Wheaton IL a suburb of Chicago this past November opened its first Chick-fil-a in the area to much fanfare.. Long lines, people sleeping out overnight to be the first customers and a chance to win free food for a year. They drove from as far away as Florida to celebrate this grand daddy of grand openings. The famous corporate cow that implores people to "Eat more chikin", was there high fiving and welcoming customers. The Chicago Radio and T.V. market picked up the story. Chick-fil-a was all over the news - free advertising! And before they even opened they were at school sporting events passing out 13,000 plus free sandwiches. I who is an expert when it comes to heart attacks in a sack lunches had never heard of this franchise but in my old age preferring the quieter more calm moments in life I avoided the grand opening believing the novelty would soon be gone and I could enjoy a nice meal without all the fuss.
So this past Monday on the way back from an appointment I decided I would pull into this joint and check out what all the hoopla was all about. I even decide instead of my ordinary drive-thru eat in car, while puffing my cigar, and texting I was going to venture in, grab myself a table, and do a little eating and people watching. Just to see exactly what was so special, what set this place apart from the Wendy's, McD's and our local favorites. The parking lot was full and the new fallen snow didn't help much, I almost decided to keep on going, but a space opened up by the door so I parked and went on in... I found a clean place with a friendly staff ready to serve you. Big place even had kids play area complete with balls and hamster tubes. I ordered my chicken sandwich and started looking for a table. The place was packed, I got lucky and found a nice high table in the corner where I could sit, eat, and watch. It seemed people would take their last bite and someone would ask if they were done eating and could they take their table. For 11:30 on a Monday morning that was impressive. The food it was hot, good quality, chicken juicy, waffles fries good (though I prefer crinkle), but all in all it was a good meal for a fair price. Did it create the got to come back tomorrow and bring the family feeling - nope !
But what was it that packed this place out? It was the perception and their marketing of that perception. It was the SIZZLE not the chicken! As an owner of companies that benchmark their success on sales and the ability to stay in business by growing those sales it got me thinking. What have I done and what am I doing to set us apart from our competition? What makes customers want to do business with us and not thousands of our competitors? We are all licensed and educated in our professions, we all have either strong franchises or local charm to entice our customers, and we all have the ability to make the sale but what in 2011 is going to drive customers to you instead of your competition? I have had some success and yes some failures along the way. One of our marketing gimmicks last year was an unusual stuffed animal called a "Wackymal" that we gave away at expos. I'd get calls weeks after an expo looking for an extra one for a child or grandchild. It was a unique item and different from the pens and stress balls everyone gave away.
We as business owners and individuals are always evolving, we need to improve, update, and continue to market ourselves in new ways. We need to work smarter not harder. We need to develop plans that blend the old proven marketing techniques with the new ever improving techniques. Certainly social media and the internet will continue to play a big role. It is not by accident that when we log into Facebook that the ads to the right are for products and services related to our specific industry.
The question to you is what has worked for you in the past, what will you do to drive customers to your organization, what will set you apart and create that buzz, and what will be your sizzle in 2011? I haven't come-up with my sizzle and I have no magic wand containing magical million dollar answers so don't give away any trade secrets but do share.
I would like to hear your ideas!!!