On the first morning of Tim’s Mexico vacation he walked out to the beach to watch the sunrise. Alone with the sound of the waves washing on the shore, he waited.
Slowly the sun peeked over the horizon.
It was six o’clock.
Little did Tim know it was the dawning of a day that would shape his entire vacation experience.
He wandered to the ocean side restaurant in hopes of getting a cup of coffee. A few waiters were busy preparing for the rush of breakfast guests.
“Buenos días, señor,” one said. “I am sorry, we do not open for breakfast until six thirty.”
“Oh, I was just looking to get two cups of coffee to bring to my room,” said Tim.
Immediately the waiter got him two cups to go. Tim fumbled through his pockets but realized he had not brought any money with him. Embarrassed, he told the waiter his name and room number so he could bill it to his room.
“No need, señor Tim,” he said. “I don’t want your money. Just have a wonderful day.”
Two hours later Tim returned with his wife for breakfast. The waiter greeted him like a long lost friend. “Señor Tim, nice to see you! Maybe next time you sit at my table? Ask for Pedro.”
The next morning when Tim returned from his sunrise walk on the beach, Pedro was waiting for him with two cups of coffee.
When they went for breakfast the second day, they asked to be seated in Pedro’s section. They were lucky to get a table.
Pedro’s section was always full. Nearly everyone who came to the restaurant asked to sit at ‘Pedro’s Table.’
By being helpful and connecting with people, Pedro built a following that helped to fill the restaurant. He also helped to shape the stories people tell themselves about what happened on their vacation. Those are stories that people tell their friends and that make them want to come back again.
A change of heart
The story of Pedro’s Table underscores a truth about succeeding in the marketplace today. To succeed, your prospective customers must consider you a friend. People are wary and distrustful of the battery of marketing pitches they face every day. Being helpful is one way to break through and earn friend status.
This involves a change of heart that turns traditional marketing on its head. You won’t make friends with marketing that focuses on what your business wants. Instead you need to focus on what matters to the people you want as customers.
Helpfulness matters to them because it makes them feel like you care and understand. Now you’ve made a loyal friend. “If you sell something, you make a customer today,” says Jay Baer. “If you help someone, you make a customer for life.”
And they will line up to sit at your table.