A little something extra could be the biggest thing you ever do for your business

When I finished reading Stan Phelps’ book “What’s Your Purple Goldfish” last fall, the one thing that I could not stop thinking about was the simple concept of “lagniappe” (pronounced layn-yap) or “a little something extra” that Stan uses throughout his work. It’s a concept that should be applied to many instances of everyday life but is also helping me improve my company one small instance at a time. Stan believes this old Creole concept has the power to transform your business. Defined as “the gift” or “to give more,” lagniappe represents the potential to turn customers into your largest sales force by exceeding their expectations.

Stan Phelps is chief measurement officer and founder of 9 INCH marketing, a North Carolina-based consultancy that works with senior leaders to win loyal customers that are four times as valuable as ordinary customers. He has 20 years of marketing leadership experience with brands such as adidas and PGA Exhibitions. He also spent seven years as chief solutions officer at the award-winning agency Synergy, creating programs for brands such as KFC, M&M’s, Pampers, Starbucks and Walmart.

Stan’s book got my wheels turning about a number of things I could be doing better or a little differently at my agency of about 40 employees. Some of the ideas I thought of don’t require much more time or capital to implement. However, they go a very long way to keep both employees and customers happy and engaged. Stan has hundreds of examples to choose from in his Goldfish series of books and his blog. I’m happy to share some of things I have implemented based on this concept offline if you join me at PRSA’s Counselors Academy conference in Key West beginning May 4, 2014. However, one of the main reasons to come to the conference is to hear from Stan during his keynote presentation and many other thought-leaders in the fields of public relations, marketing and communications.

Simply put, we all should be doing a little extra to not only maintain but expand relationships with clients and employees. We have to invest, not just financially, in growing those two most important groups of stakeholders as opposed to continually chasing the next big thing. I’m not saying that you hang your business development hat in a closet and forget about it, but you could be missing out on a number of opportunities with those you have already built deep and successful relationships with.

Traditional marketing is all about building awareness for products and brands. The emphasis is on getting new customers, and very little attention is paid to retaining existing customers. According to Stan, traditional marketing is dead. Instead, it’s time to focus on retaining customers.

The data backs up Stan’s claim: according Gartner research, decreasing customer churn by just five percent can increase profits by 25 percent to 125 percent. The reason is that it’s expensive to get new customers—it’s much easier and more sustainable to keep your current customers happy and sell them more products or services.

It all boils down to doing that little extra for your customers—like what one Panera store did last summer when it went out of its way to make a bowl of clam chowder, on a day they don’t usually serve it, for a young man to take to his grandmother in the hospital. The story wound up on Facebook and has almost a million likes now!

Panera got great exposure and lots of good will from its simple act of kindness. Going the extra mile for your customers and employees sounds like common sense, but it’s far from common practice.

Stan spent years working on his Goldfish projects and set a goal to collect 1,001 examples of how this concept works. He now has two books in print and a third on the way in May that delves deeper into his goldfish economy concept. I can’t say he’ll get through all of them at the spring conference in Key West but his insight will change you and how you think of marketing your business, internally and externally, forever.

Author: Chuck Norman, APR
Chuck Norman is our Owner & Principal.

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