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16: Less Is More. (Part 2)


You and I have already looked at two things you shouldn't do in order to use "scarcity" as a strategy. 

  • You shouldn't spread yourself thin by doing everything your customers ask of you, product/service-wise. You don't want to just be someone "convenient", you want to be chosen because your products are excellent.
  • You shouldn't let customers dictate terms of sale and delivery. By being firm, customers believe you when you say something is in limited stocks. This creates urgency.

Ok, on to the third point!


3. You shouldn't: Dilute your brand power.

What is brand power? It's hard for me to sum it up nicely in a sentence, so I'll try to describe it with a few sentences. Brand power is the force that makes customers:

  • travel far and wide just to come to your store (or your booth) to buy your products.
  • genuinely engage with your social media accounts because they want to. (Not to ask "ada saiz tak?")
  • feel frustrated when they couldn't place an order because you're out of stock.

I'm trying to paint a picture of a brand that's much loved and thought of. It's not exactly something people need, but something people want. In the world of marketing, "want" is exactly what you should aim for. 

Brand power makes people beg for your products, not the other way round.

Ideally, brand power is something that all brands should have sole control of. It should be wielded and monitored only by the brand.

But sometimes, it seems strategic and convenient to share the brand power with other parties:

  • Agents
  • Retailers/stockists
  • Distributors

These parties can help a brand spread to other profitable locations and handle the nitty gritty details of getting products to customers.

Theoretically, this would be awesome for the brand. You'd be able to concentrate on product development, marketing, funding, and other equally important tasks that need attention.


The problem with selling through other parties

So what's the problem? These are the potential issues with giving away the power to other parties:

  1. Can't control customer's experience. The sales process, delivery, packaging, etc.
  2. Can't control pricing. Depending on your agreement, the other party may be able to raise and lower prices arbitrarily according to their own agenda.
  3. Can't control marketing. Are they portraying your brand personality correctly? Or are they intent on making money that they would do anything to make the sale?

I'm not saying these problems will come up every time, but the potential is there. And the worst thing about giving away brand power to other parties?

The customers don't come to you. 

Ideally, whenever customers want your product, they should come directly to you. No middle-men involved. Direct contact with the brand is what creates brand loyalty. You want to create a big and engaged audience for future products.

But young brands often turn to other parties to make the product more accessible to customers. They try to make the product more available. More available = more sales. Right?

It can be flattering to have a major retailer invite you to sell your products on their platform. But is it the best path for your brand's future?

Yes. But when you sell your products through other people, the brand power will be diluted. You can't make people travel all the way from Penang if they can get your product in their neighbourhood. It's hardly scarce.


How can you make sure that you use the scarcity strategy correctly?

The solution is investing the time and money in developing your own platform.

  • You can invest in an intuitive, easy-to-manage e-commerce site.
  • You can develop your own delivery system.
  • You can hire people to handle customer service.
  • You can hire people with qualifications to handle marketing, sales or other areas you want to delegate.

And the list goes on. These improvements concentrate on your brand strong and established, instead of focusing on expansion too early.

It actually isn't wrong to engage agents, retailers and distributors. They are key players in any expansion strategy. But don't be too hasty and flood the market with your product. 

Concentrate more on your platform. The fire will catch slower, but burn longer.



15: Less Is More.


In the last email, we talked about the impact of constantly throwing a "sale". We also looked into two methods that successful brands use to constantly be in demand, without having to lower prices.

  1. Scarcity. Not being too available for people. Makes them buy quickly in order not to "miss out".
  2. Trust. Reducing anxieties and issues related to buying so that customers don't change their mind about buying.

In today's email, we're going to dig deeper into how you can utilize scarcity when you do marketing.

Q: Why is it necessary to talk about marketing tactics if our main focus is on branding?

A: If a brand doesn't act like a premium brand, there's no point in creating a premium visual identity. Branding is as much about how the brand acts as it is about its appearance.

What is scarcity?

It's defined as the state of being scarce or in short supply. Undersupply as opposed to oversupply. In the context of marketing, your customers are unable to buy your products as much or as often as they would like. 

You intentionally limit their purchase to create an impression of being the best, high quality and being in demand. (As I mentioned in the last email, it's important to have a product that they want to buy a lot and often in the first place)


Why scarcity?

A smart brand intentionally uses scarcity to invoke: 

  1. Anticipation. They wait impatiently for the next time the product is available.
  2. Status. Not everybody can buy this.
  3. Pleasure and appreciation. They had to work harder for it, so they value it more.

That's how it works generally. But to implement this practically, it's easier to look at things you shouldn't do.

1. You shouldn't: Do everything the customer asks you to.

This applies more to service-based businesses, but can be relevant to product-based businesses too. Doing every single thing that is requested may seem like the best way to the customers' hearts, but it doesn't give you the respect and excellence required to be a premium brand.

Let's look at an example.

X is a baker. She originally set out only to bake cakes and brownies, but her regulars persuaded her to bake macarons, cookies and cupcakes for them. (Customers can be very persuasive) Soon enough, she finds herself unable to say NO to any kind of order.

Sure, she makes money. But what kind of reputation is she setting for her brand? What exactly will her regulars say about her to other people? "Order from X! She can bake anything!"

At first glance, that seems like a positive comment. But when you look at it closely, you'll see that it means that X is a quick fix. Although her baked goods may be delicious, they don't come to her because she's special. They order from her because she's always ready to bow to their needs.


In other words, she's letting her customers set the agenda instead of sticking to her own plan. It'll be very difficult to grow her business if she goes on like this. Look at any luxury brands and you'll see that they dictate what they sell, not the customers.

If you want to be extra nice to your customers by doing something they've specifically requested, have it be the exception rather than the norm.

Related article: How to Build A Great Portfolio Even If You Have No Clients Yet (In this one, I discussed the importance of doing one thing at a time and how you can use it to your brand's advantage)


2. You shouldn't: Torture yourself to make a sale.

Hey Aina, you've insisted on putting the customers first when we looked at the brand details. Why not go above and beyond for your customers now?

There's a difference between giving customers an exemplary service and letting them run the business. 

Boundaries are necessary for your sanity and for customers to fully appreciate that you also have other customers. It's professional and efficient.

It's important to have a proper system in place, for both sales and delivery.

  • Sales: The process of taking an order for a product/service from the customer.
  • Delivery: Getting the product/service to the customer. Many business owners handle this personally by going to the post office themselves. 

When you process orders personally, there will always be customers who don't want to follow the guidelines you've set. Maybe they don't order at respectable hours. Maybe they don't want to use the established payment options.

When it comes to deliveries, they may want the product/service sooner than possible. Maybe they want you to deliver at weird hours. I'm not saying this nastily; most times customers don't even realize that they're inconveniencing somebody.

If it's an emergency and you choose to process it for them, then it's awesome. But if it's normal for customers to demand for the product however they want it, consider this; If they can order anytime and any way they want, where's the urgency? 

Why would they rush to buy your product after you say "newly stocked" or "limited stocks"? They will disregard that because they know they're going to be entertained anyway.

They know that you're still going to play nice with them even if they follow your process. They're used to that kind of behaviour.

A premium brand sells at their own terms. They take customer experience and satisfaction into consideration, but they don't bend over backwards to cater to the customers' whims.

You owe it to your brand to not be a doormat.


Because the email is crazy long already, I'm going to talk about Point #3 (diluting your brand power) in the next email. Keep an eye out for it!