The important thing to remember about desserts, and life.

Early this week I had dinner with an entrepreneur in Saint Paul. He’s a real go-getter. He fills his time with major initiatives that over time will lead to remarkable results. He is hyper-ambitious, hyper-hardworking, hyper-productive. Which makes me feel like I am not trying very hard at life.

My guy has been working on a new startup. The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, has been helping him with marketing, packaging, design, and all the other things a startup needs to look like a well-established business. #theygrowupsofast

The Dessert

The product is an interesting and novel dessert. (Remember, 2 S’s means a sweet treat, not a dry sandy place.) I asked him how things were going. He shared that almost everything was going well. Suppliers, facilities, equipment, funding, prospects, and strategy were all in place. There was just one challenge. The product was just ok.

To be clear, he started with a great product. But they have been experimenting to find the perfect combination of price, shelf-life, and manufacturing process. It’s the type of stuff that makes a viable business product less fun than the ideal product you would make for yourself.

Other people who were with us who had tried the latest version of the product were supportive and said that they liked it, and shared that other people had liked it too. My guy shook off the support and noted that they had recently performed taste-test research, and the results were just ok. Because like Shakira’s hips, tastebuds don’t lie.

Not Good Enough

The great problem is that when you are creating desserts, okay doesn’t cut it. Desserts have to be worth the splurge. The taste has to be worth the cost. And the experience has to be worth the calories.

A just-okay dessert is a failure. Like 38 Special, it won’t get a second chance. It has to rate as good at a minimum. Ratings of great, amazing, indulgent, to-die-for, and better-than-sex mean you have a winner.

Key Takeaway

Unless you are trying to be the low-price option, evaluate your products and services as if they were desserts. Good is the starting point. Don’t expect any repeat business or happy customers until you get to great or better. Make your offering worth the money. It’s the only way to make the work you put in worth it.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

How to make anything popular, like Studio 54.

I would love to have partied at Studio 54. But I couldn’t get in. I blame it on the fact that I was only 3 years old when Studio 54 first opened. To find out what I what I missed, I recently watched Studio 54 The Documentary on Netflix. In the late 1970s this iconic New York City discotheque achieved legendary status as the greatest night club of all time. It was swarmed by celebrities, fashion icons, musicians and taste makers of all sorts. Every night huge crowds gathered at the club’s velvet ropes, trying to get inside (inside the club, not inside the rope).

Studio 54, or Studio as the insiders called it, generated demand that was off the charts. Absolutely everyone wanted to get in. The club was able to extract a cover charge of $14, which was like the cost of a nice hotel room in those days. Studio 54 was also in the enviable position of being able to decide who they let in, who they charged for admission, who they comped, and who they treated like a VIP.

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Generating The Demand

When asked how the club had achieved this unheard of demand, co-owner Steve Rubell had a simple response:

You have to build a nice mousetrap to attract the mice. – Steve Rubell co-owner of Studio 54

Building A Nice Mousetrap

Studio 54 started with the end in mind. They wanted to attract the most and best mice. So they worked hard to discover what the mice wanted. In their prior clubs, including The Enchanted Garden in Queens, owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager experimented to find the winning combination of music, ambiance and design. They also experimented with the patron population to learn which type of crowd would attract the best crowd.

This nice mousetrap approach can be applied to anything designed to attract customers, clients, members, attendees or participants. Always start with the mice. Understand all you can about the people you are trying to attract. Know their wants, needs and desires. Then build those into your offering. The nicer the mousetrap, the more effective it will be at attracting and catching mice. You’ll know you’ve got it right when you have willing customer lined up, demanding you take their money. Until then, keep perfecting the mousetrap.

Key Takeaway

Do your homework. Understand your audience and give them what they crave. Put in the necessary work during the discovery phase to study them. Then build their desires into your offering. Make sure the most attractive elements are highly visible and well understood. Popularize what you have created so that the word spreads. And watch the mice come running to your velvet ropes.

*If you ever got into Studio 54 I want to hear about it! Please leave your story in the comment section.

**Don’t do drugs, or have unprotected sex with people you just met at a discotheque.

***Also, remember to pay your taxes. Or else you can create the greatest club in the history of the world, but you will have to shut it down 3 years later and go to jail. #majorbuzzkill.

****And why discotheque and not just disco?