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Several years ago now I wanted to purchase about 150 gift cards for only $2.00 each to gift a free cup of coffee to a local group. I was disheartened and amazed to find that most retail establishments would not bother with a $2.00 gift card – even if it was for a total sale of $300 for 150 of them. Not only did Starbucks, Borders, and McDonalds tell me no, they weren't particularly friendly or apologetic when we spoke. And Border's left a bad taste in my mouth because they assured me by phone they could do it, and when I arrived there a supervisor told me his “employee was not well trained and it was not possible” with absolutely no apology for wasting my time.
Eventually, I made my way to a nearby Hardee's and the manager there was anxious to help me, seeing the benefit of 150 people potentialy coming by for coffee (and an upsell). To her shock, however, when she tried to process the $2.00 gift cards, she also found that the minimum purchase was $5.00. But she didn't say “sorry” and send me away. “This is crazy,” she said, frowning. “We have people come in here all the time who need a few dollars for sports teams and teachers.” Determined, she called both her district manager and her marketing person only to hear that their computers did not serve her need.
Giving me something free to drink, she disappeared into her office while I waited. Suddenly, she re-appeared with some gift coupons in her hand left
over from another in-store promotion. They were for an entire Hardee’s breakfast (about $4.00 in value). Waving them at me, she offered to sell them to
me for $2.50 each, and she had enough to fulfill all I needed. Deal done!
On the surface, this was a pretty small piece of business for that Hardee's. But actually, it turned into way more. So many of the 150 people who got
the free breakfast coupon went by to claim it that two committees started meeting there who were subsets of the larger group. About a year later, one
member started meeting weekly with an early morning mastermind group there. Another member brought her soccer team there for meals after every
game for an entire season. And yet another member bought $5.00 gift cards for all the teachers at a nearby middle school.
The point is, as business owners we never know where things might lead. By accomodating what feels to us like a small request for services (or
products) we open the door for more business down the line. I've thought about this a lot lately, because one of the “in” things in business is to go for
the larger accounts and not bother with the small fish. On a straight return on investment of your time in the near term, this seems like a sensible
business strategy. But you have to think about ROR as well as ROI. ROR? That would be return on relationship – and despite what big businesses
constantly try to measure, relationships are too fluid and impressionable to match a precise mathematical model.
Long term is ALWAYS the best way to think about your business unless you are building something specifically to sell off in a year or so. If you focus
on nothing but short-term income and growth, I can guarantee you won't have the breath to go long term, and you won't have the relationships, either.
It's possible to craft lower-end offers that help build clients and customers to bigger customers without taking too much of your own time – it just takes
a little creativity. Remember that all big fish were small fish back in time. Saying yes as often as you can, and being creative about it, will give you
depth and down-stream potential in your business. If you need support in packaging offers that will work well with small fish businesses, consider an hour with me to get your offers going.