I have thinking about in-person networking lately, and I have a little story to share that highlights the importance of interpersonal marketing. This experience was a perfect reminder to me of the value of face-to-face marketing, and of how every single person in a company is involved in building the brand.
Let me set the scene.
It was a Saturday morning and I was in the Reading Terminal Market in central Philadelphia for breakfast. I was seated at a table at the Down Home Diner, eating with family. The diner uses long tables and so smaller parties end up sharing the table with other guests (which is fun). As we worked our way through breakfast, the diner hostess seated a gentleman at our table. Over the course of fried eggs, bacon and coffee, I got to talking to this fellow.
A morning chat
As it turns out, this gentleman was the Chief People Officer at The Wendy’s Company. A senior vice president. He was in town for Wendy’s annual franchise conference. His name is Scott Weisberg. A really intelligent, gregarious and insightful guy, Scott told me about how Wendy’s was working to be a leader in the restaurant business, creating dining destinations rather than in-and-out food service outlets. It was a great conversation — I learned a lot.
During the course of the conversation, I mentioned that there was a new Wendy’s opening up near me: the first one in my immediate area. Before meeting the chap from Wendy’s, I was not excited about the new opening. I was not against the new restaurant, but I had no feelings about it. Where I grew up, there were no Wendy’s restaurants. I don’t have memories from childhood of going there with my parents; my high school friends and I didn’t hangout at the local Wendy’s on slow weekend nights. I had no connection with the brand.
Yet during my conversation with its Chief People Officer, I learned a lot about Wendy’s. I got to peer into its ethos, values and vision for its future. It was exciting! I was given a window into a major global brand. Suddenly, I couldn’t wait for that new Wendy’s to open! I wanted to share in the Wendy’s experience.
My first experience
Last Thursday, my new Wendy’s opened (note, I feel like I can call it my Wendy’s now) and it has been rocking ever since. I’ve driven past the new restaurant on at least five occasions and the parking lot has always been full, the drive-through line a few cars deep. The sign out front reinforced what Scott told me over breakfast about Wendy’s commitment to its local customers: “Proud to be part of your community”. That was a nice touch.
Two nights ago I managed to get into this new Wendy’s for a meal. I loved the whole aura of the place as I drove into the parking lot. There was a sharp looking outdoor seating area. Through the windows, I could see a couple of people sitting in front of a fireplace eating burgers. (Well, a mock fireplace, but still … it was amazing to see. It certainly shook my preconceptions about fast food chains.) Stepping inside, I was welcomed by a friendly and personal staff. I was welcomed by loads of friendly staff. In chatting with a few of the managers, I learned that they have been racing since they opened. Looking over the counter, I could see what looked to be 15-20 employees hustling and bustling to fill orders.
What really surprised me when I ordered was that the manager asked me my name. Simply thinking him friendly, I introduced myself and thanked him for greeting us so pleasantly. A few moments later, I was surprised to hear my name called, as my order was ready. It was not “8314, your order is up.” It was “Liam, your meal is ready.” A subtle and classy touch.
By the time I sat down to eat my burger and fries, I was really excited to eat. Even more than the decor, the burger challenged my preconceptions about fast food. It was juicy and piping hot. The bacon looked, smelled and tasted like it just came off the griddle. Moreover, the fries were the hearty type: thicker than those served at most chains. Of course, I had to try a Frosty.
That face-to-face marketing value
As I finished up and sipped the last of my soda (Diet Caffeine-Free Coke, if you must know), I thought back to my conversation with Scott Weisberg. I would never had gone to this new restaurant if the HR guy had not so enthusiastically, genuinely and effectively convinced me to be excited about Wendy’s as a brand. His time, his thoughts, his willingness to interrupt his own breakfast to get a potential customer excited about his company is a brilliant example of the value of interpersonal marketing.