“Be nice to people and give ’em free stuff. They’ll come back.” 

This was an oversimplified answer to a question that a potential retail client gave me when I explained the theory of a purple goldfish. I thought quietly for a moment and responded, “Yes, this can be simple in theory. However, be honest with yourself, what do you give consistently that sets you apart and how do you measure that it’s working?”
To those that are new around here, a purple goldfish is giving a “little something” that touch the hearts of your customers and makes the biggest difference.
Call it G.L.U.E. – Giving Little Unexpected Extras.
Call it a “lagniappe” – A little more given at the time of transaction.

The principal has many names but the concept is nearly the same. 

The tricky part is ingraining this “little something extra” into your operations and making your purple goldfish both cost effective and scalable.
Conceptually, [nearly] everyone that I talk to says that they understand this concept, the overall strategy, and share that their entity encompasses this value. Unfortunately, very few people go from knowing what a Purple Goldfish is to proper execution.
Back in 2009, when my partner, Stan Phelps, temporarily lost his mind…he set out to find 1,001 examples of the “purple goldfish” in action. Stan sent out email blasts, social media requests, asked other world class customer experience professionals, and worked tirelessly to crowdsource the best 1,001 purple goldfish.
Think about it, if you devoted all of your time to this practice, surely you could uncover about 5-10 anecdotes per day. Let’s go on the low-end and say that Stan was only about to accrue five examples for his project per day. That means that 1,001 examples divided by five daily additions equals approximately 200 days or between six and seven months to complete the project.

The end result? It took Stan almost four times as long and over two years to find these examples!

This should be a clear indicator how rare a unique, sustainable purple goldfish is to find. When I set out to find many anecdotes in the service industry for the Purple Goldfish Service Edition book, it amazed me how difficult most people found this idea without citing DoubleTree, Chick-fil-A, Five Guys Burgers, and Southwest Airlines.
In a former life, I unknowingly had helped create multiple Purple Goldfish in our operations, such as:

  1. On-site neighbor appreciation – This was an initiative where we cooked samples of our signature dishes for neighboring businesses, sports teams, and clubs free of charge.
  2. Magnetic pin – This was a gift that we provided our “VIP” guests to signify that they were returning guests and were to be greeted by any member of our team that walked by the VIP.  
  3. Full tours – This was a practice where we took any guests that wanted to see a full view of the kitchen and overall operation. This practice was more impactful by encouraging guests to take pictures, videos, and live stream the tour.   
  4. The colored menu – Three different colored menus denoted to the staff that the table was celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or going away party. 
  5. Dining room basin sink – This was an “old school” wash basin in the dining room that invoked cleanliness and made washing one’s hand much more convenient.

The purple goldfish doesn’t have to be in service industries and it doesn’t have to be strictly B2C, either. As another example, I’m currently helping grow a fermented superfoods supplement company and we provide a free “shaker” bottle given as a surprise gift with the first order to enhance their experience. The next iteration will be a communication sequence that encompasses email, the phone, and direct mail to ensure that we have exceeded the customer’s expectations, and continue to do so.Shaker BottleAny entity can do this. It doesn’t matter if you’re B2C, B2B, for purpose, not for purpose, governmental, or anything else in between. The Purple Goldfish is, and will always be, the key to touching the hearts and minds of the people that you serve and will always serve as the beacon for retention and referrals.

So how do you go about designing and executing your own purple goldfish today?  

Here is your quick five step checklist that will help you get off to the races:

  1. What gift or service can we provide the people that we serve that is congruent with our values?
  2. What are our strengths? What makes us different from everyone else? How can we physically manifest that differentiator?
  3. Does this purple goldfish add value or help maintain the relationship?
  4. Can our team readily implement this purple goldfish? Is it easy to understand and execute?
  5. Can we ensure that the purple goldfish is being implemented consistently? How?

The other option is to simply pass off the concept of the purple goldfish as common sense and state that “you know” it’s important. However, as my high school wrestling coach once put me in my place and said, “No, you don’t know. Otherwise, you’d be doing it.”

My belief is that you do know. Go create something remarkable!

Today’s lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Let’s keep it simple. Want to know how to pronounce, “lagniappe”? Now you’ll finally know!