It is hard to surprise me with innovative marketing insights, but today I was taught a valuable lesson from an unexpected source, so I felt the need to share it with you. You won’t regret!

This week was pretty lame when it comes to contact with any type of sales people or service providers. None of them seemed keen on building any kind of customer relationship. Whether it is the receptionist at the doctor’s clinic who refused to help because her working hours are until 18:30 and I arrived at 18:32, or the shop attendant who persistently tried to sell products that were irrelevant for what I asked, everybody seemed to have decided that this week is not a good week for business.

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I was about to give up when a surprise came from an unexpected direction: lunch time. Having forgotten my lunch box at home, I went down from the office at lunch time to get myself something small to eat. The Vietnamese bar at the street corner didn’t seem at first like the most tempting option, but as I passed nearby, I realized the owner was standing outside. He smiled and said: “Good afternoon, welcome, please have a look”. In a week full of frowned faces, this was all I needed. With much simplicity, he convinced me to come in.

Don’t get confused. He was far from the typical “puller” standing outside restaurants in touristic areas. No aggression, no pressure. He was just being naturally friendly.

When I received my order, he wished me “Enjoy your meal”. When I got up he asked me if I need anything. And to all leaving customers he said goodbye and wished a nice day.

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The owner’s marketing lesson: nurture your community and don’t forget the basics

What the bar’s owner was doing was beyond marketing: he was building a community. His behavior surprised me. Amid all the advanced marketing advice that one can find online (audience research, quality content, visuals, and so on), somebody forgot to talk about the basics.

So just in case you took the advanced course but forgot to attend the beginners’, here are four thumb rules that today’s experience has reminded me:

  1. Always smile. Not like a fake smile that transmits anything but kindness – smile and mean it. Treat your work as a pleasure and your customer as a partner.
  2. Be polite. PR and marketing tools cost a lot of money, but the three magic expressions “please”, “thank you”, and “you are welcome” are free, and they have one heck of an ROI!
  3. Be natural. Selling an impression that is not the “real you” will never work.
  4. Communities are about people. Both the service provider and the client are people, so there is no reason why they should not feel part of the same community. Nurture the relationship.

By the time I finished my lunch, by the way, the bar owner had left for a minute to eat his own lunch, so I couldn’t come to him to say how much I appreciate his gestures and how much I think they are underrated in today’s world. But even without my recognition, he already earned his share: I will return to his place every time I forget my lunch.

For him, it’s mission accomplished. 

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P.S.: Just to complement with one more thumb rule of my own:

  1. Communities are about reciprocity – for everything that you get, give something. Now I feel obliged do give something more in return to the lesson I’ve received from the owner. So without falling into the trap of sponsored content, I will just tell you, that if you ever find yourselves in Warsaw, I recommend going to Ha Noi bar on 30 Woronicza st. Here, I did my part.