I learn a lot from my son. The extended remix title for this post is “Lesson from the Lemonade Stand — What You Can Learn From My 10 Year Old About Branding, Marketing, Business and Life.” 🙂 So listen up… this is good stuff.
My son has been offering his parents a steady stream of business ideas since he was able to talk. While adding another choice in Raleigh PR agencies wasn’t one of them, it is true that his entrepreneurial enthusiasm certainly inspired me and was a factor in my decision to start Clairemont Communications. He is not shy about offering ideas for the agency and our clients, and he continues to dream up a variety of dream businesses of his own. The latest: a good old-fashioned lemonade stand.
I’ve watched my son set up shop at the end of our driveway for several weeks now, and I realized what a smart business person and marketer he is! I’m compelled to share these lessons from the lemonade stand.
- Know your audience and cater to them. First, let’s talk hours and location. You might think that the lemonade stand was located at the end of our driveway for convenience only. Think again. The combination of the location and hours of operation — mid-morning to early afternoon on Sundays — was quite strategic. There’s a church in our neighborhood, and one of the two entrances can be accessed at the end of our street. The kid recognized a high-traffic opportunity. Now, let’s talk promotions. On Mother’s Day, he posted “Moms drink free” signs. Think about it. Mom might not be dying for a lemonade, but what dad or kid is going to let that opportunity pass. Of course, they want a cup, too!
- Establish your brand. Somewhere between scooping ice and pouring lemonade that very first day, my son realized the business needed a name. Neighborhood Lemonade was born, and when he closed up shop that afternoon, he immediately sat down and drew a logo. Some smart bartering with a more experienced designer and professional marketer (his dad) allowed him to obtain a digital representation of his logo. By the next week, he and his assistant (another neighborhood boy he recruited to work with him) were outfitted in official Neighborhood Lemonade shirts with the logo on the front and “staff” on the back. I believe it was the same day they added a delivery by bicycle service. (Back to point #1.)
- Capture your customer data. I, of course, adore my child and think he is the smartest human being on the planet. But let me tell you, he knocked my socks off when he thought to do something that many of our clients — even the large, international brands — sometimes struggle to do. I’ve tried to give him his space and watch from afar, but on the third or fourth week in business, I happened to be standing close enough to hear him interacting with a customer. He poured the lemonade, accepted her 50 cents and she took her first sip while he waited to make sure she was a satisfied customer. And then, he was BRILLIANT. Brilliant, I say! With his iTouch in his hand, he asked the customer, “Would you like to give me your email address so that I may notify you about future promotions and special events?” Tarnation Jed, I birthed a marketing genius!!! Customer data, people. Collect it. Use it.
- When life gives you lemons… or when your lemonade stand comes crumbling down in the blink of an eye, stay focused. Over the weeks, the stand started becoming more elaborate. It’s the way of the Hughens men. They are creators and tweakers. (I think my father-in-law is designing some sort of double-decker lemonade stand for my son as I type this.) Anyway, what started as a pitcher on a cardboard box grew to our glass-top patio table with umbrella, fancy signs and a variety of other added details. In a flash, a small gust of wind bent the umbrella and shattered glass went everywhere. Instead of going into a million pieces along with the glass top, my son quickly got another table from our back porch, helped clean up and it was business as usual. The next time I feel like things are falling apart, I will remember how calm he remained and how the idea of quitting NEVER crossed his mind.
These ideas are fairly simply — as basic, really, as a lemonade stand itself. If you have a new business or are starting a business, make sure these things are on your checklist of necessities. If you work with an established brand that has overlooked these considerations or it has been some time since you thought about your customers, your brand and how you interact with customers, it might be time to get back to the basics. Sometimes having an outsider’s view is helpful, and it happens to be summer. Let me know if you want to book a meeting with my son. 🙂