The “what” of what do you do?

What do you do? This is a common enough question. We all get asked this at some point in our lives and the answer seems straight forward.

However, as simple as the question appears, we know that the questions people really want you to answer include:

  • What type of work do you do?
  • What business are you in?
  • Are you well connected/well networked?
  • Are you worthy of my time?
  • Should I pay any attention to you?
  • Would you be useful to me?
  • Do you know anyone who might be useful to me?
  • Where should I place you on the socioeconomic ladder?

Many people will answer this question by describing what they do, how they add value etc. Some may even tell funny stories and anecdotes as a way of making their answers memorable. But it may or may not adequately address your worth or the perception of your worth.

As a human your body parts are worth at least a billion. Your intellect, skills, expertise, individuality, unique personality and achievements also give you added value.

What you sell vs what people buy from you.

Sometimes what you do may be the same as what you sell. However if you are running a luxury business, there is a difference between what you sell and what people buy from you. It is the difference between selling a service and buying an experience or a feeling. This is where luxury business mastery comes in. It is looking at what you do, what you sell and what people buy from you holistically.

Your luxury business should deliver on some or all the following:

Excellence: the quality of your product or service is a given and it is non negotiable. For a product, it starts from the sourcing of materials, the level of skill, expertise and craftsmanship dedicated to creating a piece to its presentation. Consistency is always maintained, no matter what. If it’s a service, the portrayal of trust and professionalism using the language of luxury is key as the relationship between a luxury supplier and luxury client is not just a transactional one.

Experience: This is the why for a lot of luxury clients. The “why” they chose you. The “why” they will buy from you and the “why” they will become your repeat clients and even recommend you. The experience you create for them has to be well planned and well thought out. Your knowledge, skill, personal style, language and comportment are some of the absolutely vital components required to deliver an unforgettable client experience.

Rarity: Rarity and exclusivity are bed fellows. Many luxury brands actively limit products numbers or access to products in order to preserve exclusivity. This in turn drives up demand which then drives up value. Think of the Hermes waiting list for the Birkin.

Customisation: Taking the time to personalise a product or service is one of the basic expectations of luxury clients. However, the movement is now towards a level of customisation and hyper individualisation that breeds true exclusivity without the couture price tag. The FENDI Peekaboo range is a great example of this. They offer you the choice of customising your handbag handle, finishes, colour and you can even have your initials engraved on it.

Timelessness: Heritage, classics and enduring quality are important hallmarks of many luxury brands. Heritage is often a draw and a source of the reverence that leads to the long term gratification that many luxury collectors seek.

Gratification: In a world driven by instant gratification, when it comes to luxury clients, they don’t just seek to be satisfied but to be gratified for the long term. Studies have shown a direct correlation between a self esteem boost and the emotional fulfillment derived from purchasing a luxury item. This experiential and the emotional high cannot be quantified enough as it is often the allure of a luxury purchase. There is often a build up beforehand as the luxury client is tantalised and their excitement and engagement grows while they imagine the experience and fulfilment to come.

Expensiveness: There are many very expensive items out there. But not all expensive items are classified as luxury. The price attached to luxury products is all about perceived value and luxury products naturally have a higher price ticket. Luxury products are by their very nature expensive due to the time, money, creativity and energy devoted to their creation. The client is paying for a status symbol, consumer experience, quality, self esteem boost and exclusivity.

Honesty: A lot has been said about the trickling down and democratisation of luxury. But in all honesty, true luxury is aspirational and it’s not supposed to be affordable. There is an openness about the fact that not everyone will have access to a luxury service or product.

If you can indeed deliver on some of these luxury business desirables as a small business, you will definitely awaken your worth and be in a position to charge what you believe your products and services deserve.

Elizabeth Solaru is the founder of The Luxury Business Emporium. She is passionate about luxury business development and can be contacted at