If you’re a SpongeBob SquarePants fan, you may remember the episode where SpongeBob and Patrick sold chocolate bars. I revisited it yesterday as my son was watching a random YouTube video and I realised that there are super basic but gold nuggets of business and sales in that episode. Watch it! It’s just 5 minutes.
For you who aren’t familiar with this episode, let me walkthrough you some of the highlights while sharing you the key business lessons you can apply even if you’re just aspiring to get started.
Lesson 1: What To Sell
The episode started with SpongeBob and Patrick reading through Fancy Living magazine and wondering how they can achieve such a life. Squidward said “They’re entrepreneurs. They sell things to people.” Then SpongeBob was in a brainstorming mode and asked Patrick not just what he wants but what he was willing to pay for.
A lot of times, I hear from people who are looking to jump into entrepreneurship for the first time is that they are trying to look for the next best thing. So much so that when they find their business idea being implemented by someone else, the tendency is to get discouraged because someone else beat them to the idea. And this personally, hits close to home for me because this was me.
I would feel bad when I see my old business ideas coming to life and making others rich rather than myself. But then I started to realised that having other people sell the same idea is already a good thing and it is simply because people are already buying it.
In my opinion, originality is overrated especially if you’re just starting out. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still super awesome to create something great from scratch. Keep in mind, it is okay to sell something that is already in the market because the idea is, people are already buying it.
Lesson 2: Creating A Need
One person SpongeBob spoke to ended up selling bags to them instead. Yes, SpongeBob and Patrick were gullible characters but what happened during those conversations? The salesman didn’t talk about how awesome the bags were. He talked about how “No self-respecting entrepreneur should be caught without carrying those bags.”
Then he didn’t even really talk about the practical benefits of having the bags. He sold it to them with the idea of the product bringing them to what they intrinsically wanted, which was to be real and respected entrepreneurs. In marketing, selling and copywriting, it is best to really hone it on what the customers want and how your product or service can get them there.
Lesson 3: People Make Buying Decisions Emotionally
In the episode, the salesman disguised as an injured fish that was also selling chocolates. Then in the end, because they were moved by the fish’s story, they bought more chocolates.
It’s a bad example because it was a fraud and done to deceit others but an example nonetheless. People buy from others and businesses they connect with, especially if the connection involves emotion – the buying transaction transcends merely trading of something more personal. Like with the previous example, using emotions to connect can speak to the individuals intrinsic values which in the end, gets them to take action and buy.
Lesson 4: You Don’t Need A Lot Of Customers
When selling products (online or offline), there’s usually a trap wherein we try to sell our products to everyone. The thinking usually is this – the more volumes you have, the richer you will become.
But the example shown in SpongeBob is nothing but a reality when I compare it with the businesses we’ve worked with and studied. The returns and profits usually come from repeated purchases of existing and loyal customers.
So my recommendation is this – find the specific audiences for your business and focus on them. Provide additional products and services to help out your existing customers, especially those who already given you their trusts. This is similar to the “suki” mentality in the Philippines where we tend to buy more from the people whom we have bought from before assuming the experience is good.
Lesson 5: My Favourite Lesson
Most times, especially with Facebook ads, people dismiss it as not being effective because they run ads, people engage but they don’t buy. But as shown in this episode, just because people don’t buy on the first few contacts doesn’t mean they are not interested.
Yes, most times people may dismiss it, but a lot of times too, people buy after multiple touchpoints. If people engage and they don’t buy, chances are, they are just not ready at the time and that is why it is important to run remarketing campaigns that allow people to move through the customer journey, getting them to buy.
Sometimes, it may take a while, but when it is done right, it can really make a difference.