This post is republished from my original article on the Amex Open Forum website. It is part of "Small Business Friday" on this blog, where I share ideas and marketing techniques specifically to help small businesses stand out. To read more articles like this, visit the "Small Business Friday" category on this blog.
Stacy's Pita Chips had an unlikely beginning as a business. Starting out as a street vendor in a sandwich cart in Boston, Stacy had a predictable problem. If you sell food on the street and winter in Boston comes around, how do you keep people lined up waiting for their sandwiches instead of skipping the line for a faster option? You can't really serve the food any faster once you get to a certain point of efficiency, so you have to think of something else. Stacy decided to hand out pita chips to her customers as they waited in line to keep them fed and more importantly, to keep them waiting.
It wasn't long before the customer feedback prompted Stacy to just focus on making the pita chips and close the sandwich cart, and most of you reading probably know how that story turned out … with Stacy eventually selling her business to Frito-Lay. So what is the lesson in Stacy's story for any small business, aside from the fact that pita chips can be a surprisingly great business choice? Sometimes your biggest opportunities can come from the smallest things.
The real question you need to ask is whether you are doing enough of the small things to keep your customers engaged and happy, and which of those things you might be able to better leverage for your business. The most common form of this is the free gift with purchase. This is a time honored marketing tactic and the classic example of this is the toy that comes with the Happy Meal.
I recently purchased a printer that had an extra ink cartridge inside as a bonus. It was not advertised on the box and was unexpected, yet finding it somehow made me feel much better about the purchase I had just made. Free gifts are like that – whether expected or unexpected, they offer an emotional surprise that can increase the positive feeling someone has as part of their purchase cycle with your business.
Why is that positive feeling so important? Because once you have made a sale your challenge is not only to make sure that the customer you sold to comes back again and again, but also that they share the experience with others. It is not the sandwich, but the pita chips that Stacy’s first customers talked about. After any kid goes to get a haircut, it is the lollipop that they wait for. Without the lollipop, no parents would bring their kids to get haircuts in your salon.
When it comes to changing your business in the new year, it might be the smallest things you do every day that have the biggest impact – so pay attention to them like Stacy did, and never minimize their impact. You never know where they may lead you.