All I Need to Know About Marketing I Learned at a Lemonade Stand

Little Girl at a Lemonade StandIt’s frickin’ hot, huh? Wow. But the dawning summer heat is a great reminder of good, solid marketing principles.

Many of us make “marketing” some arcane science. Focus groups, market research, surveys, brand consultants. Meh.

I learned everything I need to know about marketing at a lemonade stand.

As I was tooling around in my car this weekend, I was reminded of what it takes to be a great marketer. Really, it’s not as hard as the Marketing Group makes you think it is. The reminder of these principles came in the form of the perennial lemonade stand.

I drove past four such stands this weekend. Each one demonstrated a core principle you must adhere to if you want to be a successful marketer.

Marketing is about understanding a need and meeting it

It was hot this weekend. Unfortunately for Lil’ Jimmy’s Big Ade Stand, it wasn’t hot at 815AM when I drove by. I give the kid bonus points for getting to work early on a Sunday but he clearly missed the mark. He was out there selling his little heart out. The problem was the market did not have a need.

Lil’ Jimmy was targeting a market that didn’t exist. No need equals no sales. He had his dreams crushed by about 10AM and had packed it in thinking no one wanted lemonade that day. Jimmy’s problem was the market of overweight underexercised middle-aged homeowners doing yard work was just ramping up at 10. Jimmy missed the market. Right product. Wrong time.

Look at your business. What is THE MARKET asking for? Are you delivering what they want when they want it or are you pushing your product into a market you hope exists?

Marketing is about communicating value

The next group of kids I drove by were freaks. They were running around screaming unintelligibly like 16 year old girls at a Justin Bieber show. They looked like they were jacked up on Mountain Dew and Pixie Stix.

As they screamed at my car as I drove by, I know they wanted me to buy something but I wasn’t sure what they were selling. No signage. No table with a pitcher and cups set out on it (they did have a ramshackle pile o’ crap sitting about 15′ away from the mob on the sidewalk).

I drove by mostly out of fear of being mauled.

They weren’t communicating value. It was hot. Their selling message should have been as simple as a BIG sign that said “Thirsty? Lemonade here!”

Too many times we overcomplicate our marketing message. What’s the need? What value or solution do you provide? Ditch the consultospeak and brandbabble. Plain and simple – what value/solution are you selling? Note I didn’t say what product are you selling. Sell solutions. If they had sold me a solution to my thirst I might have stopped.

Marketing is about passion

The next lemonade stand I drove by had great signage. Clear and simple. “Lemonade 25 cents.” It was hot by now. Very hot. The stand had a nice table, neatly arranged cups, and a pitcher at the ready.

Problem – Frankie and Susie weren’t at their post. The kids were sitting under umbrellas under a tree 20′ away from their stand. They were listless and disinterested. They were waiting for the business to roll in.

I kept driving. If they didn’t care enough about their business to attend to it, I didn’t care enough about it to become a patron.

You have to show passion for what you do people. Without passion, customers won’t have faith in your products or services. Anyone who has ever sat through one of my classes knows I’m passionate about what I do. It’s core to the service delivery model. Without that passion, my business is dead on arrival.

How are you demonstrating your passion to your customers or prospects? Do they know how committed you are to delivering something that will delight them? If not, you’d better get hopping.

Marketing is about your customer

The last stand I drove by was operated by a delightful young lady named Julia. She had a neatly arranged table and simple, clear signage that read “Delicious, cold lemonade!” She stood by her stand waving politely at cars despite the sweltering heat.

I slowed down and rolled down the window. As the cool air from my car washed over her, she sighed and smiled. “Are you thirsty mister? It sure is hot out.”

“Why yes, actually I am. What do you recommend?”

“If I were you, I’d get a large glass of my ice cold lemonade. A small glass is 50 cents but a large is only 25 cents more. You look like you could use a large.”

How could I say no to that? A 10 year old kid was looking at the world through her customer’s eyes. Not to mention she had a killer upsell. I took a large, gave her a buck (how do you not tip in a situation like that?) and drove off with a smile.

See? Marketing doesn’t have to be complex. Find a need. Sell a solution. Be passionate. Think about your customer.

What techniques have you found helpful in your marketing efforts?

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

One Response to “All I Need to Know About Marketing I Learned at a Lemonade Stand”

  1. Kathleen Lisson says:

    Julia was also telling you the story you wanted to hear. A child with a simple product, friendly attitude and cute sign is who we WANT to buy lemonade from.
    Not a seller who is uninterested in making the sale or too different from my expectations.

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