Hello and good day!
If you were to come visit our small retail shop in Issaquah, WA, on just about any weekday afternoon, you'd find me tromping around the shopping center with a sign offering free hot chocolate.
If you were to come on Saturday morning from 9am - 2:30pm, you find me and my brother Brian working an owner's shift together.
I take Sunday off, except for writing the company's daily email, which I write seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Yesterday afternoon, I was walking around the center and I kept bumping into two brothers. The older brother looked to be about 14 or 15 and the younger brother looked to be 9 or 10. They seemed to just be killing time.
First, I saw them sitting in front of one shop. Then I saw them sitting in front of another shop. I must have walked by them about 5 times. I nodded each time I walked by,
I don't put a hard sell on people. I let the sign do the talking and then if there are any questions, I point people in the direction of the shop.
The older brother was tall, slender, serious, and reserved. When I nodded and smiled at him, he nodded back, but he didn't smile. Finally, on my fifth pass, the older brother couldn't contain himself any longer.
He had to ask. "What's the deal with the free hot chocolate?" The younger brother looked back and forth between his older brother and me.
I saw from my previous passes that the younger brother was very interested, but he was under the authority of his older bro, whom he respected. Younger bro would not talk to a stranger or make a move without the approval and initiative of his older brother.
I responded. "You just go in there and we'll give you a free hot chocolate. You don't have to buy anything. There are a bunch of free samples. You should go check it out."
"Is the chocolate good?" asked the older brother."Yes, it is very good. You'll love it," I said. I left the two brothers to convene.
If you've ever had somebody selling you and your spouse at the same time, you know there is a moment when the salesperson walks away to let the couple talk it over. Only difference in this case is that I wasn't really selling anything and these two weren't a married couple.
About ten minutes later I walked by, and I saw the two brothers in the shop drinking hot chocolate and trying samples. They hung out for a long time talking to our staff.
This all happened close to the end of my workday. I walked the center nonstop for a good three hours yesterday. As I came to leave my sign and say goodbye to the team, I saw that the older brother was making a purchase.
I asked him how everything was, and he said that it was all great. Then he gave me this very shy little smile. It was like he didn't know how to smile, and he was trying on a smile for the first time in his life. Kind of a like a baby horse taking its first steps, when the legs and knees are all wobbly. That was how his smile struck me.
The he said something very interesting. "The free hot chocolate was marketing, wasn't it?" By the way he said it, I could see that something had clicked in his mind. He'd heard the word marketing before but had never really experienced it. Now it was all coming together for him.
I reached out and shook his hand, looked him in the eyes, and said, "yes and no." Now he gave me a big old smile, but I didn't have time to explain what I meant.
I try to keep a strict schedule about leaving the shop on time so I can get home and be with my family at a reasonable hour. I left my statement hanging, said goodbye, and thanked the two young men for giving us a chance.
Here is what I meant with that yes and no statement.
Walking around offering free hot chocolate and sending these daily emails are marketing in strict point of fact. They are both activities that get people to think about our company and that in turn generates sales.
But I promise you from the very bottom of my heart that we don't do these things for that specific reason. It may sound hokey, but we do it for a much purer reason.
A free hot chocolate is something we can give away to people to make them happy without bankrupting our company. It is the highest value thing that we can give away for free.
Whether a person makes a purchase or not after drinking a hot chocolate is truly irrelevant to us. Most people do make purchases after drinking a free hot chocolate and we are thankful for it, because obviously we need sales to flourish as a company.
However, the sales are a byproduct of us making our best effort to produce an extremely high-quality chocolate and attempting to make people happy on principle. We do our best to make delicious chocolate, and we try to make people happy, with no ulterior motives.
We do those things because they are the right thing to do.
It just so happens that the universe and the laws of physics and the laws of society are engineered in such a way that if you do your best to serve others, you will also be rewarded.And so, we reap the benefits of our activities.
The genesis of these daily emails was a question I asked myself. What can I give? What effort can I make to add a little something extra to the chocolate buying experience with our company?
Since most of the folks who buy chocolate from us online won't be able to make it into the shop for a free hot chocolate, it can't be that.
The thing I settled on was writing. Prior to these emails, I'd never really written anything, but I just had an inkling that it was something I could do.
And so, I do it.
It takes me about an hour every day to send these out and I do it with no expectation of anything in return. My only hope is that I can provide an interesting thought or make you smile or laugh or help you enjoy our chocolate just a little bit more.
Now back to the question from the older brother. Is it all marketing?
Yes, because it leads to sales. No, because it is a part of a unified lifestyle.
The same force that drives us to pay the highest possible prices to our cacao farm partners, and to be persnickety in our post-harvest processing, and to have our chocolate made in a 120-year-old Swiss chocolate making factory, is the same force that drives our communication and outreach.
It is holistic.
We just want to do what is right in the world and give the best effort we can. I have to cut myself off for now, because I am running out of space for today.
I have a lot more to say about marketing and the purpose of business that would fit in well here.But it will have to wait for another time.
I thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
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