This post was kindly submitted by Tyler James.
Though the Louisiana French word may be unfamiliar, we’ve all experienced the lagniappe. The word refers to a small, unexpected gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of purchase. It’s the proverbial 13th donut that comes with the baker’s dozen. And it is incredibly powerful.
The other day, I decided to check out The Shake Shack, a new small business in town. I was greeted by two enthusiastic ladies, and handed a shake order form. I wrote the number of the shake I wanted. (Dreamsicle. Yum.) I circled non-fat milk, and 5 grams of extra protein (’cause I’m a dude and that’s the only way to butch-up a dreamsicle). At the bottom, there was something about a tea, but I ignored it. I was there for a shake. I turned my form in and they started making it.
“Hey, did you get your shot?” one of the ladies asked me.
It was a Tuesday morning…WAY too early for shots. “Excuse me?” I replied.
She handed me a Dixie cup containing a refreshing shot of aloe juice. Unexpected. On the house. Down the hatch.
“And which tea did you want?”
Again, “Excuse me?”
“Every shake comes with an energizing tea. Do you want lemon, peach or raspberry?”
Well, sure, I came for the shake, but I’m not about to turn down a free raspberry tea. I paid my $5.50 and walked out of the place pleased with my purchase, a delicious dreamsicle shake in one hand and a free raspberry energy tea in the other.
In the three weeks since then, I’ve been back so many times, they’ve started calling me “Two-Fisting Tyler” at work.
The lagniappe is a powerful thing. It’s unexpected. And we humans LOVE to talk about unexpected things. I’ve found myself talking up The Shake Shack to everyone lately. Telling them about the quirky, upbeat ladies behind the counter and the free aloe shot and energy teas. Of course, their tasty shakes eventually also get mentioned.
So, what does this have to do with you and your webcomic?
There’s not a single member of Webcomics.com who wouldn’t love to double, triple, or quadruple his or her readership. Sometimes we put so much focus on attracting new readers and trying to get strangers interested in us, that we slack on ways to provide truly remarkable experiences for the people whose attention we already have. Most marketing efforts and resources are spent trying to get on the radar of strangers. Smart webcomic marketers, however, spend most of their time focused on turning existing readers into buyers, buyers into repeat buyers, and repeat buyers into evangelists. And guess what evangelists do?
They’re the ones spreading the word about your site to the strangers so you don’t have to!
If you’ve been regularly spending money advertising your site (essentially marketing to strangers) how about taking a couple of months off and instead put that money, time, and effort toward doing a little something extra and unexpected for the readers you already have?
Smart businesses make the extra effort to provide a lagniappe, and it costs them next to nothing. Buy a sandwich at the local deli and the big, beautiful smile from the pretty girl behind the counter comes with it. Get your car serviced and they take a few extra minutes to vacuum the car. Buy the book from your favorite creator at a convention and he or she takes an extra minute to write some really nice words or draw a quick sketch in it for you, looks you in the eye, and thanks you by name for the purchase. The lagniappe MATTERS.
[It’s pronounced LAN-yap, by the way.]
What about you? What are you doing? What can you do to provide that little unexpected extra for the people who are already supporting you? I’d love to hear your ideas.
As for me, yesterday I woke up to an online order for a $15 artist edition of Tears of the Dragon, my fantasy webcomic. My online sales, though picking up a bit lately, are still sporadic, so an online sale is always a nice way to start the day. I grabbed a book from my stack and addressed the envelope to the purchaser. My stomach growled, suggesting I starting the day with- you guessed it- a delicious Shake Shack shake (+ energy tea! + aloe shot!) Before I sealed the envelope, I thought of the ladies working there, and decided to drop a sketch card in with the book as well.
It wasn’t asked for. It won’t be expected. It’s not much. It’s just a lagniappe.
But it works.