What’s Your Purple Goldfish? An introduction


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[Over the coming weeks I’ll be sharing excerpts as we work towards completing the manuscript for ‘What’s Your Purple Goldfish?’. Here’s the introduction]

rocket surgeryWARNING: The main focus of this book is neither brain surgery or rocket science. It’s a simple concept, yet it eludes most brands and businesses.

‘What’s Your Purple Goldfish?’ is not your ordinary business book about marketing. It aims to change the paradigm of how we fundamentally go about marketing our products and services.

Let’s face it . . . we’ve lost focus in our marketing. We’ve been so laser focused on prospective customers that we’ve forgotten to deliver an exceptional customer experience once they’ve walked through the door. Advertising is no longer the answer. Traditional media is fragmented and for the most part ineffective. Customer service in non-existent, we’re too busy outsourcing it to India. We’ve developed complex loyalty programs that confuse customers and only promise future benefits. What we really need is a concept that promotes retention and generates word of mouth/mouse at the time of purchase. That concept is what I call ‘marketing lagniappe’ or a ‘purple goldfish’.

Turning back the clock

I was first introduced to the concept of lagniappe (pronounced lan-yap) back in 2003 when I was part of a group called ‘on the edge’. The group consisted of 5 or 6 guys that would meet every couple of weeks to discuss life and our pursuit of pushing boundaries to stay . . . ‘on the edge’. I can distinctly remember the night fellow member Gene Seidman introduced the concept. Gene explained that lagniappe was the practice of the merchant giving ‘a little something extra’ at the time of purchase. He further relayed that in Louisiana the word is part of the vernacular and they have extended the meaning to any time someone goes above and beyond. That little extra is referred to as ‘lagniappe’.

It was one of those rare things that just clicked when I heard it. Over the next five years I would share the concept with friends and subconsciously I began looking for examples in the world of marketing. What I found was that very few businesses understood the concept of going above and beyond by giving that little unexpected extra.

Enter Norwalk, Stew’s and Ritchie

The same year I heard about lagniappe was the year I moved from living overseas in Amsterdam to Connecticut. Our house is just up the hill from the most profitable grocery store in the world per square foot, according to the Guinness Book of Records. Stew Leonard’s was founded by its namesake in 1969. If there is one place I’ve been that gets the concept of marketing lagniappe . . . it’s Stew Leonard’s. We’ll visit Stew’s a number of times in the book.

The house we bought in Norwalk is a beautiful old stone colonial that we refer to as ‘het stenin haus’ (Dutch for ‘the stone house’). Did I mention the house was charming and old? In the first five years we renovated the kitchen, upgraded the bathrooms, replaced the windows, overhauled the sleeping porch, landscaped the backyard and refinished the attic. The first project was the kitchen. A total gut and rebuild. Our contractor Brian hired a helper to patch and paint as the job was concluding. He referred to himself as Ritchie. Ritchie moved over with his family from Bosnia about 10 years ago. Ritchie was a quiet nice guy with an engaging smile. Even though he was doing a small finishing job you could tell he took great pride in his work. Ritchie’s true specialty was taping.

One day I came home and found Ritchie patching a crack in the ceiling of our back walkway, which is next to the kitchen. I was a little taken back and at first a little defensive. This wasn’t part of the job and I saw a bill coming. Ritchie just smiled and said not to worry as he was doing it for free. He saw that it needed to be fixed and had some extra material. That made quite an impression. Guess who was top of mind when we had our next painting project? We developed a long term relationship with Ritchie. Over the next 3+ years we would engage him on almost every project in our house. Every time he exceeded our expectations and did a ‘little something extra’. Ritchie turned a couple hundred dollar job into tens of thousands of dollars of work.

The Longest and Hardest 9″ in Marketing

In 2008 I launched a blog called 9 INCH MARKETING. Nothing personal with the title I assure you . . . 9 inches is the average distance between the brain and the heart. I refer to those 9 inches as the ‘longest and hardest for any marketer’, given the goal of winning the heart of your customer. My first dedicated post was about the concept of lagniappe. lagniappe-3Each time I posted I included a small section called ‘Today’s Lagniappe’ where I provided a little fun extra bit of trivia, a joke or a story. My first guest post on another blog, Drew McLellan’s ‘Drew’s Marketing Minute’ , was about the concept of lagniappe. My first Slideshare presentation was also about the concept of ‘lagniappe’. Can you see where I’m going here?

In September 2009 I wrote a post highlighting Wells Fargo and a concept called ‘marketing lagniappe’. That post would be the spark plug that ignited my passion for the concept and the impetus for starting the ‘Purple Goldfish Project’.

Here is an excerpt from the original post:

wells fargo marketing lagniappe9 INCH AXIOM – Little things

‘Sometimes the littlest things can make a big difference’

Andrew was telling a story about how he was using the drive thru at his local Wells Fargo bank. At the end of the transaction the teller asked him if he would like a sucker. Andrew was perplexed until he realized it was an offer for a lollipop. He drove away with a smile on his face. That lollipop was a small token or ‘marketing lagniappe’ from Wells Fargo. It’s a practice that goes a long way towards increasing customer satisfaction, especially when it is unexpected.

80% Rule – Wells Fargo understands the importance of servicing the needs of their current customers to fuel growth. Here is a quote about cross-selling from their website:

“The more you sell customers, the more you know about them. The more you know about them, the easier it is to sell them more products. The more products customers have with you, the better value they receive and the more loyal they are. The longer they stay with you, the more opportunities you have to meet even more of their financial needs. The more you sell them, the higher the profit because the added cost of selling another product to an existing customer is often only about ten percent of the cost of selling that same product to a new customer.”

That last sentence deserves repeating. IT COSTS 10 TIMES TO ACQUIRE A NEW CUSTOMER THAN IT TAKES TO UPSELL A CURRENT ONE. Nearly eighty percent of Wells Fargo revenue growth comes from selling more products to existing customers. The average Wells Fargo customer carries over 5 products which is more than twice the industry average.

Their focus on serving existing customers has two tremendous benefits:

  1. It reduces attrition. Well Fargo loses less customers each year compared to its competitors.
  2. It provides them with a competitive advantage against companies that only offer one or a few products.

A Project is Born


In late 2009 I launched the Purple Goldfish Project and started the blog Marketing Lagniappe. The Project was an ambitious attempt to crowdsource 1,001 examples of marketing lagniappe. Early in 2010 I was joined by co-author Jack Campisi and started a video podcast. The ball was rolling . . .

My friend Doug Pirnie once told me that everyone has a book inside of them. If that is the case . . . this one has been bubbling inside of me for the last eight years. I’m glad to be finally letting it out. I hope you a. enjoy it and b. profit by it.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


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