The Washington Post featured an interesting post mortem on a company called Spoonful of Sin that seemed to have everything going for it; a catchy name, a good website, a niche and a large untapped market…but there is more to marketing than meets the eye.
What is interesting about this story is that the entrepreneur agreed to talk about the failed
venture and it provides valuable insight into how tenuous success is for start-ups. Few people are willing to admit their failures and I respect the entrepreneur for her candidness and sharing some valuable lessons.
Kelly Harman who runs a successful technology marketing firm called Zephyr Strategies got the idea for her new venture Spoonful of Sin after a big Italian dinner in New York City, when all she wanted was a small dessert and some coffee to top it off. The restaurant was offering giant-sized desserts only. Apparently Kelly came out of the restaurant and said to herself, ‘All women want is a spoonful of sin.’ I fell in love with the idea of the name and the brand ‘Spoonful of Sin’ and the venture was born.
According to the article Harman did some homework, attending food and candy shows, networking with women’s business groups, talking up her idea in her monthly wine group. She visited bakeries and then followed customers out the door, peppering them with questions on what they would pay for desserts. She learned that $25 was the tipping point between what people would pay for a monthly dessert.
You should read the story for all of the details, but here are the lessons that we can learn from Spoonful of Sin.
- Marketing is about turning a want into a need. If people don’t need your product or service it will be the first thing they stop buying or using when the economy slows as it did in this case.
- You need more than a good idea and a splashy start-up to be successful. Conduct as much market research as possible to determine if your concept is considered nice or necessary. In this case was there a pent up demand for this service that was not being met.
- Starting a business that depends on tapping into discretionary spending will take more time and money than starting a business that solves a problem for consumers.
By the way the website and name are for sale if you think you have an idea that will work in the place of desserts.
My list of failures include the Blackcomb Computer Camp for Children, two web search engine concepts and a goodie bag concept to name a few.
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