to stay somewhere I can talk to the owner and where I know ‘all our food sourced locally’ doesn’t mean a weekly drive to the cash and carry.
Let me give you another example: supermarkets. About a year ago I watched the white foam ooze out of the bacon I was grilling and thought, ‘no more.’ Ever since, I’ve bought our meat from the local butcher – and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. Yes, it costs a little more, but I can look at the blackboard hanging up in the shop and see exactly where my meat is from and when it was slaughtered.
And yet the nation’s supermarkets insist on competing on price. Live better for less. Every little helps. Did they ever think that just once an ad saying, No, they’re not the cheapest. But they’re 100% pure beef might work? I refer you to McDonald’s vs. Shake Shack, ladies and gentlemen.
But ‘local’ and ‘handmade’ are all very well if you’re a B&B or a butcher – and I’m fairly certain that no members of TAB York have a sideline making axes or kitchen knives. So what do I mean – and how can you benefit – if you’re a PR company or an accountant or a corporate lawyer? There are three main points:
- In an increasingly impersonal world personal is more important than ever. For me ‘local’ means personal. People still want to buy from people and, if possible, they’d like to talk to the boss at some point. As the old cliché goes, they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
- The beliefs and values of your company are increasingly crucial. What shines through with the axe, the knives and the $10,000 bag is the absolute passion of the people involved. It’s not a business, it’s a calling. So make sure that clients and customers know your company stands for something: make sure they know the story of why you believe.
- Finally, don’t be afraid: if you’re providing a premium service or making a premium product, don’t be afraid to charge a premium price. It’s easy to think ‘the market in North Yorkshire won’t stand it.’ You’ll be surprised – and there’s a whole world beyond North Yorkshire that’s been waiting for you…
With that, I’m off to enjoy Easter. Make sure you do the same: have a brilliant weekend and the blog will be back on Friday 10th.