I was in Orlando for a trade show a few years back. I met up with some friends and the five of us headed to a steakhouse for dinner. It was one of those meals you talk about forever.
I could start with the off-menu ordering of a 20oz Filet Mignon so tender you could almost cut it with a fork. I could mention that three of us foolishly decided to add lobster tails to our entree. I say foolishly because that lobster was as good as if I had been transported to Maine. You couldn’t stop eating it, even after finishing off a perfectly grilled steak.
But the biggest, most pleasant mistake of the evening was ordering dessert. We shouldn’t have. We were all stuffed beyond belief. But someone had told us to make sure we ordered the chocolate fudge cake. At any other meal the five of us might have ordered a couple desserts to split among the table if we ordered dessert at all, but we were already pleasantly full and even considered passing on dessert. On this night we only ordered one. It was the best and worst move of the night.
The slice of cake arrived and it stood almost a foot tall! It was taller than it was wide, three scrumptious layers of the richest, most moist chocolate cake I have ever eaten, with a hint of orange and a chocolate fudge frosting I could have taken a bath in. Thank God we only ordered one because, like the rest of the meal, we couldn’t stop eating it despite how much we had already eaten. I wish, however, that we had ordered a second one to go. I have dreamed about that cake several times since.
You have a meal like that in your memory.
We all have that memory of an experience that went far above and beyond what we expected. The details are burned into our minds, especially that one detail of the most unexpected moment, like when that towering slice of cake arrived. They didn’t have to make that cake that tall. It was so good that an average sized slice would have still been shareworthy. You could argue that they were probably losing money on that cake. I will argue back that they were buying advertising with that cake.
If you ever go to Charley’s Steak House in Orlando, I will tell you that you HAVE to order the cake. So will any others who have done so before. It is hard to order that cake when you’ve just eaten such a huge, wonderful meal, but you will because I told you to. You will because of word-of-mouth of someone who went before you, just as we did because of someone that went before us. Heck, you probably weren’t even planning a trip to Charley’s until I told you to go get the cake.
Think back on your favorite meal in a restaurant. What stands out? You will find that one unexpected surprise, that one detail that you build your entire story around when you tell your friends.
Now ask yourself …
What experience does a customer have in your store that is so unexpected and surprisingly delightful that they will have to tell their friends about it?
That’s how you generate word-of-mouth. You have to have that One. Memorable. Thing. It isn’t something you advertise, it is simply something you do so over-the-top that people have to share it with their friends.
Bonnie Raitt said it best. “Let’s give them something to talk about.”
PS When you do what everyone else does, you don’t get talked about. You just fade into the landscape. Do something different. Do something no other business in your market would even think of doing. If it costs you a little money, think of it as an advertising expense. It pays in the long run. Just think how many times Charley got to add a piece of cake to the bill, not because he advertised it, but because he made it so memorable that I advertised it for him.
One of the best business courses I ever took was a seven course meal at a Michelin 3 star restaurant in France. The off-menu surprises and “just for you” treats from the kitchen made us feel like we were royalty. The cost of these “little things” earns a huge return.
There is definitely a huge ROI for doing those “little things”. I know exactly what you mean. We had another memorable meal on that trip, not because of what the restaurant did, but because of the generosity of the waitress. She not only made us feel like family, she kept the drinks flowing when management tried to cut us off for getting too rowdy by reminding management we were that rowdy the moment we walked in.