Maybe it’s the waffle fries? Or the old-fashioned milkshakes?

Whatever it is, it’s working. It’s working big time to the tune of over $9 BILLION in annual sales.

What prompted me to further investigate the success secrets of this massive sales-generating fast-food empire is that last week, they opened a new location 15 minutes from where I live.

When I drove by on the opening day, the line was like nothing I have ever seen before. Now remember, I’m located in Michigan and it’s February. So, that means lots of the white stuff and below-freezing temperatures. To wait in line for over TWO HOURS for a chicken sandwich? Well, there just had to be more to it than that.

I did a deep dive into the Chick-fil-A brand and marketing strategy to try and dissect the secret of how they created such a massive demand for a chicken sandwich. I marveled as I passed their 14 competitors within a five-mile radius as these chicken sandwich retailers had no one in line for their culinary creations. Those competitors just sat and watched in awe at the mile-long back up of cars directed by the police and private security. This was the biggest parade of hungry customers with fistfuls of cash in freezing temperatures anxiously waiting to get to the front so they can claim their coveted prize – a chicken sandwich – that I have ever seen.

A chicken sandwich, can you believe it?

Wanna know what their secret is???

I don’t get it. Do you? Or that’s what I thought before I started investigating what type of company Chick-fil-A is and how they market their restaurants. You could spend an entire month learning everything they do right and how they promote their brand, and it would be time well spent. But I know you don’t have that kind of time, so let me highlight some of the key points that I found that you can implement in your own business for success. Success leaves clues, and there are a bunch of them here.

Some facts that you should know about this company before we start breaking down their strategy:

  • The privately held company has reported sales growth every single year since 1967.
  • There are 2,605 locations that produce over $9 billion in sales annually.
  • All locations are closed on Sundays, losing $1 billion annually in sales.
  • The company will never go public.
  • It’s expected to become the third-largest fast-food chain.
  • It’s easier to get into Harvard than operate a Chick-fil-A franchise.

These are all vital points, and I could go on for hours on each detail breaking down the how and why, but I want to stick to marketing and how they create such a demand for an ordinary seamless product.

(If you want more detail and a good read, their previous marketing director of 30 years, Steve Robinson, wrote a book. It’s called Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A – How faith, Cows and Chicken Built an Iconic Brand. It’s a good read and has lots of great info on the company and their marketing.)

The question withstanding is: how does Chick-fil-A create such excitement and continued demand of an ordinary, common menu item that lots of their competitors are selling within proximity?

As far as being close to your competitors, the opening of this new location that I witnessed last week had two major competitors in their own parking lot. Can you believe it! You can’t get any closer than that. I think that was really the most amazing part. That the line of cars snaked around for at least a mile in the same parking lot as their competition. The line was so long that it actually blocked the entrance to some of their competitors. Amazing.

I spoke with several people that braved the cold temperatures and waited in their cars through various times of the day, and everyone I talked to waited in line for at least 90 minutes. The funny thing is one person told me they watched an entire movie on their phone while they waited in line for their food. Who does that? Apparently A LOT of people do.

But why? Is it really because their chicken sandwich is sooooo much better than everyone else’s? Or maybe they have some secret ingredient in their Waffle Cut French fries that gets people addicted. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s how they run their company, treat their employees and their customers, and their MARKETING!

Just a short note on their mission statement on how they view and run their company from their director of hospitality- We offer high-quality personalized service, best-in-class hospitality, along with food that tastes great. Concise, to the point, says it all, and easy to remember. Good lesson. Again, I could go on for hours about this one topic, but this is a marketing blog, and I want to talk about their marketing.

But why? Is it really because their chicken sandwich is sooooo much better than everyone else’s? Or maybe they have some secret ingredient in their Waffle Cut French fries that gets people addicted. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s how they run their company, treat their employees and their customers, and their MARKETING!

Just a short note on their mission statement on how they view and run their company from their director of hospitality- We offer high-quality personalized service, best-in-class hospitality, along with food that tastes great. Concise, to the point, says it all, and easy to remember. Good lesson. Again, I could go on for hours about this one topic, but this is a marketing blog, and I want to talk about their marketing.

Covert Cow Marketing

There are many things that Chick-fil-A does right with their company and their marketing to be this successful. I will provide you with a few highlights that you can implement in your own business.

Specialized Menu:

 If you own a restaurant, you know what I am talking about. As a reformed restaurant owner myself, I’m guilty of trying to cover every menu group on the planet. At one time, I had a six-page menu. It was like reading a book for your guests. Not good. Look at your own menu… if it takes someone 20 minutes to get through, it’s probably too long.

I would rather have 15 items on my menu that I do really well that people love than to try and appeal to everyone’s individual taste with 200 menu items that I do just ok.

Chick-Fil-A has 10 entrees on their menu. And guess what… they all involve chicken. They are known as the place to go for a chicken sandwich, and they market it that way. They market themselves as the chicken sandwich experts. We specialize in chicken. It’s our brand, our logo, and in our marketing. Not confusing, and they market in a very concise manner furthering their brand. If you’re going to be a Mexican restaurant, be a guacamole expert. If you’re going to cater weddings, be a wedding specialist. If you own an auto repair shop, specialize in Porsche. You get the idea. There are riches in niches. You wouldn’t go to Chick-fil-A for a burger, would you? The cows wouldn’t like that.

Do the Opposite of Your Competition:

I’m a huge believer in this concept. Steve Robinson, who wrote the book I mentioned above, wrote about his 2-million-dollar mistake when he first started with the company.

He ran a bunch of coupons and ads in newspapers across the country, discounting their products, copying his national fast-food competitors. He didn’t think the promotion through and just blindly copied what other fast-food chains were doing – resulting in a 2-million-dollar loss in profit. Boy, did he learn a big lesson. When he fessed up and told the owner of the company what happened, the owner at the time replied, “Well, I guess you just got a $2 Million dollar education on how marketing works.”

Don’t Copy Your Competitors Bad Marketing:

­ It might seem like a good idea at the time, but trust me, it’s not. There are lots of factors that go into creating a successful campaign, and most businesses don’t adhere to or even know what those are. Beware.

A good rule of thumb is to look at what everyone else is doing and then do the opposite. You want to stand out and be different, especially in today’s day and age.

Get Personal:

This is one of the biggest advantages that Chick-fil-A has over their competition when it comes to their marketing strategy being local. Each Chick-fil-A franchise owner must work in the operation and can only own one single unit. This gives them a distinct advantage when it comes to their marketing because they know what is going on locally within their community and can use that in their marketing.

Chick-fil-A creates a newsletter for their customers and team members called The Chicken Wire. It features things that are going on locally at their locations. Your customers are much more interested in what’s going on right in their hometown than something thousands of miles away.

That’s a big advantage that you have over the national chains. The ability to market small and effectively getting personal with your customers. Everyone wants their marketing to be personalized for just them. With the tools available today to use information about a person in your marketing, it’s very effective. The more personal you can get with your marketing, the more successful you will be.

Some examples of how to use personalization in your marketing are:

  • A monthly print and email newsletter.
  • Personalized emails.
  • Answering your reviews.
  • Personalizing a postcard with your list’s information.

These are just a few ideas. Remember, how much you will sell this year depends on the strength of your relationship with your customers. How strong is yours? 

Don’t Be Boring, Don’t Be Cheap:

Chick-fil-A spends over $63 million a year on marketing. That’s the same budget Starbucks has. Why do they spend so much? Because marketing is the greatest INVESTMENT you can make. I don’t know any other investment that you can make where you can consistently get a positive return with such high multipliers of your original investment. And where you have total control. Marketing is an investment, don’t get cheap.

For example, marketing to attract a new customer is very different than marketing to get your existing customers to come back more often, spending more. It’s a much bigger investment and harder to get a new customer. You don’t have to entice an existing customer like you do a new customer. A new customer requires an irresistible offer with risk reduction on their part and a sense of urgency to prompt them into action. An existing customer who already knows and loves you needs a little poke to remind them you’re here and ready to serve them.

He who can afford to spend the most to get a customer wins. These are words to live by.

Don’t be boring with your marketing. We must be different, be fun, and be exciting with all aspects of our business. Or you won’t get noticed and just turn to white noise for your customers and potential customers. Nobody goes out to eat at a restaurant to be bored. We are all humans and want to be stimulated and have fun. Your business, even if it’s an auto repair shop, can give your customers a memorable experience. Something that they must tell their friends and family about.

What do all the employees at a Chick-fil-A say when they are done talking to you? Two simple words, “My pleasure.” It’s a little thing, but it’s different and stands out. Is it easy to make sure tens of thousands of people that work for the company to say, “My pleasure” at the end of every sentence? I doubt it, but they make it happen, and it helps create a memorable experience at their business for their customers.

You are a business owner, but you are also a marketer of memorable customer experiences.

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” – Walt Disney

Now go get the best chicken sandwich in the world.

Michael

Wanna have some fun and do something good for your business? Sign up for one of our Strategy Sessions. A $297 value, but your first one is FREE because you’re on our list, and we love you! Thanks for reading this post by the way!

We will do a bunch of work before we even get on the call with you to find out about your business and your local competition. We will tell you how you can Chick-fil-A your marketing to develop a tribe of loyal customers just like they have. We only can do 5 of these a week, so I wouldn’t wait.

And I guarantee you will laugh at least three times during our call. We tell some pretty funny jokes.

(First 30-minute strategy session per business owner is FREE. Additional Strategy Sessions can be booked with a DFY marketing expert for $297 per hour.)

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