The art of inspiring consumers

The Art of Inspiring Consumers

I really need a smoking gun! No, not a recently used firearm that could put me away for 20-to-life. A kitchen device to add smoky deliciousness to my culinary creations. I don't know how I've lived so long without one!

Wait a second, I HAVE lived just fine without one so far. So maybe I don't NEED one. Maybe I just WANT one. But why do I want one? Shows like Iron Chef and Top Chef have shown me that it can do fantastic things to food, but I see plenty of things on TV without actively seeking them out. Then again, I didn't exactly actively seek it out. Williams-Sonoma dropped it right in front of me. I suppose if they hadn't made it so accessible and so attractive, I could have gone my whole life without a smoking gun, but now its squarely on my list and I dream of what I'll do with it.

This is something that Williams-Sonoma excels at: inspiring consumers to be creative, adventurous and self-expressive. It's a huge part of their success, as well as the success of many other brands. It's also a key to growing both revenues and margins.

Let's face facts. We only need a fraction of the stuff we actually buy to meet the needs of a normal and reasonably happy life. The rest of what we buy is driven by our wants and our desires. As a manufacturer or retailer, you can try to make sure you've got the products we want, at the time we want them, but your potential will still be limited by our mood and motivation. That equation changes when your brand takes an active hand at inspiring consumers. Not only do you increase the overall demand for what you sell, but you do it in a way that puts you directly on target to capture that incremental sale.

Williams-Sonoma has excelled at inspiring customers for years, in their stores and especially in their catalog and website. After all, what's the best way to get someone to buy a $25 Nutmeg Grinder? Short of holding a gun to their head, you'd probably have to inspire them to use a lot more nutmeg in their cooking. Williams-Sonoma definitely knows how to do that. They drop a delicious recipe for French Toast with Carmelized Bananas in front of you, replete with an incredible photo. What's this? The recipe calls for freshly grated nutmeg? No problem! There's the photo of the nutmeg grinder right next to the recipe, with a link to buy it!

The recipes, the cookbooks, the photos, stories and in-store cooking classes are all ways to get consumers excited and inspired. That translates into sales for Williams-Sonoma. Walk through the furniture displays at a Crate and Barrel and you'll see the same principles in action, or the sample kitchens in your local Home Depot. It's not just for retailers. The same principle has been driving the sales of Campbell's Condensed Soups for years. They put recipes on the labels to inspire consumers to think of it as more than just soup.

Here are four core steps to fire up the engine of creativity in your customers:

  1. Expose – Show them new products, variations or uses that they've never thought of before. The first step in getting their creative juices flowing is to crack the shell of the routine.
  2. Enlighten – Add color and excitement by sharing stories and background.
  3. Encourage – Challenge the consumer to try it themselves. Encourage them to experiment and be creative, and make the products their own.
  4. Embrace – Look for ways to bring their successes, creations and personal expressions back into the greater community. Have them share their recipes, photos and stories and praise them for it.

Make your products the tools of their imagination and you'll have a much greater place in their life.

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