The art of using bespoke products and services in your business

Jon Boardman, general sales manager, O’Gara Coach Co.

Jon Boardman, general sales manager, O’Gara Coach Co.

Bespoke means custom made, or made to order. The term originally came from custom clothiers — from suits to shirts to shoes; anything someone wears can be made to order for him or her by the right manufacturer.

“Bespoke is the art of being able to modify your production line to do custom paint and leather colors along with many other things,” says Jon Boardman, general sales manager at O’Gara Coach Company.

In addition, how your company operates with each individual that comes in or calls is bespoke. Bespoke can fit into any business, one way or another, he says.

Smart Business spoke with Boardman about made-to-order sales and what that can mean for your customers and business.

How does bespoke work in the luxury car market?

For a normal brand you just get to pick from 10 to 20 exterior colors and five to eight interior combinations. Then, the manufacturer picks where the leather goes and the color of each piece of the interior, while dictating the type of wood that goes with this.
However, Bentley and Rolls-Royce have more than 300 exterior paints and will also mix paint to sample for a client. They offer 28 leather colors for the inside, and upon special request — while staying within the legal guidelines — they will consider doing wild game leather, i.e. ostrich and alligator.

Both Bentley and Rolls-Royce take bespoke to many other levels that people don’t even think of when looking for a new car. They can do custom woods, stains and finishes, such as satin or high gloss. They can incorporate the client’s name in the doorsills, wood veneer and even into the leather. They will inlay precious metals, jewels and shells into the veneer prior to it being installed into a car. For example, one customer request was to make a car’s veneer from a tree in his yard. Yet another option is to have no wood in your vehicle at all and go with turned aluminum or carbon fiber.

The Bentley stand on bespoke is stated as follows: ‘We enjoy working with our customers on their bespoke requests and are only limited by the boundaries of good taste and our ethical and environmental responsibilities.’

What’s the relationship between bespoke and an enhanced customer experience?

Bespoke allows a person to make a vehicle — or any other product — exactly what he or she wants. Whether the customer prefers a black car or a pink car, he or she has the ability to take part in the design of the car.

Why might some business owners consider using this concept for their company?

It is a great way to distinguish your company from the next, even though you are in the same field of business. Anything that gets a client to be more active in his or her purchase can only help everyone involved.

A 2011 Los Angeles Times article pointed toward the accelerating trend for customized products, especially with millennials, those ages 18 to 39. In the article, Alexander Chernev, an associate professor of marketing at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, said by doing it themselves — ‘the Ikea effect’ — customers derive additional value.

Do you have any advice for executives on how to incorporate bespoke best practices?

Bespoke doesn’t have to be used in its traditional meaning. By modifying a customer’s experience with any company or brand you are making his or her experience unique. So, be creative and think outside the box.

A unique and memorable experience will have that person returning to you and speaking highly of your company while he or she is out with friends. You can do many things to thank your customers, from small dinners to event tickets to elaborate parties, anything to make sure you stand out to a client.

Jon Boardman is general sales manager at O’Gara Coach Company. Reach him at (310) 659-4050 or [email protected]

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