I just read a fascinating article in the Chicago Tribune about a tiny restaurant called Great Lake, which GQ magazine recently proclaimed to be the makers of the finest pizza in America. Great Lake breaks virtually every rule of marketing: they make customers wait hours for their pizza and show little sympathy for complaints; they have no interest in expanding capacity despite a clear opportunity to dramatically increase their revenues as well as customer satisfaction; and they do zero advertising or promotion because–heaven forbid!–that would attract more customers. Their goal is simply to make the world’s most perfect pizza, and–if GQ and the Tribune are to be believed–they are succeeding.
On the surface, Great Lake looks like the Great Anti-Marketer. Ironically, however, while Great Lake appears to lack a marketing strategy, the fact is that their obsession with creating the perfect product has effectively become their marketing strategy–and a powerful one at that. Great Lake’s off-the-charts product is generating the most cost-effective marketing a business can have: over-the-top media reviews and extremely positive word-of-mouth support. (Case in point: the Tribune article actually has me making plans to visit Great Lake knowing I’ll have to wait in line for 3 hours, which is something the greatest pizza ad ever created could never persuade me to do.)
So, does this mean you should ignore marketing and simply let your quality do the talking? Only if you have a product that is truly rave-worthy and unlike anything your target customers have ever before experienced. Put another way, if your customers are willing to wait in line for 3-hours for your product and then tell others about how great it is, you may not need to market. If this isn’t the case for you, however–and I suspect it isn’t for 99.9% of all businesses–then an effective marketing strategy needs to be a critical priority.
The only product that comes to mind that was able to generate so much “free” buzz that it didn’t need to advertise was the iPhone during its initial launch. See if you can think of any others.
Perhaps it will give you something to do while you’re waiting in line at Great Lake.