Monday, August 13, 2012

Marketing Lessons from a Lemonade Stand

You can learn a lot from a kid's lemonade stand. Please let me explain.

This weekend, my 11-year old daughter and 8-year old son wanted to set-up a lemonade stand. They were incredibly patient as we first created a grocery list (e.g. lemons, sugar, ice, poster board, etc.) then discussed how to pay for everything (i.e. we each "invested" ~$8 into the endeavor). It was so much fun talking with my children about how much to charge per glass, how big a glass we should use and whether or not we should add a mint leaf to each serving.

Skipping ahead in the story, we set-up the stand in a highly foot-trafficked area and were ready for our first customer, when WHAM, I learned my first marketing lesson:

Customer engagement is critical

As potential customers walked by, my children sat idly hoping someone would stop and purchase. Argh! I quickly explained that they needed to market their product.

(Note to all direct sellers: This is analogous to a multi-vendor event where you sit behind your table and hope someone stops to chat. No!!! You need to stand in front of your table, smile, say hello to everyone who passes by, strike-up a conversation, ask them what product caught their eye, etc.)

To their credit, my children quickly took to the idea of "customer engagement" and started saying to each customer that walked by, "Lemonade, 50 cents." A few customers started buying, but I could tell from my children's faces, they weren't satisfied. WHAM, I learned my second marketing lesson.

The message is everything

Instead, of the boring and mundane "Lemonade, 50 cents", I suggested to my children they try a variety of message, a few of which I've listed below.
  • Sensory: "Just made, fresh lemonade. Includes a sprig of mint, fresh from the Farmer’s Market."
  • Value: "Quench your thirst on a hot day for only 50 cents. Refills only 25 cents."
  • Emotional: "Buy lemonade and help 2 kids contribute to their college fund."
(Note to all direct sellers: Stop marketing your products as kitchenware, jewelry or stationery. Instead, market them as items that simplify, beautify or express gratitude. Moving away from function and towards sensory, value or emotion will go a long way to helping you market your business.)

To make a long story short, the lemonade stand was a huge hit! My kids nearly doubled their investment and learned a lot about business. But that was nothing compared to the marketing lessons I learned:

Customer engagement is critical &
messaging is everything

I'm curious if you have had an "a ha" marketing moment outside the walls of your office? If so, I'd love to hear about it. Thanks in advance for sharing. And thank you to my children for making me a better marketer.

- Jay Rudman, CEO, Paperly

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