I wrote this post in mid-March, just as the effects of the pandemic began keeping us home. It was pretty obvious to me at that point that life for all of us was going to be very different for a while and I had an unusual thought to go with the unusual times. Originally called “Quit Selling,” this was the most-read post I wrote this past year (18% more views than #2). It’s been 9 months and I still think it’s not a bad idea. What do you think?
What the heck do you do when everything changes in a couple of weeks? I fell behind reading my daily newspapers and as I was catching up it dawned on me that nearly everything I was reading related to a world that really didn’t exist a week later. The sports sections were previewing games and events that will never take place. Forget the numbers and analysis on the financial pages. Even the front pages dealt with topics that now seem so unimportant.
People can’t travel. You can’t really go out to eat or hang out with friends. Who could ever have imagined that the bars would be closed on St. Patrick’s Day as they were here and in many other places. Those are just a few examples of the devastating impact this pandemic has caused and the businesses that can survive this will be badly damaged. Many others won’t survive at all.
So If you’re a businessperson what can you do? May I offer a radical thought?
Quit selling. I’ve received many emails from companies that are behaving as if nothing is different. They’ve not changed their tactics or messaging at all. Others have done even worse by trying to capitalize on this global tragedy. Not only do I find these messages offensive but I’m making mental notes never to buy from those businesses again.
Everyone is suffering losses of some sort. Some folks are out of work completely with no income at all. Others are trying to work from home while schooling or at least amusing their kids. My parents who are in an assisted living facility can’t leave their room. Meals are sent up and there is no socialization. I think it’s the right course of action but I feel horrible for them and the other residents. People have had to cancel vacations and weddings. Others can’t attend funerals of loved ones. Everything has changed.
So quit selling. Recognize that now isn’t the time. If you give any sort of credence to the notion that you need to love your customers, love them now by asking how you can be helpful. Ask what you can do for them and not what you can sell them. There will be plenty of time for that when things return to whatever normal will become.
Maybe it’s a radical thought but these are times that call for radical thinking, don’t you think?
Let’s consider, this Foodie Friday, the so-called savory cookie. I don’t know about you but when I think of cookies I think about sweet or maybe even salty/sweet. Savory is not an adjective that comes to mind and yet savory cookies are, apparently, a thing.
There’s a temptation here to revert to the “is a hot dog a sandwich” question we pondered in this space not long ago. When you look at what’s in many of them – flour, sugar, butter – they read like most cookies. It’s the addition of the savory items – herbs, cheese, more salt – that transforms them. Of course, biscuits (in the Southern sense) and crackers have the same butter/sugar/flour components as well, so why are these cookies and not crackers or biscuits?
I’m not here to debate if these cookies are, well, cookies. Instead, I’d like us to think for a minute about our need to label them. Notice how when you affix a label – in this case, cookie – you also affix a stereotype (cookies are sweet!). That’s our business point today.
I’ve found that people tend to label other people. The marketing guy. The accounting gal. The reality is that placing labels on people, or stereotyping them, results from making general assumptions about an individual with little or no personal knowledge about them. I’m an older guy. What could someone my age possibly know about social media marketing or technology? Bad assumption, by the way. Phrases like “OK, Boomer” are manifestations of a stereotype. So is thinking that a woman with children is less devoted to her work and career than a single man. While some blondes may, in fact, be dumb, so are quite a few folks with dark hair.
Labeling people is counterproductive. It may cause you to make assumptions about assigning work, partnering in projects, or buying from someone. I once had a boss who gave me a raise that was lower than my older peers because “what does a kid (I was 26, my peers were in their 40s) need with that kind of money?” I was the savory cookie and he had no clue what exactly to call me so he called me a kid, a kid who obviously shouldn’t be paid like his adult peers.
I’m keeping an open mind about savory cookies. You should too, just like you should keep an open mind about the people you meet in business. Very few of us fit into stereotypical pigeonholes. I don’t. Do you?
It’s Foodie Friday and even though it’s November, it’s also Masters weekend. For any golf fan, The Masters Tournament is one of the highlights of the year and since we had to wait an additional 7 months for it this year, it’s even more special. While it’s always been a harbinger of Spring and the golf season to come, this year it’s wrapping up the year and it’s very different. No azaleas, no patrons (fans, to you), and, I’m told, none of the food that makes the Masters experience so unique.
If you’ve never been, this event is unique for many reasons. The biggest unique thing is that it is exceptionally fan-friendly when it comes to food. You see, the folks who put this tournament on are really not all that interested in making a ton of money off of their patrons. Unlike, say, the US Open Tennis, where a sandwich will set you back close to $20, a sandwich here costs $1.50. Not a typo, and the egg salad and the pimento cheese sandwiches are the stuff of legend. The sausage biscuit you’d pay $4 at Bojangles is also $1.50.
Ask any fan who has attended the tournament and I’m willing to bet you that they’ll mention the food, maybe even before they talk about the golf. A Georgia Peach Ice Cream Sandwich ($2) is so good that folks have been known to smuggle dry ice onto the grounds to take several home with them.
What makes the food so good? Well, first, it’s very simple. No fancy burgers. The most expensive food item is the $4 Bar-B-Que (that’s how it’s listed) sandwich. It’s not great barbecue but it’s still pretty tasty. Egg salad, pimento cheese, turkey clubs, and a chicken sandwich – all very basic. You could make everything they serve at home quite easily. The difference is it’s all really good, and because it doesn’t cost a month’s rent, I think whatever small shortcomings there might be are overlooked. You can buy the entire menu for the price of the fancy burgers sold at many places and several beers here for the price of one at any stadium. It’s simple and it’s great.
It’s a good lesson for any of us in business. Consumers are looking for great value (Walmart’s house brand is called that for a reason!) and when the product is not only a decent price but also is really good, you’ve got a winner. This food solves the “I’m hungry” problem exceptionally well. We all need to identify the problem we’re solving and do so better than anyone else. If we can do it at a great price, it’s game over.
I’ll make pimento cheese to watch the tournament and maybe some egg salad too. It’s won’t be the same as being in Augusta and maybe not as good (food always tastes better at the game, don’t you think?). It will remind me that The Masters is my favorite golf tournament for more reasons than the golf. How can you have your customers thinking that way about you?