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The apple pie bakery that could teach you a thing or two about making a sale and loyal fans

August 14th, 2009 ::

Today’s guest contributor from our Grow Smart Business Expert Network is Mayra Ruiz-Mcpherson. She is an expert in small business marketing, communications and PR.

The other day I was at a farmer’s market in downtown Purcellville, Virginia. The market was bustling with folks – myself included – in search for the juiciest, most organic veggies from local area farms. I had been dreaming of a peach cobbler and zeroed in on a pile of beautiful peaches with my name all over them.

On the way back to the parking lot, I had to pass a small bakery booth that looked completely empty save for two lonely baked pies which sat quietly on a cake pedestal. I couldn’t help but notice the booth’s signage which claimed their bakery was “award winning” and is known for being state baking champions.

Hmmm…state baking champions. Pretty impressive, I thought. The booth, in stark contrast to their championship claims, did not look or appear to belong to that of baking titans. It was a rather plain booth without a lot of fuss. Still, the state baking champion description made me curious so I decided to pause briefly only to ask for a business card. Who knew moments later, however, that I would have purchased a “hand crafted” (their terminology) apple pie for $14.95 and left with plans to purchase even more pies for the following weekend?

So what exactly happened between the time I planned to quietly walk right past this booth to my unplanned and unexpected apple pie purchase? What specifically sealed the deal? Well, I have to say it was the gentleman behind the counter. This man worked me into a “I *must* have an apple pie” frenzy before I could so much as even blink!

How, you ask? Overall, it wasn’t just one thing. In fact, it was — as I analyze this man’s sales pitch approach — a combination of several factors which I believe worked in unison to convert me from an uninterested passerby to a total convert.

Here are some sales pitch pointers we could all take away from this small bakery owner:

  1. Be personable. As I walked by the booth, the gentleman gave me a genuine, warm smile and greeted me kindly. No sales pitch and no bravado; just a guy manning a booth saying “Good morning” as I passed on by. Some sales people might disagree with me on this and feel the need to be more, shall we say, “aggressive.” But there’s something incredibly refreshing about not being sold to. No one wants to be sold to. Often, pushy sales folks turn off would-be customers. This man’s hands-off approach was so welcome I reciprocated his kindness and warmth by showing interest and asking for a business card.
  2. Generously provide, share or give more than what is asked (and be relevant). I asked for a business card and the gentleman said he would give me that and more. Without hesitation, the man used my stopping by the booth as an opportunity to provide me with a business card, a brochure and some basic information consumers should know right from the get-go such as theirs is a home-based bakery certified by the Virginia Department of Agriculture Consumer Services (VDACS). They’ve been around since 1989 and operate locally right out of Purcellville. Good to know!
  3. Have a feel-good story to tell. While the man searched for the basket with the brochures, he shared a wonderful story with me: his wife and three daughters are the master bakers of the business. “They do everything from scratch,” he proudly said. “Pie crust. Cookies. Breads. Everything!” The bakery’s business name, he added, was named after his three daughters: Amanda, Violet and Elizabeth. Charming!
  4. Back the feel-good story with third party information. As I took all the information in, the gentleman said something very meaningful. He said he could tell me all day long how great his family members bake but the good news is that he didn’t have to. The wife and daughters have been Virginia state baking champions for over 19 years in a row! They are “perpetual champs” that have dominated the national, state and local baking competitions. They even won Crisco© American Pie Celebration and the Hershey’s® Chocolate Cake Competition! Holy cow!

By this point, I couldn’t pull the money out of my wallet fast enough! I was 100% sold and immediately purchased one of the two apple pies remaining.

As I drove home, however, I started getting a bit nervous about having purchased a $14.95-priced pie. “What if it’s a total let down?” I thought to myself. I pulled into my driveway and wondered what I would do if the pie’s flavor and quality did not match its baking champion sales pitch and market positioning. Bottom line: I began to fear the prospect of disappointment. Would I end up absolutely delighted or would I end up feeling I was a victim of hype and regret the pie purchase?

Given my initial trepidation, I’m beyond happy to report that the pie’s life span upon entering my home was incredibly short lived. It was devoured within moments of opening up the pastry box. My daughter’s friend was over and she managed to mumble “Amazing!!!” as her mouth was stuffed with pie. One swallow and her eyes rolled into the back of her head as if in a mesmerized, deeply dream-like state. Yeah, it was that good!

This uber-delicious experience leaves me with a final tip:

  1. Make sure the product or service matches the pitch. No one wants to be suckered, duped or disappointed. All the warm and fuzzy information the man at the pie booth had shard with me would have gone down the tubes if, after all the championship hype and loving family-owned biz story, the pie had been mediocre or worse, terrible.

When each of these five factors line up and come into play, the end result is pure, authentic evangelism. People at this phase shift into “word of mouth” marketing mode and tell everyone they can about the product or service. The Loyal Fan is born. He or she can’t do anything but rave about how good you’ve been to them (and their tummies). Some folks are even inclined to blog about it and share the experience with countless others.

Wink, wink :)


mayraMayra Ruiz-McPherson, founder of Ruiz-McPherson Communications and Charles Town Marketing & Design, is a digital marketing professional and social media strategist with more than 15 years of hands-on marketing, communications and PR experience with 10 of those years heavily invested in the digital marketing space.

Mayra works with organizations and small businesses who wish to better engage their customers and leverage their marketing communications online. She additionally counsels clients entering the social media space for the first time as well as those wanting to further immerse their presence in all things social.

For the last five years, Mayra has been very active assisting a multitude of clients with their digital marketing programs, initiatives and campaigns. Her participation with Network Solutions and Johns Hopkins University’s social media thought leadership series, socStardom, has been a huge success in the Washington D.C. area and brings marketing professionals together to discuss and debate social media topics, issues and approaches.

The views expressed here are the author's alone and not those of Network Solutions or its partners.

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