In 1988, Howard Baker was President Reagan's Chief of Staff…
by Sarah Petty
As a small business owner, saying “no” can be hard. Especially when it comes to price if you’re trying to compete without discounting. If you follow the boutique business model we teach at The Joy of Marketing, you have to say no a lot because 99% of the market isn’t right for your products and services. You don’t serve the masses or the middle of the road clients.
Boutique business owners serve a specific clientele. Those who appreciate unique products and services, a high level of service, the small things most businesses don’t pay attention to, and an experience not easily replicated. The boutique business model is a filter through which you make business decisions. It’s what keeps you from cutting corners you think no one will notice, just to save a few bucks.
Boutique businesses exist in every industry – from doctors to fitness centers, car repair service to photography, restaurants to spas. I don’t think you can halfway follow this model, yet that’s exactly what I see many small business owners doing.
“I want to charge more, but I’m going to order the same props and sell the same thing everyone else does.”
“I don’t want to do anything unique for my packaging because that costs more, but I think people should pay more for my products.”
“My marketing pieces are postcard templates because I don’t want to budget for more than that, but I keep attracting price sensitive buyers.”
These statements are all fine if you want to compete in the middle, serving the masses. But if you’re trying to follow a boutique business model and reach the upper right corner of people who are willing to pay more for a truly unique experience, it’s not going to fly.
I liken halfway following the boutique business model to when a person stops smoking. You’re either a smoker or you’re not. If you smoke Saturdays but not Monday – Friday, you’re still a smoker. When people who see you on Saturdays look at you (when you’re smoking), they consider you a smoker despite that 6 days a week you don’t smoke.
The same is true for boutique businesses. If you discount once a year doing a Groupon, people remember that. You’re now a business who has sales and so as a customer, I can wait for your products and services to go on sale because eventually they will.
If you send out a mass mailing that you designed yourself on cheap card stock rather than a unique, elaborate piece that folds or spins just so you could reach more people to make the phone ring, the 5 people who you really want to meet – those who are looking for a unique experience – will now look at you differently.
When you commit to a boutique business model, you need to make business decisions for the 1% who are willing to pay more for what you offer. Not the 99% who aren’t. Consider this. Do you want to make $250,000 this year servicing 250 customers or 50? If you answered 50, then the boutique business model may be worth checking out.
Sarah Petty is the owner of Sarah Petty Photography and founder of The Joy of Marketing. She is also an internationally sought-after speaker, marketing and branding strategist, MBA & co-author of Worth Every Penny: Build a Business that Thrills Your Customers and Still Charge What You’re Worth, a book that explains in depth how the boutique business model works.