Everyone needs to know how to sell balloons

Do you sell the perfect product?

(Or, do you understand the meaning of balloons?)

I drove past a sign yesterday that announced ‘balloon and party shop 200m ahead’.

I am hazarding a guess here, but that is a business that will be struggling (already or very soon.)

And it is not the desperate act of nailing a hand-written poster to a random tree that gives me that idea.

I wonder if they understand what business they are in.

What is a balloon? It is really not much more than air (gas) wrapped by a piece of colourful plastic (latex). As far as products go, I cannot think of many products that are simpler or a product that is easier/better to retail.

The margins are decent

Suppliers are plentiful

There is very little labour involved – even that is often outsourced to the customer

The product does not change/date or perish easily and is not subject to fads

Whilst all of the above are good reasons to demonstrate why balloons are great retail products, the purpose of looking at balloons is that they clearly illustrate why people buy certain products

Clearly customers do not buy pieces air-filled, coloured latex.

People buy memory-making tools. People buy things that create  ambience.

I realise that reads like a wank, but it makes the point very clear: it is not what the product it is what the product does.

Think about this: not what the product is, but what it does.

People don’t buy gold when they buy a wedding ring.

People don’t buy a legal agreement when they buy a lotto ticket.

These examples are easy to understand, but people then often have difficulty to translate that for their own products.

If people don’t buy a drill bit, what are they buying?

If people don’t buy a steak burger, what are they buying?

Too many retailers think about their products in terms of margins, simplicity and risk. Balloons would make great retail sense if that is what mattered.

But what really matters is whether you understand what your market really wants to buy (e.g. ‘memory-making tools’) and whether you have the knowledge, skills and attitude to merchandise and market those products accordingly?

If you are selling steak but people are buying sizzle, you are doomed for failure.