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Creating a School to Demo Products

Radical thinking of growing the business

There is a story told of learning with an example from the world of auto racing. One year "Little Al" Unser was competing in a race against his father, Al Unser. The son won the race, but as his father finished second in the race, it was the father who won the season championship.

During an interview, Little Al commented, "My father taught me everything I know. But he did not tell me everything he knows".

A similar situation can work to your advantage with your gift basket business. The gift basket industry is quite unique. A business is often started by an individual who demonstrates a high level of talent in building a very attractive collection of products - all assembled within a package that is frequently given to someone as a reward, incentive, thank you, or as a gift for a celebration. The uniqueness lies in your creating a product that is seen and appreciated by a first person and then given to another person to appreciate and enjoy.

Without question, you have surely read numerous articles in this magazine and attended presentations at Jubilee that are designed to improve your skills as a designer. There is no argument from this writer that improving one's skills in designing, can go a long way toward improving the price you can command for a basket as well as bringing you additional business from those who have seen your work. These two aspects are what will lead your business, regardless of size, to increased profitability. Today, we would like to share with you another idea for increasing your profitability. It is an idea that is somewhat out of the norm, as we are suggesting you demonstrate what you do to your customers.

Of course the first thought anyone would have is, "Why would I want to show a customer how to do what I do? If I teach them what I do, then the customer won't need me anymore!"

And while that concern makes a lot of sense, let's look at the idea as it is working for businesses in other retail industries, ranging from florists to a restaurant, to the neighborhood lawn mower repair shop. These three are representative of businesses that have used this technique to improve their profitability.

Customers doing business with you see your creations as fascinating works of art. Surely, you have heard people comment about how creative you are. And how you have used many simple items, bringing them all together within a theme that is well displayed within a gift basket.

People probably go on to say that they could never do that, and how they do not have the creative touch to build something as beautiful as what you have done.

Of course, they are right. You have taken a certain amount of natural talent, and through your dedication, time, hard work, and many books, videos, and classes have greatly enhanced those skills. Surely, no one could just walk in and do what you do.

But if you invite your customers to observe you as you are creating a gift basket, you are drawing them into the experience. You are showing them that there is more than just looking at a finished product, there is a lot of talent used to make the gift basket. By allowing the customer to observe while you are creating a gift basket, you are doing two things.

The first is that you are making it an experience. Think of the difference in your eating a salad at a restaurant. The first restaurant has a wait staff that simply brings a salad and places it before you. The second restaurant has a wait staff that wheels in a cart with a large bowl on the top. They add the ingredients of the salad, toss them within the bowl and then distribute a portion to a smaller bowl that they place in front of you.

Thinking of those two restaurants, which one did you like better? And couldn't you have made a similar salad at your own home? But you don't, because of the experience and that the salad tastes better when made by a professional in the restaurant.

The same type of experience can work for you and your business. And by allowing the customer to observe, we not only provide them with an experience, but we can transform the customer into one who develops a deeper appreciation for the work that you do. Imagine as they are giving a gift basket to someone, how they can explain in detail, all of the hard work that has gone into creating the basket they are receiving.

Granted there will be customers that will go home, purchase many of the necessary items, and attempt to build their own gift baskets. When you think about the baskets you created when you first got into the business and those you create today, isn't there a tremendous amount of improvement over the earlier creations? They will experience the same results as you did.

It becomes the fruition of the Unser story. You have taught them everything they know, but not everything that you know. And it is the creation that you have made that they want to have.

How can you implement this in your business? If you have a storefront, you can make a small rearrangement to your sales floor so that one of the tables you work on is visible to anyone in the shop. You may even want to have an occasional Saturday afternoon when you send postcards to customers inviting them in to observe as you create some baskets for the upcoming season.

If you do not have a storefront business, perhaps you will want to rent a suite at one of the local hotels. The Marriott Resident Inn, Hampton Inn, Embassy Suite, and other similar hotels often have sizable meeting rooms that will likely have a special rate for a Saturday event.

Utilizing this technique sets you apart from any of the competitors within your market. It tells your customer that you want to make it a fun experience to do business with you. And isn't that a lot of what our business is about?

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179