When what you’re selling isn’t what you’re selling

The following is an excerpt from Make Your Idea Matter, by Bernadette Jiwa.

Make Your Idea Matter

When what you’re selling isn’t what you’re selling

Yesterday I skipped the early gym session, packed up my MacBook and headed out to the hair salon. This particular salon runs a no-appointment-system; it’s first-come, first-served. So I got there almost an hour before they opened, sat on the ground outside and worked. Ten minutes later, another lady arrived; twenty minutes after her, yet another, who I’d seen before. With fifteen minutes to opening time, a grandmother showed up, excitedly chatting to two little girls about how they’d be talking to Carmel and she’d know what was best for them to do.

By 9:00 a.m., there were six of us all queuing for the same stylist. By 9:05, there was a three-hour wait for a $20 trim with Carmel, even though there were at least four other stylists available right away. A couple of people chose to wait, and some were reluctantly bumped to other stylists.

I watched Carmel work all morning. The first question she asked, before she even picked up a pair of scissors, was, “Is this for the graduation, and if not, when is that?” The next client was asked how long before her three-month trip overseas; it was apparently important not to put too much colour in this time round, so that the timing would be just right for the last colouring before her trip. Carmel explained to the elderly lady who couldn’t cope with a two-hour wait that she had a couple of colour clients already, but she’d tell the other stylist what to do. I heard her reminding her colleague about the frailty of the hair and how she needed to use the mildest possible products.

The granddaughters were having back-to-school trims. They were done in five minutes by another stylist, while the grandmother came to have a chat with Carmel as she mixed bleach.

Of course there are others in this salon who can cut and colour almost as well as Carmel can, but that’s not what people who are willing to wait for an hour or two, maybe more, are buying. She’s not selling a $20 haircut; she’s selling something people crave even more than looking just right for their son’s graduation: caring, connection, belonging, and yes, even love. All of which take something ordinary and make it extraordinary.

Your business needs people who care this much. Often your products and services don’t need more bells and whistles. They just need a little more love.

Bernadette’s book is available to buy here:

on Amazon.com
on Amazon.co.uk (Kindle edition)

“A little book with a very big message.”
— SETH GODIN

Very well done, Bernadette.

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9 comments

  1. This is definitely a book that seems to be worth checking out. Thanks for excerpt david.
    Also this made me think even more clearly about what salons and other businesses actually are selling besides just the products and services.

  2. Kaitie Bakker

    This is a great story/message. I think a lot of people forget about that side of their job. A number of times I’ve been thanked for the effort and care I put into certain details of projects. In my opinion, those details are all part of the job. I care, which is a big benefit to my business and client relationships—a little goes a long way. Just yesterday, one of my clients thanked me for being such a marvelous human being. Maybe it was a bit over the top, but it sure felt good.

  3. Nice one B.
    Hearty congratulations.

  4. Yesterday my MA tutor asked me who my favorite designer/artist is in front of the whole class, and I told him it’s you, because the most posts I have read are your posts, also most of the extraordinary brand designers I know, I know them through you.

    Many thanks for sharing your life.

    Adam.Qi

  5. It takes a marvellous human being to stop by and comment on my blog, Kaitie, so your client is absolutely right.

    Adam, thank you.

  6. Kaitie Bakker

    I receive email updates from a number of blogs. The majority of them immediately receive the trash can treatment, but I can honestly say, I always read yours. Thank you for keeping me entertained and educated!

  7. This is such a great example of client connection. I love it! This book’s going on the ever-growing list ;)

  8. David, thanks so much for the generous shout out.

    @Josten @Jamie I hope you enjoy the book!

    @Blair Thanks BT!

    @Kaitie sounds like you are doing an amazing job for your clients in so many ways.

  9. Nice read. This reminds me of a Tim Sanders quote that stuck with me over time: “Long after people forget what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”

    I’ve personally noticed a much better response from my clients once I began placing more emphasis on my interpersonal skills rather than expecting my graphic design abilities alone to result in higher client retention rates.

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