Brendan The Beer Guy Gives Us Some Pointers

On a recent trip to Chicago I attended my first game at Wrigley Field. It was a great game (if you're a Cubs fan) but I have to admit that my attention often strayed from the field of play. The cause of my distraction? Brendan the Beer Guy. No, Mom, it wasn't because Brendan was good looking and didn't have a wedding band on. It was because Brendan had my entire section eating out of the palm of his hand. Or more accurately, putting bill after bill in his pocket. During those nine innings at Wrigley, I realized that for us marketers, everything we need to know about Consumer Relationship Marketing (CRM) was there to be learned from none other than Brendan the Beer Guy.

1. Filling a need.
So this one is obvious. It's a baseball game. People want to drink beer. Brendan has an advantage since filling that simple need is technically the only requirement of his job and the reason he exists in this scenario. But it's an important point for the rest of us as we continuously try to find our space in the marketplace. Basic travel needs evolve as technology does, but at any given time, we're all trying to supply a lot of the same services to the same people. The first step in creating a strong relationship with our consumers is filling the need they have, and filling it with ease and accuracy. Yet as we all know, this first seemingly simple exchange of goods or services or both can often be the source of the relationship breakdown.



2. Personalization.
Brendan the Beer Guy could teach a master class in how personalization = sales. He quickly assessed his prospects and immediately began personalizing his interactions with them. He started simply -- "Buddy" or "Brother" for the guys and "Young Lady" for the women (no matter what age). Two men in front of me were wearing Notre Dame paraphernalia, so Brendan began his dialogue with them with a resounding "Go Irish!" It was clear our section had some regulars, as I listened to Brendan call several people by name, ask about their kids, and even about specific events that had occurred since the last game.

For us, this first level of personalization may happen on our website (replacing "guest" with the customer's name), on the phone, or in person at point-of-sale. And what we can learn from Brendan at this point is simply that by immediately creating some type of personal connection, we can soften the transactional nature of an interaction and make it more pleasant for both customer and vendor.

3. Not too much, not too little. Just the right amount of attention.
Personalization is about more than just remembering names, it's about learning behaviors. For Brendan the Beer Guy it was about learning each customer's preferences and then gauging the window of opportunity where their need would resurface. I watched him take stock of people's drinking speed and alter his call-outs to them each time he walked the section. The gentlemen in front of me were drinking fairly slowly, so while Brendan would always acknowledge them as he came through with a nod or a wink, he would only call out to them, "Hey Irish, another two Lights?," every third trip down the steps. The faster drinkers would get a call out each trip, with Brendan holding up the bottles that constituted their last order, showing his recall of their preferences.

The biggest area for travel marketers to apply this learning is in e-mail marketing. Keeping customers from opting out means being frugal with our e-mail messaging. We need to learn from our customer's past behaviors to ensure that what we send them is of interest and meaningful to them. Over-emailing will just create mass opt-outs, reducing our databases and hurting what can be one of our most effective conversion mediums.

It's easy to overcomplicate CRM. But on that sunny Saturday at Wrigley as I watched Brendan the Beer Guy, I was reminded that it's really all about just getting the basics right. With every trip down the steps in our section Brendan demonstrated how to remember and respect the customer, the customer's preferences, and the customer's need cycle. And he reaped the rewards of his hard work -- he cleared a significantly higher amount of tips than any of the other vendors working our section, including other beer guys.

To that, I say "Cheers!"

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