Burnt Sugar (Issue 759)

In which we are encouraged to develop a clear distinction, no matter how small, to differentiate ourselves from others and attract referrals.

“When you go there, you MUST at least TRY the Burnt Sugar ice cream.”

We were referring another friend to Christina’s Ice Cream in Inman Square, Cambridge, MA. Christina’s makes and sells the BEST ice cream in the greater Boston area, perhaps on the planet, as far as I’m concerned (and I say that on the authority that, between my wife and me, we have tried virtually every significant ice cream vendor in the Boston and northern New England area). Their “Chocolate Mousse” frozen yogurt is better than most ice cream companies’ full fat, all-the-fixin’s chocolate ice cream.

Christina’s makes a lot of flavors; they add and subtract flavors frequently and some of them are crazy inventive, like the jalapeno sorbet I tried a couple of summers ago. And what they are KNOWN for is the Burnt Sugar ice cream. It’s like nothing else you’ve ever had anywhere. As far as I’m concerned, it is their signature offering.

And when we refer friends to restaurants, we tend to do the same thing. We’ll say, “When you go there, have the smoked salmon sausage, it’s their signature dish,” or, at this place, “Have the bread pudding soufflé with whiskey sauce,” or, at another, the “crab meat cakes, crisp beets, and sweet potatoes.”

Why? Because they are fabulous! Unique! Memorable! Sure, these restaurants serve other dishes, some of them the equal of the “signature dishes” we refer for, but when someone asks, “What should I have when I go THERE,” we recommend certain restaurants for particular dishes.

Ever wonder what people say when they refer potential clients to us? Can they think of a “signature dish” reason to refer to us or do they say, “Go see Bob, he’s a nice guy, he will take care of you?”

I’ll tell you what: I would much rather have somebody say, “go see Bob, he’s freaky brilliant at reducing business owner tax liabilities” than “Go see Bob, he’s a nice guy, he will take good care of you.”

“Oh,” one might say, “I could never do that! I offer so many different services or products, I wouldn’t want to be known for just one. That would be too limiting.”

OK, suit yourself, and, if I am going to see Bob, I’m guessing he may offer more services than just freaky great tax minimization advice. Maybe he does. Maybe he doesn’t. The point is, Bob is known for something specific and it’s great! That’s why people go to see him. They may buy other services, but they show up because he’s great at tax minimization.

So as we look down the road toward 2014, with a few months left to go, the question is, “What is the ‘signature dish’ or ‘signature offering’ by which we, individually, want to be known in our markets?” What message do we want to impress in our clients’ and referral sources’ minds? What should prompt them to think of us when someone asks, “who should I see for….?”

And, if the best we’ve got is, “we are nice guys,” then we’ve got a very long stream up which to swim.

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