I’ve always wanted my own marketing consultant. . .probably because I AM a marketing consultant.  Well, I found one in the middle of South Dakota last week and he reminded me NOT to take your relationship with current customers for granted.

We found ourselves in Brookings, South Dakota in mid January to watch my son’s hockey team play South Dakota State.  I’ll spare you the whinings of this Arizona boy in the middle of South Dakota in January, except to say -9 degrees is colder than it sounds.  We had dinner at The Ram Restaurant on Main Street in Brookings, population 19,470.  For the past 35 years it has more or less been the place to eat, and the place was busy on the Friday night we were there.

ram-nickelHere is very probably the best entrenched business I have ever encountered.  You might well expect the owner to be the one person who could coast a bit, right?  Two things you should know.  First, The Ram has the only billboard in Brookings, maybe the only billboard in forty miles.  And second, when the waitress brings us our two glasses of wine she also drops off two wooden nickels without explanation. “Collect five tokens and receive your sixth glass of wine on us” was printed on each one.  

When I asked the waitress why the tokens, she shrugged and simply said “We want to sell more wine.”  Ram’s advertises AND promotes specials once you’re there.  I was awe-struck.  This guy is my new hero. 

So here’s the lesson for all of us.  What are you taking for granted?  That you’re the oldest, biggest, the only, cheapest, most expensive, etc.  Does that entitle you to your customers’ business?  If The Ram is still hustling in a small town, we can afford to hustle too.