What Sandwiches Taught Me About Marketing

by Andrew Hanelly |

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.

About the Author

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+.