Posts Tagged ‘seth godin’

What is your “donut hole?”

December 27, 2008

Joanne and I were in Chicago this last week.  On a bitter cold morning we planned to have breakfast at the famous Lou Mitchell’s restaurant.  After walking several blocks, fighting the cold, we finally found this place, started as a family restaurant in 1923.  One day in 1958, someone decided to give out donut holes to the people waiting in line to get in.  The response was such that they have never stopped.  Now 50 years later that is still their magic formula.  Trust me, the place is nothing fancy – it’s in an unattractive part of town, in the bottom of an old office building, and they cram you in long tables where you’ll be rubbing shoulders with people you’ve never met before.  But the magic continues – while other restaurants with big names are struggling, you always have to wait in line at Lou Mitchell’s. 

I saw that some customers expressed gratitude for the gesture but refused the donut holes.  Others took one and occasionally someone would eat two while waiting.  I would guess that this little magic costs them less than $.05 per customer.  But the intrigue of that one little difference seems to drive business success that others dream of.

What’s the “donut hole” in your business?  I loved seeing Lou Mitchell’s because several years ago we added 48 peppermint candies to all package orders going out of  I intended to use that as a 30-day promotion.  However, the response was so amazing we have never discontinued it.  People notice – we tell them to eat one a day and expect to enter a new season of life on the 49th day.  In a business where 10-12% returns are expected, ours are non-existent. 

As you can see, your unique selling proposition (USP) doesn’t have to be rocket science, high tech or expensive.  But if you have a product or service to offer, what could you do to remarkably set you apart from the competition?  Or as my friend Seth Godin wrote, what could you do to have a  Purple Cow in a world of brown cows?

Meet me out back, Dude!

July 5, 2008

To survive in today’s business economy you better be willing to be creative.  Anyone can make a hamburger, sell t-shirts, or provide web and email services.  But McDonalds, Threadless and GoDaddy have set themselves apart from the competition by being creative.  Here’s another example.  We all know the airlines are struggling – with many already in bankruptcy.  But Southwest continues on with profitability.

Here’s a glimpse into their creative culture.  Back in 1996 Stevens Aviation threatened to sue Southwest for using the motto “Just Plane Smart.”  Although Southwest CEO Herb Kelleher is a lawyer, he challenged the CEO of Stevens to an arm wrestling match to settle the issue.  Kelleher lost the 2 out of 3 competition – or did he?  The event created world-wide exposure for the company and is now sometimes referred to as the greatest publicity stunt ever.  It created such good will for both companies that Stevens Aviation agreed to let Southwest use the slogan anyway. 

What are you doing that is creative in your business?   Are you just offering a good service at a fair price?  That may not be enough in today’s workplace.  Seth Godin says you have to do something “remarkable.”  Like having a purple cow in the middle of a herd of Holsteins.  Or arm wrestling your competitor.