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Learn To Make The Ordinary Extraordinary And You’ll Make A Fortune

I’ve never been less impressed with a restaurant in my entire life. If you could even call it a restaurant. An employee and I had just flown cross country for a seminar in Dallas—something like a 3 ½ or 4 hour flight. Then the luggage shuffle, the taxi cab ride, checking into the hotel, then the blah, blah, blah. We’ve all done it a zillion times, and suffice it to say, all I wanted to do was get a good meal and catch some shut eye.

Upon checking in, we were informed that the hotel restaurant was closed for some reason, but we could still order room service if we wanted. Maybe it’s just me, but I just can’t ever seem to get rid of the smell of buffalo wings or hamburgers after room service…so we asked about nearby dining options.

Only one was within walking distance: a Mexican restaurant less than a quarter mile away. Perfect. They said to go out the side door, walk toward the soccer complex, and up the little street to the right. That’s where we’d find the restaurant. Except all we found was the combination soccer complex and golf driving range—no restaurant to be found anywhere. We walked back to the hotel whereupon they clarified: the restaurant is INSIDE the combo sports facility.

Oh, crap.

Whatever. We walked back up the little street to the right, went INSIDE the soccer facility, past the golf clubs, and found what can best be described as a crusty indoor taco stand. There was no sign, inside or out—wonder how we managed to miss it the first time. A guy behind the counter wearing a Jose name tag made eye contact with me a split-second before I could dial 1-800-DOMINOES on my cell phone. Thoughts of food-poisoning-induced spewage on unsuspecting seminar attendees swept through my mind as I smiled and politely told Jose that “I guess I’ll try the chicken fajitas.”

Jose was ecstatic. I think we might have been the only customers that week. As we sat down and rationed our sodas (NO FREE REFILLS!), we discussed what kind of bad karma might result from simply running out of the place. We had already paid, so they couldn’t call the cops on us. But ultimately, the thought of potentially crushing Jose’s spirit was enough to resign us to whatever fate awaited.

Then Jose brought our food to us. I looked down at the plate and didn’t know what to think. I was simultaneously dazzled and puzzled, amazed and confused, delighted and bewildered.
Jose, it turns out, was an artist.

And a dang good one, too. I was staring at what could be best described as an angel that had escaped from some kind of heavenly wedding thingy, crashed into a wall, and wound up on my dinner plate. It was far too nice looking to consider actually, you know, eating it.

Naturally, I became fast buddies with Jose. I wanted to know all about this (what I called) “Wicked Angel Fajita” he had served me. He explained that it was just a little something he liked to do to make his job a bit more interesting. He liked seeing people’s faces when they were expecting chicken and he instead served them an edible doily. He said he’d been doing it for years and he was pretty well-known for it. Except for the whole being stuck at a crusty taco stand inside a golf/ soccer shop thing.

But it got me thinking: when was the last time you were so blown away by something you bought that you had to immediately take a picture and text it to your spouse? When was the last time you experienced service that was so unbelievable you had no option but to brag it up to your friends? When was the last time you experienced something so flipping COOL that you were compelled to post it to Facebook or Tweet it out to the world?

Yea, same here. Pretty much never.

Here’s the good news: Achieving “Wow,” as innovation guru Tom Peters would say, is actually pretty easy to do…and generally doesn’t cost all that much. In the spirit of Jose the Fajita Artist, I’d like to introduce you to an innovation formula I call “PIMP MY RIDE.” It’s really simple; just ask yourself this question: What mundane thing in your business can you “pimp up” and make a lot cooler…so that people will notice it, like it, and (who knows, maybe even) rave about it? What can you do that will make people stop and say “WOW!”?

Want a few examples? Let’s start with some big, well-known companies…then we’ll shift gears and talk about how “small fries” can pimp their rides:

Sweet & Sassy hosts birthday parties for 5- to 10-year old girls and gives them makeovers, manicures, and fancy hairdos. To make it even MORE fun (and profitable) they pick the girls up in a pink stretch limo. Not only do the girls have a ball in the car—they also anchor back to their great experience every time they see the limo around town.

Pimp my ride. Literally in this case.

Callaway Golf revolutionized the golf industry in 1991 by introducing their “Big Bertha” driver. Essentially, they took the regular driver and made it freaking huge—they pimped it out. Anyone could have done it, but they thought of it first, and CLEANED HOUSE. The Big Bertha took a $22 million company and transformed it into a BILLION dollar concern. Pimp my ride.

Victoria’s Secret “Big Bertha’d” the ladies underwear market in the 1980’s by making underwear chic by creating an attractive product line, putting it on beautiful models,then filling every mailbox on the planet with 77 catalogs a week. Underwear went from something women needed and bought at Montgomery Ward’s to something they wanted. Pimp my ride.

Apple realized that gigahertz, megahertz, and nerdohertz only appealed to a small minority of geeks, and decided to focus on making their stuff COOL. They took the up-till-then BORING computer case and made it translucent orange, green, blue, and purple. The rest is history. Pimp my ride.

Seeing a pattern? To “pimp your ride,” you just need to transform from commonplace to cool by making colorful, big, beautiful, fancy, or cool. Or a combination. And you don’t have to be as smart as Steve Jobs to do it. Remember—Jose.

Let’s continue by going back to where we started: Let’s pimp a restaurant’s ride. You eat at restaurants, right? And how many of them are memorable in any way, shape, or form? That’s right—basically none of them. Aside from making cool fajitas, here’s a few quick ideas:

Home of the 72 ounce steak (free if eaten in one hour): The guys in Amarillo have made a fortune off this idea already.

Home of ALWAYS FREE Appetizers: Why not? All things considered, I’ll take some free wings or cheese sticks.

Home of 555 Unbelievable Sauces: Sure it’s a pain to have that many sauces, but you know you would go. Admit it.

Home of the 109 ounce Coca- Cola: Seriously, it’s like a trash can with a straw. Who needs Red Bull?

Home of the Texas Giant Burger: It had better live up to its name. Three pounds of beef. Then make the Texas Jr.,

Texas Misses, and Texas Wanna-Be for the lighter appetites. This would work.

Okay, so you’re thinking, “Will having a 109 ounce Coke really make much of a difference?” Let me answer that by pointing out that the alternative is NOT having a 109 ounce Coke. And how, exactly, is THAT going to help? It’s not. There are zillions of competitors out there—you’ve got to stand out. Pimp your ride.

The owner of a painting company asked me on this topic how he could pimp his ride— given the fact that painting companies are so boring. My opinion? The more boring the better. Boring industries are way easier to stand out in because boring industry people tend to think like boring people.

I told him if he wanted to really pimp his ride, he needed to think in terms of HOT PINK. As in… all of the painters wearing HOT PINK jumpsuits while standing on HOT PINK drop cloths and HOT PINK ladders. They drive up in HOT PINK trucks and use HOT PINK paint brushes dipped into HOT PINK paint trays poured from HOT PINK paint cans. They give customers HOT PINK business cards and HOT PINK invoices… and put HOT PINK job-site signs out front for all the neighbors to see. Then when they’re through, they distribute HOT PINK flyers around the job.

Yea, I know none of that is “writing an ad.” But who cares? This system isn’t just about writing the best ad possible. It’s about making the most money possible. And if it takes a pink shirt and truck to make that happen, so be it. But if the painting company DID run an ad—guess what color they should probably make it? Heh.

A window washer told me the key to good window washing has a lot more to do with the technique used than the cleaning solution. Fair enough: “Okay…so what technique do you use?” He told me that he called it the “Super Swirl.” Perfect. See how easy that is? Take something mundane—like a flipping window washing technique—and make it cool. By calling it the “Super Swirl”(or iMac or Big Bertha). Then plaster “Super Swirl” on every squeegee, water bucket, truck, shirt, invoice, etc. You get the picture. Canvass door-to-door and say: “You probably didn’t know this, but getting clean windows has a lot more to do with the technique than anything else. That’s why we want to teach you our patented “Super Swirl” squeegee technique. Do you have 90 seconds and a dirty window?” When they see you standing there with your namesake squeegee and bucket, you’ve got ‘em. Pimp my ride.

I could go on and on with examples. A dentist could have a golfing simulator, soda fountain, or 75 varieties of magazines in his waiting room. A barber shop could create a literal THRONE where you get to sit while getting your hair cut. A plumber could carry around a golden crescent wrench in a fancy glass case. Or a golden plunger. Why not? A photo finishing company could include a free 18” x 24” print with every order over $50—not as a standard offer, but simply as something they did to be nice. Pimp those rides.

This doesn’t have to be hard. Just remember the principles—take any ordinary thing in your business and make it beautiful, big, colorful, or cool. Give it a catchy name, if appropriate.

Alas, I had to make a decision whether to eat the Wicked Angel Fajita…or frame it. My mind said frame it but my gut said to down it…so down it went. Do you think it’s a coincidence that the best looking fajita I’ve ever had was also the best tasting? After all, Callaway customers from Pebble Beach to the local muni will swear to you they hit farther and more accurate with the Big Bertha. Victoria’s Secret wearers worldwide will tell you an extra $12 for a bra is well worth it.

Nicely done, Jose. Pimp my ride.

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