The coffee cart vendor “guys” on the northwest corner of Spring Street and Avenue of the Americas in NYC might just be the smartest marketers I’ve ever met. But they have never sent me a single email. Nor given me a coupon. Nor “caught” me with a pay-per-click strategy.
They don’t have a website. Or business cards. Or a Facebook page. Heck, I don’t even think they have a brand name (but based on the haphazard, grammatically incorrect signage plastered around the cart…I’d have to guess their brand name is “Coffe and Donut”).
And yet…my recent expression of consumer behavior just proved my loyalty to them beyond a shadow of a doubt.
After nine years of emerging from the same subway exit every morning to grab a coffee from “The Guys” at the very convenient coffee cart right at the top of the stairs…I moved. And on Monday this week, I started taking a DIFFERENT subway line to work, and my path from subway exit to office door takes me past 6 other coffee cart vendors, and NOT past “The Guys.”
But damn if I didn’t walk right past all of them without a single glance, continue past my building’s front door, and head to the corner to “My Guys” (note transformation from general “The” to possessive “My”). And what’s the first thing they said to me?…
“Good morning miss! Why you come from that way today?”
And then I realized why I adore them so much: they are so very aware of me. And not just me, but ALL of their regular customers…and you become a “regular” with these guys by your third purchase. When there’s no line and they can see me coming over from the subway stairs, they have my coffee ready by the time I get to the cart. And when the line is 8 deep and I appear to be antsy, a wink and a nod from them signals me around to the back of the cart for an under-the-radar exchange of coffee-for-money. And when it’s pouring rain in the predawn hours, and I’m fumbling around in my bag to find my wallet, they tell me “No worry, miss. Tomorrow you give.”
What’s the marketing lesson here? Without spending a single dollar on “marketing,” you can inspire loyalty in your customers – and make them ambassadors for your brand – just by doing three simple things: genuinely caring about their needs, serving those needs efficiently, and exceeding their expectations.
I have been to five-star luxury resorts that don’t treat me as well as My Guys do, and yet they make less money off me in one year than those resorts do in one night. This proves that a “brand” can provide exceptional service without fancy training programs, Brand Standards, Mission Statements, marketing tactics, or any of the other hundred “we don’t have the budget for that” excuses that big brands often use as a crutch to justify subpar service.
So…Lal (left) and Abdul (right)…hats off to you. You may have proper names (really?…you mean you’re not actually named Doll, Sweetie, Love, or My Dear, as I’ve been calling you all these years?)…but to me, you’ll always be “My Guys.”