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Products must tap customer appeal

January 05, 2014

SAN ANGELO, Texas — There it was, finally the sofa had arrived in our store.

It was beautiful in my eyes and I had lobbied hard to get it. It’s sleek, long slung seating had a contemporary modern look. The velvety or white which added to its uniqueness. Yes, it was orange, but in the late ’70s orange was still a popular color for living room furniture. It became a real conversation piece among our customers. Problem was, that’s all they did was talk about it.

SAN ANGELO, Texas — There it was, finally the sofa had arrived in our store.

It was beautiful in my eyes and I had lobbied hard to get it. It’s sleek, long slung seating had a contemporary modern look. The velvety or white which added to its uniqueness. Yes, it was orange, but in the late ’70s orange was still a popular color for living room furniture. It became a real conversation piece among our customers. Problem was, that’s all they did was talk about it.

In my defense, I was a good salesperson and knew that I would be able to sell this sofa unit. Any customer that entered the store and was interested in a sofa, got an introduction to what affectionately became known as the “Dreamsicle” sofa. Maybe that was part of my attraction to it. It reminded me of that frozen treat with an ice cream center and orange coating. Needless to say, we had that sofa on the showroom floor for a long time.

Looking back I realized what went wrong. I had bought a sofa as an emotional purchase without any regard to who my customers were. Saying that I had missed my target market by “a country mile” was an understatement.

The furniture store we owned at the time was known for its Early American furniture. My customers were purchasers of Early American furniture. Just because this particular style was not my personal favorite, that should not have intervened in my purchase decisions.

There is a lesson in my telling this story on myself. This is the perfect time of year to see if you have any “Dreamsicles” in your store’s inventory. Double-check you current inventory and identify items which seem to just get moved from one location to another and haven’t sold. Mark these pieces down to a point where your customers will buy it just because it’s such a bargain. They surely would at least know someone who would like it.

Revisit how you make your inventory purchasing decisions. Peri Pakroo, author of “The Small Business Start-Up Kit: A Step-by-Step Legal Guide” offers this guidance: “defining your target customers means identifying the specific characteristics of the people or businesses who you believe are most likely to buy your product or service.”

He suggests you create a customer profile. The best place to start this exploration would be to make a current list of the characteristics of your best current customers. When you identify the majority of your best customers fall into a specific demographic, then strive to target that particular sector. You then follow this information with research on your competition and industry trends. Small businesses can perform market research and the advisers at the Angelo State University Small Business Development Center can help guide you with both primary and secondary market research, surveys and focus groups.

Oh, and about the “Dreamsicle” sofa? It did finally sell. A traveler stopped in on a whim and just had to have it.

 

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    Peggy Hodges Rosser, Business Development Specialist and Rural Business Manager

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