Greetings. Ever wondered if you and your company or organization could learn something about business success from folks in medieval times? If so, you’re spot on, because a simple notion from the 12th century makes a lot of sense in today’s competitive economy.
The idea is the “baker’s dozen,” and it’s become a common practice in bakeries, bagel shops, and donut houses across the planet. Buy twelve and get one free. A little bonus for being a customer. A tasty act of kindness and goodwill that builds a bond as it provides extra value and calories for the same price. One can imagine the first time that a neighborhood bakery in London, York, Newcastle, Oxford, or Cambridge made this amazing offer and how it might have altered the competitive landscape for bread, rolls, and hot-cross buns. In fact, the origin of this business practice wasn’t a quest for competitive advantage at all. Because every baker used it. Not to bring an extra measure of delight to their customers, but because it was the easiest way to respond to an ancient law that required bread to weigh a certain amount. If it didn’t, bakers could be “fined, pilloried or flogged.” And while many tourists might enjoy pretending to be pilloried when they visit an old and historic city, this form of public ridicule is generally not good for business.
But during yesterday morning’s visit to Goldberg’s Bagels I started thinking about the power of this idea in so many types of businesses, and the opportunities we all have to innovate in bringing greater value to the customers we serve. The chance to give them a bit more of our products. Or a bit more functionality. Or a slightly more elegant solution. Or an extra month of service. Or added knowledge. Or a longer warranty. Or greater access to our publications. Or some additional miles. Or a free gift after a certain number of visits. Or an award for being “customer of the month.”
All because a genius in an earlier era decided to throw in another loaf…
We win in business by giving all of our customers a little something extra. And by seeing ideas from other times that really matter. Don’t know much about history? Maybe you and your colleagues should.