It's taken us a while to figure out who we are, who we sell to and more importantly why people buy from us. In the early days of business you are so caught up with the shiny bits like 'wow, that's my branding on that bag' that you don't really get chance to sit back and analyse it. Or more importantly, you don't really twig why you should analyse it. There you are with a shop full of beautiful things that you adore, so why shouldn't shoppers adore them too? But, that only works if your shoppers are exactly like you!
We twigged a few weeks ago that our USP or unique selling point is the stories behind the product. In reality there are hundreds of fantastic photographers selling up and down the country so why buy ours? The reason is that we can tell you who took it, the giggle he had trying to set up a tripod in the snow and the daft sheep that were trying to escape while he balanced on the gate. And, we can tell you his name, point out the track across the field he takes to get to us and the fact that it turns out he taught one of my friends at school. Now you start to get our USP - and we can do that for all our products.
I was taught a long time ago by a fantastic PR guru the importance of connection, but didn't realise the importance of this till now. People buy from people and love being able to chat and meet the makers. We have a really unique service because we can say 'hang on, I'll call and see if they're in and able to pop down for a chat' when the customer asks 'is it possible to make that slightly bigger?'. And while the customer goes across to the cafe for a coffee, the maker will trundle down to meet them. Now, that's customer service by the Hippos!
The other thing that comes back to us loud and clear and on a regular basis is that our crafters love meeting up with each other, they like being part of the Hippo family as we have now become. Our last craft fair on Sunday was full of hugs and 'how lovely to see you again' along with the err bribery of cake so that I would put people next to each other! We seem to be gaining a really fabulous bunch of happy makers that all share, get along really well and the amount of pitching in for gazebos by committee is fantastic.
We see these building blocks as more important than the till receipts. Get the foundations right, create a happy experience for everyone and people will come back for the next story - and they do! We have a real core of returning shoppers now eager to see what new stuff has been made. They have a sit, and then tell us stories they know and the spider web of connections is becoming so interwoven that it's now a patchwork of people and stories with overlapping seams everywhere. The day job has shifted - I am now a storyteller of journeys :)