A Business Lesson from Kitchen Nightmares?

You’ll have to forgive me if I mention the book UnMarketing:Stop Marketing. Start Engaging by Scott Stratten (@unmarketing on Twitter) a lot in my next few posts. You see I  purchased it for my Kindle and am slowly making my way through it.

I say slowly, because as I read, I’m highlighting and taking notes like crazy.  I’m going back and re-reading items that I want to sink in and basically I’m adding Scott’s knowledge to what I already know for lots of ‘aha’ moments. Doing all of that as you read slows you down. But it’s a very good thing.
In this first part of the book I’ve made notes like ‘would you buy from you?’  and highlighting quotes from Scott like “By only focusing on price as a barrier to making the first purchase, they were missing something important” Both points that I’ll talk about in a future post about signing clients.
But the item that prompted this post was Scott’s story in Chapter 4 where he consults with a local restaurant who just opened their doors. I’m not going to go into all the details, you’ll have to buy the book to get the whole story, but the CliffsNotes version is that he suggested they offer free meal samples to a group of people in the community in order to build a relationship and thus start the word of mouth that we all truly aspire to create.  But the restaurateurs were shocked at the suggestion.

Stuck in the old-fashioned marketing mindset, giving away free food seemed to defeat the purpose. They failed to see that giving away the food (which would cost less than many traditional advertisements, BTW) was all about getting people to come to a new restaurant and give them a chance to ‘become friends’, to build trust and start the word of mouth ball rolling.  That inability to see their business as more than how many dollars a customer could put in their till very well could have been the first death rattle for yet another failed restaurant.
After all, if you’ve ever watched Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, you’ll recognize the tactic. Or at least you should.  As Gordon works to breath life into failing restaurants he always does some sort of community based event that includes free samples and a ‘your invited’ exclusiveness for the the re-launch of the revamped restaurant.

And the same thing applies to more than just the restaurant business.

If you want to start signing new clients you have to give them the opportunity to get to know you and what you offer. In a services based business this is less about offering free services and more about offering free information. Information about you. Information about what you know.  Information about what you do and how you do it.  All so that they can get to know you.

This is how you build relationships.
Traditional marketing methods have it all backward with the find the client, serve the client, build a relationship with the client time-line. It doesn’t make sense.

Do you get married before you meet and get to know someone? Not unless you’re still somewhere where arranged marriages are accepted. And not if you believe in loving someone you marry.
So why would we think that it makes sense to try to get someone to become our client before they know us?  Is it any wonder that so many service related businesses struggle with getting clients when they are working with that mindset?


Tina Marie Hilton provides online technology services to forward thinking businesses. She writes on her Tips from T.Marie business blog to share insight and information with other small businesses and entrepreneurs. It also makes her feel like that certificate in creative writing isn't going to waste completely.