Alligator Sausage & What It Taught Me

A few years ago, my daughter played in a softball tournament in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  Although we homeschool our children, Idaho’s public school system welcomes home schooled kids into their sports programs. It’s been a wonderful experience, and our children have been warmly welcomed by their teammates. Of course, it helps that they are great athletes!

The stakes were high – whoever won the next game would play in the State Championship!  When my daughter came to bat, she nailed the ball, a real screamer to right field.  She made it to home plate, scoring the tying run as she went.  Our team went on to win the game.  Gentry came home with MVP honors… we couldn’t be more proud!

That evening, I learned a valuable lesson.

After watching seven hours of softball, we were hot, sticky, tired, and badly sunburned.  We didn’t feel like going out for supper.  We decided to order pizza, and asked the front desk if they had any suggestions.

pizza schmizzaBoth front desk clerks immediately and enthusiastically suggested the local Pizza Schmizza (honest, that was its name). They both began to rave about the wonderful pizza, great sauces, and gourmet toppings.  Not only did Pizza Schmizza offer traditional pizzas, they even included spicy Thai options, even alligator sausage!

“How did you hear about them?” I had to ask.

They responded, “Each week, the owners bring us pizza for our break.”

AHA!

Front desk clerks at a hotel are often great sources of information for weary travelers.  They are often asked for recommendations on restaurants, local entertainment, and more.  By giving free pizza, Pizza Schmizza increased sales. Your lesson? twoFind out who your prospective customers connect with, and reward the middleman.

But I can hear the objections now.  “Why should I give my product away for free?  I need to make money like everyone else, so they should pay like everyone else!”

You are thinking too small.  Free samples do not cost much in the grand scheme of things.  That small cost will be meaningless once your product gets into the right hands.

Now, I am sure that Pizza Schmizza has given away dozens of pizzas to front desk clerks in the area.  But what a marketing strategy! Sure, not all the front desk clerks will recommend Pizza Schmizza.  But some clerks recommend them, and very highly too.

There is a risk that someone may copy your product, then present it as their own.  The copycats are everywhere.  But your business isn’t just about the product… you provide great follow-up, and even offer higher-end merchandise to customers who want more (or, as we say in the biz, you’ve got a “killer back end”). That will keep your loyal customers coming back!

So learn a lesson from Pizza Schmizza on business promotions and marketing ideas – offer free samples to strategic people who will spread the word.  Your business will grow and prosper, and you’ll be happy you did!

Stephen Beck

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