Context Marketing Secrets from the Lemonade Stand
The lemonade stand. It is the pinnacle of entrepreneurial purity. One employee, one product, one mission. Products are sold for more than its costs to make them. The message is simple. The hours are flexible. Plus, there’s always low overhead and plenty of free labor. How did we get so far from our roots? Well, the second that little lemonade stand runs out of lemonade a deep and life long question presents itself: make more lemonade or go play? For those of us that chose to double down, there has been no looking back and the complexities of marketing have become second nature. How could you have a company without a mission statement, a value proposition, a tagline, various campaign messages, corporate story, graphic treatments, narrative style, etc, etc?
The lure of the simple life is great, but so too are the limitations. For example: what do you offer someone who doesn’t want lemonade? What do you sell in the winter? How do you up-sell? The list goes on. As marketers, we know that we are often charged with answering these questions. It is our campaigns, our advertisements, our copy that will ultimately solve the problem of selling more lemonade. We’ll create flyers, we’ll distribute them, we’ll develop talking points for our sales staff to keep customers from buying down the street. But at the end of the day, all the Don Drapers and Seth Godins in the world still can’t turn Lemonade into Soda, or Water, or Beer for that matter – without revisiting the business plan, we’re stuck selling lemonade. So the real question, the most important question a marketer can ask is: what if we don’t always need to be selling?
Suppose we spiked the lemonade and you’re willing to believe for a second that its possible to not always be selling. What are we doing then? We’re doing exactly what marketers have done since the dawn of Marketingkind: we’re generating leads and cultivating customer relationships. We know that not everyone will drink lemonade and we know that those who do will not always want to drink it. BUT – and this is really important – everyone knows someone who will want lemonade sometime. So when the sales team is standing at the sidewalk, and they’re closing 75% of the people that walk by, they’re giving out postcards and stamps (with minimum branding). What do postcards have to do with lemonade?! Nothing, they’re just fun and they remind us of a simpler time – just like lemonade. Of course, the sales team trades a stamped post card for a prospect’s business card, but that’s just good context marketing.
There never was a lemonade stand that stayed open year-round. It was always just easier to open and close with the seasons. Serious businesses – however – need a way to sell their products, even when people aren’t buying. As the buffer between bottom lines and buyers, the marketing team needs to be conscious of the experience that customers who aren’t buying have as well as those that are. Hence the stamped post cards. Even though those people weren’t buying, marketing still wanted to offer something so that their experience of the brand was a pleasurable one. In the digital world, this happens all the time. Users will like, favorite, or share a post without ever considering actually becoming a customer. The reason for their apparently un-explainable engagement? The post, like the post card, has intrinsic value.
The moral of the story is: brands don’t need to always be selling, but they do need to curating the brand experience of everyone they meet.