All we wanted was a small cone with strawberry ice cream for Illana’s kid. But when we rocked up to the ice cream place, they had nothing but huuuuuge waffle cones the size of a small country. And no strawberry flavor. Oh, and the minimum spend was 8 bucks.
Yup, $8 for an ice cream for a kid who couldn’t even finish the first scoop before it melted.
And we can totally picture the owner’s thought bubble as he was coming up with the idea for his store. He’s thinking, “man, I gotta do something different…I need me a USP”. And then, eureka — his lightbulb moment — ginormous, brain-freeze-inducing cones and fancy-pants flavors. Genius!
Only, he forgot to ask the people (you know, the ones with the dollars and the ice cream craving kid) if they were on board. And sure, some folks will want the super-instagrammable, giant waffle cone stuffed with 4 scoops each as big as your purse. But honestly, the rest of us just want a damn strawberry ice cream that we can actually lift without having spent 6 months in the gym strengthening our triceps.
So where did this ice cream peddler really screw up?
He tried so hard to find a quirky USP that he forgot the most fundamental rule of business:
Give customers what they actually want.
And sure, we KNOW it sounds blindingly obvious — but you’d be surprised at the number of business owners who totally overlook this one principle.
But here’s the thing, guys, there’s truly no need to overcomplicate things. Like at all.
Because when you think about it, most businesses aren’t built on super-innovative, brand-spanking-new ideas. Most successful entrepreneurs take something simple, something classic, and make it a million times better.
You’ve been to a laundromat, right? Okay, so it’s not up there with a 2-hour commute standing under a sweaty armpit for ruining your day but it isn’t exactly a “dear diary” moment either.
But we just gotta tell you about this Laundromat that Illana uses — it’s incredible, it’s gorgeous, its’…sexy. Yeah, sexy. It’s the goddamn unicorn of laundromats.
And it doesn’t do anything hugely exciting. You don’t get to ride water slides or gorge on giant strawberry ice cream waffle cones while you’re waiting for your underpants to dry.
No, it’s just a classic business model really, really well done.
The machines actually text you when your washing is ready. The staff has Mom-level laundry knowledge and they’re all super helpful. And it’s just so lovely and comfy you could set up your laptop and hang out there all day (and Rachel kinda sorta did!)
Really all this laundromat does is take a simple idea, and make it better. That’s it.
Do that and folks will want to talk about you, recommend you, splash you all over Instagram. No gimmicks or contrived USPs required!
The lesson here? Stick to the basics but make them really fucking outstanding.
And don’t make the mistake of letting your own biases dictate what you serve your customers. Because we know it’s easily done — you see other entrepreneurs on social media doing outrageous things and you start thinking, “cool, how do I make that work for my business?” Before you know it you’re spending all of your time creating something that your customers might not even want.
So how do you avoid that pitfall?
If in doubt, ask your potential customers what they want. And look for feedback from your current clients too. If you’re bombarded with requests for small cones, bring back the small cones rather cling desperately to your giant waffle cone of a USP.
Nutshell time: if you are going to start breaking the rules and messing with classics, don’t do it for Instagram, don’t do it because you think it’s a cool idea (even if it really, really is!), do it because there’s a demand for it.
Do it because it’s what your customers actually want.