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The Art of Value Creation For Small Businesses

Lessons from a master perfumer.

On the sixth floor of Harrods Department store in London, you can experience a half-hour consultation with master perfumer Roja Dove (that’s Roger with a j) for a respectable fee of £150. Of course, you can offset the price against anything in the range, which, to be fair, includes a good selection of products.  But if you genuinely want a piece of Roja’s natural talent, you will want to delve into the exclusive realm of having a bespoke perfume designed. For this, Roja commands a fee that starts at £25,000. 

I’m a stereotypical writer; I don’t want to leave the house, let alone go to a party where wrinkled noses might notice my bespoke scent, so it’s safe to say that I am not in his audience group nor want to be.

But, just as he offers bespoke perfume design services to his clients, I provide bespoke writing services to mine – and most of us in small businesses are also service providers.  So, what can we learn from someone who prices his services £10,000 higher than similar competitors?  

1. Know your emotional value

Roja Dove believes in his value, putting aside the gross income divide that allows families to go hungry and the wealthy pay £25k for a bottle of scented water. 

He doesn’t flinch or stumble when explaining his magic skill, 

“I unpick their olfactory locks like a cat burglar to develop the building blocks of their scent personality. I am able to recreate that completely individual smell.”

He doesn’t talk about the functional product, that is, his perfume or the bottle size.  Instead, he’s focusing purely on the emotional value.  ‘Personality’ and ‘Individual’ are more exciting elements to mention than a bottle of perfume.  

Emotional value is how your product or service makes the customer feel. 

For example, a specialist locksmith probably makes people feel secure, a cleaner helps businesses or people stay safe, and Roja makes rich people feel special. 

Every product or service has an emotional value. Every film, book, piece of music etc., has an emotional significance beyond its function.  

What are yours?  Do you mention it in your marketing?

2. Know the emotional desires of your buyer

In an interview with Forbes, Dove discusses his perfume, By Appointment, where certain people, by invitation only, may come and smell his wares. He’s created only one bottle, which, according to an article on 6-figure perfumes, was still for sale in 2017 for $120 000. 

What might appeal to people who have most of what they want?  Perhaps something only they, in the entire world, can own.  Which is what Roja has done with By Appointment, which one can only sniff by invitation – how’s that for tapping into your audience’s emotional desires?  

“I decided to create a scent that only one person in the world can ever own.”

Although his 6-figure fragrance remains unsold, he knows the desires of his clients and the boundaries (or lack of) of their spending power. 

The emotional desires of my clients are much humbler; they want some recognition, they want their story told, an audience or a voice on the digital stage.  

Your emotional value should match the emotional desires of your client; there lies your audience.

What are your clients’ emotional desires?

3. Value Is Transferrable 

Between his general-sale perfume design and his bespoke client services, Roja’s skill, his ability to create nirvana-inducing scents is transferrable, which means he has access to a range of clients.

Value is intangible; it’s what your customer perceives your product is worth to their life, and it is therefore transferrable into different products.  

In the classic business book Blue Ocean Strategy, the authors suggest looking beyond your current customers to see where else your products or services could be used. The same principle applies to value. 

Who else could use the value that you create for your customers?  Can you make a product or package to fulfil this need or rework a service?

4. Think of your future value

While a bespoke perfume design probably isn’t on the list of priorities for most of us, the service does last for a long time; it has consistent future value. 

In our highly disposable and commoditised lifestyles, there is additional kudos in thinking beyond the end of your sale or service for your customer.  

How long can you deliver value after your sale is made?; this is the opposite ethos of trying to squeeze every penny from your customers. It shows integrity and can inspire trust, and it might not cost you anything.

I bought a digital course from a writer a couple of years ago and had trouble with my login after a few months. I turned to the author, and they said they couldn’t help. The point of interest ended when they made the sale, and their value for me also finished because I couldn’t use the course. 

I wouldn’t buy another course from them or recommend anyone else because of limited future value.

Can you link your services or product to future value for your customers and think beyond the sale?  

5. Focus on value over gimmicks 

The world of overpriced perfume is awash with gimmicks to try and convince you to buy their product.  With every bespoke package bought, Floris has offered you the company of Edward Bodenham, a 9th generation Floris family member who will guide you through the process.  9th generation? Really? Say who now? Clive Christian, whose No 1 Imperial Majesty (seriously) was the world’s most expensive perfume in 2006, is supposed to have delivered his fragrance by Bently. 

On the other hand, Roja doesn’t seem to offer any gimmicky marketing tactics because he knows his value and focuses on delivering that to his strange clients. For example, when he first launched Roja’s Parfums in Harrods, he did so with no marketing budget at all, claiming to be the top-selling perfume within six months.  

As a small business, you are most likely very time poor, so getting carried away with things that detract from your value because they’re convenient or easy could be a big mistake. Instead, sort out your value; understand it, name it, price on it before getting tempted into distracting gimmicks.  

6. Value Is Non-Negotiable 

As a final point, once you understand your value, it often isn’t worth negotiating on.  Your ideal clients want what you’re offering; they want that emotional value, they want you to help with those desires.

While I would never consider spending £25 000 on perfume, the services I use are based on my understanding of their value, and I don’t tend to try and lower the price. On the flip side, my best projects never involve negotiating because the client and I have a shared understanding of the value that working together will bring.  

Good luck with your small business. I hope you’ve found this read inspiring. If you’re curious about hearing more about the emotional value and the spectrum, take a look at my Blue Ocean Strategy blog for small businesses and startups.  

Thanks for reading. I hope I’ve given you the starters for how to use storytelling in business.  I’m a copywriter and storyteller helping my clients get creative with their content. If you want a professional pair of hands to help create your story, drop me a line here.

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