Service Minded

Debra Helwig on Marketing & Leadership in Professional Services

How Flexible is Your Menu?

Posted by debrahelwig on April 3, 2009

cheeseburgerI love Mexican food. Especially with jalapeños. LOTS of jalapeños.

In fact, I find it hard to believe that there are people out there who wouldn’t like to gluttonously drown themselves in cheese dip. But there are – a few. And one of them is my friend, the amazing-marketing-insights-person Barbara Price.

Last year Barbara treated us to a wonderful story on her blog called “Every Cheeseburger Begins Life as a Hamburger,” which shares the story of Barb’s non-Mexican-loving taste buds’ journey with friends to a local Mexican restaurant.

Barb ordered a hamburger, and they wouldn’t give it to her, because there were only cheeseburgers on the menu. Barb’s retort? “Every cheeseburger begins life as a hamburger.”

Her blog used this story to make an incredibly important point: Sometimes what we have written down – our policies, our offerings, our way of doing business – blinds us to opportunity.

That story stuck with me. I’ve thought about it over and over during the past year.

Because she’s right. And more now than ever before.

Think about your own firm for a minute. As the recession took off, I’d bet your clients started to worry. To ask questions about price. About cutting services. About streamlining and doing less. How did you react?

So many of us, when examining these requests in the light of our standard “menu” of offerings and hourly rates, just freaked out. In Barb’s parlance, we saw our offerings as “the cheeseburger for $3.99,” and couldn’t see that underneath the piece of cheese was a less expensive hamburger waiting to be sold. Instead of getting flexible and learning how to recombine and revitalize our services to meet the market’s needs (without changing the base structure of the menu, mind you!), too many of us have said, “We can’t do that!”

Yes, you can.

Because every cheeseburger begins life as a hamburger. Everything you do at your firm can be stripped to its bare bones and recombined in ways that make sense to your clients – for now. And then you can adjust your menu again as the market improves.

In the current economic climate, rigidity could be the kiss of death. How can you make your firm more adaptable to the requests and needs of your client base?

Keep it flexible. Give ’em the hamburger if that’s what they want.

Thanks, Barbara.

Photo by foodinmouth. (license)

2 Responses to “How Flexible is Your Menu?”

  1. Excellent post, Debra! And very true. I’d go so far as to say that in this day and age, our “menus” will need continuous adjustments. The marketplace is shifting faster than ever and our customers’ priorities shift along with it.

    Digging our heels in will only send them wandering down the street to check out another “menu” that lets them order exactly what they want (or need).

    I guess the question then becomes what happens to companies who are only willing to sell cheeseburgers if the market has shifted to favor Sloppy Joes? This type of question is one every company should ask themselves repeatedly, and often.

    Yet one more reason to really pay attention to your customers’ appetites.

  2. wacokid said

    I can’t believe you could tell that story without referencing the SNL cheeseburger cheeseburger skit.

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