What Hand-Made Potholders Can Teach Entrepreneurs

talking© 2016 Tony Bodoh

Last December, I was sitting in the waiting room of a tire shop waiting for my car’s flat tire to be repaired. My ten-year-old daughter sat next to me. A budding entrepreneur, she was absorbed in weaving an intricately-designed, multi-color potholder.

The man behind the counter noticed. He was a single man, maybe in his early fifties. He came over and curiously asked my daughter, “What are you making?”

She shyly looked up, studied his face a bit and then said, “A potholder.”

Intrigued he asked, “Do you sell them?  I could really use one.  I burned myself just last night taking my dinner out of the oven.”

Her eyes lit up. “Yes,… and, I have twelve more in my backpack.”

A bit astonished, he asked to see them. After a bit of conversation He found a potholder he liked and paid her.

I was tickled that my daughter made the sale in as odd a place as a tire shop, but I was also proud that she leaned into the opportunity and showed the man her inventory and described the benefits of her potholders.

She told her new customer that the potholders were made from cotton loops which meant they would protect him better from the heat than polyester loop potholders. They were colorful and he could either have a brightly-colored one that would stand out and likely get guests talking or a dark colored one that would hide stains. And, she told him, her unique, multi-colored patterns meant that his potholder would probably have colors that matched his kitchen already.

I thought back to some of our clients here at LeaderBridge. I’ve seen them get so focused on the features of their products. They often talk the technical specification and they share the details that only a true nerd would appreciate. They invest most of their website copy or their elevator pitch in talking about the product’s details. They forget to share the benefits. They forget to share the positive experiences others have had using the products.

My daughter focused on telling her newest customer what benefits he would experience – not being burned, hiding the food stains and even matching his décor.  She did not say how many threads it was or tell him the dimensions. She put her attention on the things that she heard other customers already tell her—the reasons they loved her potholders.

How often do entrepreneurs get so focused on the features and the engineering genius behind their products and services that they forget about helping the customer see the benefits?  Most of the time.  Big companies do it too.

Recently, I was perusing the website of an international hotel brand. Nearly all of their content described the features of their rooms—square feet, bed size, sheet thread count, etc.. There was nothing on the first few pages I clicked through that even remotely shared other guests’ experiences—not even a single quote in a sidebar.

What my daughter learned at an early age that most entrepreneurs fail to apply before their business fails, is that you must let your past customers sell to your future customers. Sharing testimonials, quotes, perceived benefits and name-dropping famous customers—if you have permission—can easily move the minds and hearts of prospects and cause them to reach in their wallets to happily pay you for the value you’re providing.

How does this apply to your business?

In our #1 best-selling book, ‘LEVERAGE: Achieve a Lot with the Little You’ve Got’ Vinny, Connie and I share something called the “Intangible Asset Inventory.” It is one of five types of inventories you can take in your business. While there are dozens or even hundreds of different intangible assets in any business, few business owners ever document these.  Customer feedback is one of the most often overlooked assets.

Let’s explore three ways you can use customer feedback:

  1. Document every comment you receive from customers in words as close to their own as possible. That could mean saving emails, social media comments, survey responses or even notes from calls. All of these are assets.  My daughter listens to past customers and has a list of comments committed to memory, the next step for her is to write them down.
  2. Once you have a list, you can look for the common themes in the feedback. My daughter simplified her list to a few things: cotton is better than polyester for preventing burns; bright colors are good to make conversation while dark colors hide stains; and, the unique, multi-colored designs are perfect for complementing any kitchen.
  3. Identify who is commenting on or buying your product. Most people will immediately think of the demographics. But, my daughter takes this even further. She can now share stories about her potholders being sold at a tire store. In addition, she has a well-known catering company that purchased them and a world-renowned celebrity that commented on how beautiful they were when I posted pictures on Facebook. My daughter shares these stories with future customers, because stories are more interesting than the demographics of other buyers.

If you want to increase your sales you can do the same thing. Listen to your customers and keep track of the comments you hear. Simplify the comments into themes that you can share with prospects. Share stories about your customers. (e.g. Too much demand and too little cash flow? Read how Vinny helped a client.)

We all learned to do these things as children in the classroom or on the playground. We listened to what was being said and we simplified the comments to easily remember themes. Then we shared stories about ourselves and others related to those themes. You probably remember some of those stories today, years after they were first told.

Think about using the skills you mastered as a child. Listen. Simplify. Share.

Tony Bodoh is the CEO of LeaderBridge. He is also a Fortune 150 consultant, the founder of Tony Bodoh International and the best-selling author of “The Complete Experience: Unlocking the Secrets of Online Reviews That Drive Customer Loyalty“.  Tony is also a popular speaker at business and customer experience conferences.  Vinny Ribas is the President ofLeaderBridge. He is the CEO of Top 4M Entertainment, the CEO of Indie Connect, a consultant to 1000+ small businesses and the author of “CEO Secrets: What They Know About Business That Every Entrepreneur Should“. Vinny is also a popular speaker at business and music industry conferences. Together they wrote the #1 Best-Selling book, ‘LEVERAGE:  Achieve a Lot with the Little You’ve Got‘ and teach an in-depth 4-week course based on it.