Many aspiring entrepreneurs have attempted to reinvent products, from cupcakes to pizza to coffee, which are considered commodities. Some have met with astonishing success -- Starbucks being a notable example -- while others have fallen flat. So what are the important ingredients in a successful reinvention?
I was asked that question as one of the recent guests on MSNBC Your Business, a news show that focuses on helping small-business owners. We offered analysis of a story about the success of The Meadow, an artisan salt shop with locations in Portland, Ore., and New York. While salt is perceived as just another everyday condiment, The Meadow co-owners Jennifer and Mark Bitterman sprinkled some ingenuity into their gourmet salt shop that is drawing in the customers.
While their reinvention is specific to salt, the strategies they implemented to transform the perception of a commodity can work in just about any business. Here are three of the ways the Bittermans found success in reinvention. Consider how you can apply them to your small business.
1. Tell the story behind your product. Mark Bitterman was enjoying a trip to France when he discovered artisan salts during a savory French meal -- and it’s a delightful story he shares with customers time and time again. Creating an emotional one-on-one connection through a story, while weaving in the history of artisan salts, has kept foodies coming back. The Meadow also dishes salt stories and recipes on its website and blog, Salt News. Entire books on the history of salt are also available for sale.
2. Create a shared experience around the product. Aside from recounting salt tales to customers, the Bittermans bring foodies together in a shared experience by hosting salt tastings at its shops. Previous events have ranged from unique sweet-and-savory pairings to events designed with the culinary professional in mind. The Bittermans have learned that if you bring customers together for a shared experience, you're more likely to create an emotional attachment to your product, which can breed loyalty and boost sales.
3. Introduce the product to industry influencers. The Meadow doesn't advertise and instead relies on word-of-mouth marketing to build credibility among its foodie customers. One way it has done that is through winning over some top chefs of upscale restaurants, which have not only raved about The Meadow's artisan salts, but also become product evangelists.
Editor's note: The MSNBC Your Business episode that includes the segment on The Meadow, along with more analysis, will re-air on Sat. July 18th at 5:30 a.m. EST.