I’m about to break an unwritten rule of social media. I’m going to talk about what I had for lunch.

But I’m not going to bore you with a Twitpic and a quip about the chili con carne I brought in Tupperware from last night’s dinner (though it was delicious). I’ll save that for a Tweet or Facebook status. Because the lunch I want to talk about today was the one I served—on a daily basis—back in college. (Hey, it’s Thanksgiving Day, how can I not write about food?)

To those of you who know me well — or have talked to me for more than 35 seconds — you know I managed a sandwich shop during college. It wasn’t just another part-time job where I gave a part-time damn. To me, it was a calling. And it was the first business I ever truly took seriously.

I cared about the cleanliness. I cared about the customers. And I cared about the sandwiches we slung to hungry lunchtime regulars who entrusted us with satiating their appetite on a given day.

We didn’t just view ourselves as people who provided sandwiches, we viewed ourselves as the people who were handing people the only lunch they’d have that day. They only got one lunch, and they shared it with us. They counted on us. They trusted us. They knew that we would deliver. And it was the only reason they kept coming back.

You Only Get One Lunch

sandwiches and marketing

Don't leave a bad taste in their mouths.

Our rallying cry (sometimes a moan) was “they only get one lunch today. Don’t make them regret coming here.” We valued our customer—not just their money and their time—but their quality of life. With the “they only get one lunch today” mantra, innovation was generated on the part of the employees. We wanted to find creative ways to go out of our way to make the customer feel like they made the best decision of their life that day.

Sure, we had corporate best practices we needed to follow, and there were rules and regulations and “ways” we were supposed to do something, but nothing raised the bar like our mantra. Employees would try to out-do each other so they could tell the story of how they made a customer’s day. It wasn’t in the rulebook; it was in the underlying value of what a sandwich can do for someone’s day that drove us. We built a lot of regulars this way, and drove up comparative sales 25% year over year, for all you ROI nerds and haters out there.

Our customers knew that we took their lunch seriously. We weren’t just throwing something together to get them through the line. We wanted to blow them away. We wanted them to have the best damn sandwich they could possibly have.

Real Marketing Makes Them Eat Every Bite, and Come Back For More

Every day, when a reader follows your search engine listing, your link, your social media post, your link in an email newsletter, they’re making a decision to trust you. They trust that your content will—and should be—the best content they’ll consume at that given time.

There are plenty of other places they could be at that moment, but they chose to spend it with you. Don’t make them regret it. Give them something that will fill them up, that they’ll cherish every bite of. That they’ll tell their friends about. Give them the best content they ever had.

And if you can’t do that, you’re probably in the wrong business. You’re probably not going to please everyone all the time, but at least let them know that you’re trying your best to blow them away.

The ones that get it will come back. And that’s how you’ll know you’re doing your job.

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About Andrew Hanelly

Andrew Hanelly

Andrew is SVP, Strategy for McMurry/TMG and for one semester in college, was a sociology major. He writes at Brain on Digital, as @hanelly on Twitter and here on Google+.

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  • http://www.mattsouthern.com Matt Southern

    This was a fun read and a very unique analogy. I wish people like you were serving lunch at my University because I'm sure I would have a much more enjoyable experience :p

    • ahanelly

      Matt, it would have been a blast. Every time a customer came in the door we acted as if we were a host and a good friend just arrived at our party. Sometimes (mostly on late-night shifts), it would even turn into one.

  • http://www.puredriven.com Patrick Garmoe

    Andrew, really enjoyed the blog post. There are a million blogs out there giving a trillion pieces of mediocre information. But at the end of the day, your post succinctly describes what it's all about, both online and offline – doing the best damn job we can for our customers, giving them a reason to care about us, and return.

    Bravo and Happy Thanksgiving,
    Patrick

    • ahanelly

      Patrick – I really appreciate you saying that. And I agree, giving a damn is the key to success. Plus, at the end of the day (or our careers), looking back and knowing you gave it your all really gives you a sense of satisfaction. Caring about what you're doing is what matters; it's noticeable and it's contagious. And customers love it. I'm really missing my old days of slinging sandwiches. Making customers happy really made me happy, and you could tell right away how you were doing. When I'd look out into the dining area and some guy was “making love to his sandwich” (as we called it), we knew we did our job. Pardon the mental imagery.

  • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

    Excellent read Andrew. This attitude is really the secret to success. Rules, regulations and protocols can be found in any notebook, but if someone doesn't GET what your talking about here they will lose business to those that DO GET it.

    It sounds like it would have been an awesome place to work and/or grab a mean pastrami sandwich!

    • ahanelly

      Dude, it would have been the best sandwich of your life. And if you didn't agree, we would have totally hooked you up with a free cookie.

  • ahanelly

    Patrick – I really appreciate you saying that. And I agree, giving a damn is the key to success. Plus, at the end of the day (or our careers), looking back and knowing you gave it your all really gives you a sense of satisfaction. Caring about what you're doing is what matters; it's noticeable and it's contagious. And customers love it. I'm really missing my old days of slinging sandwiches. Making customers happy really made me happy, and you could tell right away how you were doing. When I'd look out into the dining area and some guy was “making love to his sandwich” (as we called it), we knew we did our job. Pardon the mental imagery.

  • ahanelly

    Matt, it would have been a blast. Every time a customer came in the door we acted as if we were a host and a good friend just arrived at our party. Sometimes (mostly on late-night shifts), it would even turn into one.

  • ahanelly

    Matt, it would have been a blast. Every time a customer came in the door we acted as if we were a host and a good friend just arrived at our party. Sometimes (mostly on late-night shifts), it would even turn into one.

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  • UrbaneWay

    Andrew, Thanks

    • ahanelly

      You're absolutely right, Mr. Urbane. Making it all about the customer is the key to any successful business, especially one rooted in customer service.

  • http://www.auto-my.com/auto-parts auto parts stores

    Please, do not tell us all this. If i started like you …. I really do no know what it is happening

    • ahanelly

      I know EXACTLY what you mean …

  • http://www.zmags.com/blog Christina Pappas

    What a cool concept (and analogy) to motivate the group; we only eat one lunch every day. If your readers have time to read one blog post in their day and they choose yours, you should do your best to make sure they were happy with that decision and, most importantly, they come back! This is another great post for the topic on quality vs. quantity. But we do need lunch everyday too…

    • ahanelly

      Thanks for the comment, Christina. I'd love to see a follow-up post on quality versus quantity, especially if it involves food.

  • http://www.wickedinnovations.com/ Jeorge Peter

    It was fun reading and educate me as well of how you should treat marketing

  • http://twitter.com/ruthings Ruth Harper

    Love this post! Thanks for sharing your story, and for sharing it in such an interesting way :) If only more companies and organizations felt this way, the world would be a better place. Customers would be much more satisfied and businesses would get more regular customers (and increased profits!) Authentic caring and kindness is (or will soon be) boss in today's competitive market!

    • ahanelly

      Thanks, Ruth! I think the best organizations do feel and act this way, and I agree with you that this type of mentality will switch from luxury to necessity for businesses who want to retain and grow their customer base. There are too many options for consumers for businesses not to go out of their way to make customers happy. Plus, it makes work so much more fun.

  • http://www.spencerkline.com Spencer Kline

    I agree and I think a lot can be learned about marketing from the food service/hospitality industry! The spread of social media has really allowed marketing to get back to its roots. Nothing sells a product quality and care. Great post!

    • ahanelly

      If you liked the post, you would have loved the sandwiches, Spencer. Just kidding (sort of). At the end of the day, products should make people feel good. Customer service can really assist in doing that. Thanks for the comment!

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  • http://refynr.com Aaron Longnion

    I have sooooo much to learn about marketing and learning from customers, so thanks for the article!

    • http://www.hanelly.com hanelly

      Thank you for reading!

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