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Panera_bread_logo.jpgThe other day I had a great working lunch and skull session with a colleague at Panera Bread. I visit Panera Bread often for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the food, of course, but that’s not the main reason either. At Panera, you can expect friendly, prompt service, which is worthy of mention, but you also get something you don’t get in a lot of restaurants – they leave you alone! You are welcome to sit and visit as long as you like! You’re welcome to bring your laptop and power it from their outlets! You’re welcome to make use of their wireless internet connection! No extra charge, and no rush!

From a business standpoint, one has to wonder how on earth they can do that in an industry plagued with wafer-thin margins, obsessed with maximization of floor space through the amount of revenue per customer, and the driving goal of getting new diners into the seats as soon as the current diners take their last bites. In most places, it’s either eat and get out, or stay as long as you’re ordering more food or drinks. The name of the game is traffic. As a champion of free enterprise and a small business owner myself, I can’t fully fault that. Certainly, a business has to keep the lights on and revenue is what makes that happen. When an organization can make a profit by going above and beyond, they deserve to be talked about.

Panera Bread is worthy of study because they “get it” when it comes to marketing! They follow the advice of the consultant Tom Peters called “The Guru to Gurus to Gurus,” Peter Drucker, who said in 1955, “The purpose of the organization is to create and satisfy the customer!” They focus first on doing that and the profits follow as a natural result. They let me sit there and enjoy the experience. They realize that even if I don’t order something while I’m sitting there, (though they, and I, know I really will!), I’ll have a good experience with Panera Bread and will return. It’ll be the place I talk about and the first place I recommend when I’m asked where we should have lunch, especially if it’s a working lunch. Their service is their marketing! The customer experience they create is their brand!

There’s a lesson there for all of us, and it’s profound in its simplicity: Take care of the customer! And you take best care of your customer by simply listening to their needs and then making sure we can profitably give them what they want! They hear me say I want a place to nest. They give it a try. They run the numbers, watch and see just exactly how many customers actually DO take them up on the offer to sit quietly and do whatever, they then run revenue per customer on those customers as well, and they’re probably also studying the lifetime value of the customer or the incremental revenue per customer, then they know if this extra-mile they’re going to will actually pay off, both for them and for me! Win-win! And all a simple matter of listening to the customer!

As we discuss in ECHO Marketing™, when it comes to marketing, the customer is the answer! Pay attention to what your customers want, then provide a cost-effective and profitable way to give it to them. Thank you, Dr. Drucker! Your legend lives on!

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