It’s not about the donuts

One of the biggest mistakes business people make is thinking they know what their customers want, but not really knowing. This is easy to do. And it happens more often than we like to admit.

A few years ago, Krispy Kreme stormed the the Minneapolis-St. Paul area like a blizzard in February. Their little donut factories popped up here and there. Not on every street corner but enough that should the urge grab you, you could get to one without disrupting your entire day.

It was amazing hearing about the lines of people waiting for their fresh hot Krispy Kremes. Almost overnight the brand achieved cult-like status. Their power over people was scary. For months that’s all people talked about. (Okay maybe that’s an exaggeration but it was a hot topic for awhile.)

Then, the company made a strategic change that crashed headfirst into their business model. And I think it accelerated their demise.

They started selling their donuts in gas station convenience stores.

I have nothing against C-stores. I like them. They’re a great American institution. But they cannot offer what the Krispy Kreme bakery offered. They could sell Krispy Kreme donuts. But they could not sell hot fresh Krispy Kreme donuts.

And that’s what the company missed.

When you let the Krispy Kreme donuts cool, you wrap them, truck them and stock them in stores all over the city, they become just donuts. Nothing special. They lost something in the transition. Customers never lined up at 6:30 am to buy cold, plastic-wrapped donuts at the local corner gas station.

But they did line up at 6:30 am to buy fresh hot, just-out-of the-oven Krispy Kreme donuts.

And there’s the key. People bought an experience. They were willing to invest their time, money and inconvenience to get that experience. That’s what the Krispy Kreme brand was all about. That’s what their customers wanted.

Think about your business.

What are your customers really buying from you? Do they want donuts (which anyone can sell)? Or are they buying hot, fresh from the oven donuts that taste unlike anything else? What do you (or can you) offer them that meets their desires better than anyone else?

If you know what this is, stick with it. If you don’t, ask your customers and keep asking until you get it right.

The article was written by Kevin Stirtz