Can a Sandwich Clarify Your Marketing?

I eat at Walmart. I’m not proud of it.

Well, I should back-up. I go to Walmart to get lunch sometimes. It’s just around the corner from my house.

I always park down near the garden center. It’s a little out-of-the-way. But there’s close parking every time.

I have headphones in as I march in a diagonal line toward the south double-doored entrance into the Supercenter.

I make an immediate left once past the second set of double doors. I smile and nod at the friendly gray-haired greeter. This, I feel, justifies leaving my headphones in. I’ve also convinced myself this momentary exchange of eye contact warms the cockles of his heart. Like, I’m the Folgers coffee to his 4:30 a.m.

I make my way past the self-checkout stations. Then past the dozen checkout lanes dotted with cashiers and customers.

That leaves one more set of traffic lanes to navigate as people come and go from the North entrance—the grocery side.

I cut across the slow trickle of people entering and exiting. Some are beginning their foraging. Others are finished and escape back outside to their car.

Finally I arrive. This is why I came. Tucked into the far front corner of my neighborhood Supercenter is the culinary giant, Subway.

It’s time to eat fresh, friends.

For the record, I get mine to go. Always. I can make the round trip to-and-from my house in under 11 minutes if everything goes as planned.

Today, however, is not that day. To my surprise and dismay, someone else has discovered this hidden gem.

I get in line behind a short, petite, older lady. Perfect gray-blue hair. Gold-rimmed glasses perched on her pointy nose. A navy purse dangles from her right arm. It compliments her World War II-era blouse and stiff polyester pants. She stands comfortably in her pleather orthotics as she waits to order.

In her left hand, she clenches a handwritten note. I can’t quite make out the neatly written cursive. Still, I know what’s about to happen.

This dear lady is about to order several sandwiches. If ever there was a deathblow to my 11-minute sandwich run, this was it.

Forget lunch. I’d be lucky to make it home before dinner.

I recognize the Subway worker on the other side of the sneeze-guard glass. She’s one of two alternating sandwich chefs usually working at lunchtime. She puts on a pair of XL sanitary plastic gloves fit for a sasquatch. Then she hits her opening line.

“What can I get started for you today?” Subway Sara asks. (I don’t know if her name is Subway Sara. But it should be. She definitely looks like a Subway Sara.)

Then came the bad news.

“I’ve got three sandwiches to order,” said Dora Jean as she positioned her note inline with her transition lenses. (I don’t know if her name was Dora Jean. But it should be. She definitely looks like a Dora Jean.)

Sweet Moses,’ I said. No, wait. I thought it. Right? Please tell me I didn’t just say that out loud.

It took 10 seconds to watch the initial exchange between Dora Jean and Subway Sara for me to see the trainwreck coming.

If Dora Jean spoke Mandarin, things would’ve gone more smoothly than they were about to go.

“Is that second one an Italian sub, or do you just want it on Italian bread?” said Subway Sara, confused.

Fast forward another two minutes into Dora Jean’s order. The fog hadn’t lifted.

My anxiety was rising faster than a river after a heavy spring rain. It was so frustrating to watch, it was almost comical. Almost.

As the three poor sandwiches slid down to the fresh toppings end of the production line, these two ladies were ready to come to blows. The air in the room was thick and uncomfortable. Even for Walmart air.

Maybe those aren’t sneeze guards, I thought eyeing the glass separating the two. That’s prison glass.

As vegetable toppings and dressings got smashed and drenched on those helpless sandwiches, I realized something…

I was made to be a marketer.

Weird observation, I know. It surprised me too.

Let me explain.

How a Trip to Subway Can Clarify Whether You’re a Marketer or Not

I wanted to step in. Bad.

I was dying to intervene.

Demographically speaking, I was smack in the middle of these two. My parents are a handful of years younger than Dora Jean. I grew up with Dora Jeans. They taught my 2nd Grade classes and worked in my dad’s office.

I’ve also got a daughter who was probably a freshman when the Subway gal graduated high school. Like, I can totally, like relate to her, like, you know?

Strip away all the hacks and fancy talk and this is what makes a great marketer…

A marketer has a burning desire to intervene—to connect a business with a customer.

That’s it. That’s what I enjoy doing.

And moments like these confirm it.

A Marketer is a Mediator

Let’s keep this simple…because it is. A marketer is an interlocutor, an emissary, a go-betweener.

This is what a marketer does…

Step 1: Meet the Client

When I meet with clients, my natural bent is to listen and learn. I want understand what they do, what they offer, what makes them tick, what their dreams are, and how they want to impact the world.

Ask questions. Listen. Learn. Ask more questions.

Step 2: Leave the Client

The next step is to leave the client. On purpose. You’ve got to get out of there. Make a clean break.

Because leaving the client is the only way you can get in the customers’ shoes.

And that’s the crucial next step. It’s the one step only a marketer can really do. Keep reading and you’ll see why.

Step 3: Love the Customer

I tell my clients all the time. “Half of what you’re paying me to do is to show up and be an advocate for your customer.”

Why do I say that? Because…

I’ve never met a client who is not an expert at being a client.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve met bad clients.

Here’s what I mean…

Every client who reaches out to me, does so because they want help growing their personal brand or business. They have unrealized goals. They want more of something. And they know it.

I’ve never had a client say, “We love where we are, we just wanted to write you a check.”

Nope. Every client wants something. And that’s the one thing they know well. They know it well, because they stare at it everyday. And it becomes brighter in their eyes than the noonday sun.

But here’s the deal with the noonday sun. For all its greatness, it causes blind spots.

Yes, every client wants something, bad. But…

What ALL of us get blind to is knowing what the customer wants with equal conviction.

That’s why this step is one best-made by an unbiased marketer.

Step 4: Mediate

This is where a great marketer shines. He knows the client and what they have to offer. She knows the customer and what they need.

A marketer steps in and facilitates a conversation between the two.

And a marketer gets energized when the two click. When the client and customer get each other, a marketer goes home happy.

It’s not easy, but it is that simple. Any marketer who says otherwise is likely a wolf in fancy sheepskin shoes trying to pay them off by dazzling you with ‘expertise’.

Sandwiched Between Dora Jean and Subway Sara

Me: Hold up ladies. Let me see if I can help. Mrs. Jean, you’d like three six-inch sandwiches. One on wheat, two on Italian. Roast beef and cheddar on the wheat. Ham and turkey on the first Italian. And the Italian club sandwich on the second Italian bread, with ham, turkey, salami, and pepperoni. Is that right?

Dora: Yes. Thank you. Isn’t that what I said?

Subway Sara: Oh. I got you. Why didn’t you say that Dora? Coming right up.

Me: Get over here you two. Let’s hug it out. And I’m buying.

And that’s exactly what happened. At least in the movie playing in my mind. The mind of an introverted marketer watching Dora Jean and Subway Sara make a mess of three sandwiches.

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