Life is a Business – Chapter 37

A series of essays on the past, the present, and the future

Back in the early 20th Century, bakeries, butcher shops and barbershops were on every block in the cities. Even small towns had them on “Front Street”, in the main business blocks. These local merchants were a vital part of the community and known by all as either very good or they moved on to other towns if their customer service was lacking. The smartest marketers were always the bakers – they invented the term “Baker’s Dozen”, which is simply 13 pieces for the price of 12! Now, they weren’t giving you anything…it was built into their business plan as part of the costs in order to build goodwill and brand loyalty. Down in Louisiana, it is called lagniappe…just a little extra present given to a customer, or unexpected bonus.

What is the real value of the gesture? It’s not the cost savings or good deal at all; it’s making the customer feel special and unique in his/her place in your business success. Those few extra doughnut holes or stew meat slipped into your bag with a nod and wink from the clerk who is acting like you are doing something naughty that the other customers in line should not see makes it all the more special. You are getting SPECIAL treatment not available to everyone!  When you turned to leave, he likely performed the same act for each regular patron who came in, plus anyone he suspected would become a regular with a little stroking. This is where all the retail loyalty cards originated, along with all the frequent flyer programs, credit card “miles”, special customer sales, etc. That little baker with flour all over his arms invented an entirely new industry doing what was common sense to his survival.

My Grandfather, John Legg was a successful restaurateur, visionary and marketer. He was the first to blow the kitchen vent out onto the sidewalk to make walkers hungry; he invented “breakfast anytime”; he marketed his bowl of pinto beans, cornbread and onion to truckers as “500 Mile Beans…they will blow you from Chicago to Miami…”.  His genius in creating value was to give a large slice of ham, but thin; he bought slightly smaller diameter plates so the waitress had to tuck the ham back up on the plate as she set it down on the table. The same amount of food on a smaller plate seems like so much more!

These simple principles apply to even the Fortune 500 companies; for they are all comprised of people, people who want to feel like they got special value for their companies from vendors. If you want to build brand loyalty, follow the baker’s rules:

“Here’s you a little bit extra…don’t tell anybody…come back to see us and bring a friend…Thanks for your business!

The customers feel personal equity in the success of the baker and proud to have contributed to his enterprise’s growth…so do Metalworking Solutions’ customers.

Thank You!

By Bill Hewgley