There’s a curious phenomenon at church potlucks, which anyone who has cooked for one has witnessed. Simply cooking a dish you know to be delicious is not enough to entice people to eat it. As my mom taught me, you have to nicely display and properly portion the food. Slice meat into individual servings, and cut cakes into appropriately-sized pieces.
My younger, incredulous self had two questions for my mom:
- I did the cooking. Can’t the people eating it show the initiative to portion it for their own consumption?
- How do people survive in life if they don’t even have the ability to try dishing up a new food?
My disbelief notwithstanding, my mom was right. If I didn’t plan for how people would dish up my food, it would go uneaten. But if I served the same casserole cut into small squares, it would disappear.
The church potluck is a mini marketplace and can teach us several things about small business marketing.
- As there are so many options in the buffet line, people just choose the easiest, most familiar ones. Similarly, your business has plenty of competition, and customers will gravitate to the choice that is easiest to understand.
- No one likes to be embarrassed or feel like he’s not in control of a situation. Cutting up food carries some social risk– what if you drop it? what if you suddenly see something you don’t like? (like the one time I found limp, cooked pickles in a casserole) You need to make things as easy for your customer as possible. Make her feel smart and in-control.
- Word of mouth is powerful. If one early-adopter raves about your pie (or product), others will just have to try it. Before you know it, your dish will be the talk of the church! Or, your product will be on everyone’s wish list.
- On the flip side, the unknown is scary. Very few people are willing to be the first to try something new. You have to make it attractive for them to be first.
All of the above factors come into play even at a church potluck where the food is free, and the risks are low. Since your customers pay for your offerings, their reactions in the actual marketplace will be more pronounced. But take my mom’s advice, and you’ll be successful.