Note: I first published this about a year ago, but thought I’d make a few edits (given Larry’s new-found Marketing tactics) and republish in honor of Grand Opening Weekend at Larry’s Produce. Me? I’m wating until Monday or Tuesday to get my produce-fix, when the crowds are a little easier to deal with!
So, here it is – how one of my favorite local businesses nails the whole successful business thing even while breaking a few rules of Marketing!
Walking through the dusty gravel parking lot lugging my 2 heavy canvas bags chock full of fresh cucumbers, green leaf lettuce, Napa cabbage, string beans, nectarines, apricots and lots of other summer garden delights I pondered how Larry’s Produce, my favorite local summer institution, has built a business breaking one of the biggest rules of Marketing: making it easy to do business with you.
About a year ago I wrote a blog about choosing Starbucks over Peet’s- not because of the coffee (I prefer Peet’s coffee) but because of internet access and the ease getting what I want from the experience. The point of the blog was making it really easy to do business with you so as not to give would-be customers a reason not to do business with you. During this visit to Larry’s I realized, not every business has to eliminate every single obstacle. And then I wondered why.
Larry’s is a small, somewhat out-of-the-way shack-like open structure produce stand that draws what seems like every single person within a 30 mile radius 6 months a year. They have an almost cult-like following, of which I’m one, and we are an army of promoters and evangelists. Those of us who shop at Larry’s love the place and neither crowds, nor scorching heat, nor extra ATM visits will keep us from getting our summer fix!
Easy Parking…. ? Not!
Larry’s doesn’t have easy parking – in fact on weekends you have to park quite a ways down the road because the small gravel parking lot is too small to handle the magnitude of cars. Larry’s doesn’t furnish fancy shopping carts – just old wheelbarrows or maybe a dirty white pail; you’re better off bringing your own canvas bags to tote your stuff around in. No they don’t take credit or debit cards – it’s cash or check only. (I love that actually, they will still take a local check!). And the summer-job high school students who ring you up aren’t trained to be overly-peppy and ask (and pretend to care) what you’re making for dinner (ala Raley’s), they just politely ring you up and wish you a nice day… most of the time.
Lots of Advertising and Promotions… ? Not!
I’ve never seen Larry’s advertise. I’ve never seen their name on the local little league park fence or on an “adopt a highway” sign. And yet, year after year, I’ve watched the crowds get larger and larger, the parking lot overflow, cars spilling out onto the sides of the country road and neighboring homes’ driveways (some have even had to barricade the driveways to keep Larry’s customers out). This year, I was thrilled to find a website, on which I signed up for their newsletter. I was thrilled to get their debut newsletter the other day announcing their grand opening. I noticed they’re even on Facebook now – way to go Larry’s! (I have mixed feelings about this – it’ll only make it more crowded…. )
Breaking the Rules…? Maybe, Maybe Not.
So what is it about Larry’s that allows them to break the rules of Marketing and still be such a huge success? It’s simple really. Larry’s does one thing and they do it perfectly: they provide a huge variety of the freshest, most delicious, mostly local, summer and fall produce at amazing prices – consistently. There are other produce shops around that try to compete, but there is just no comparison. Larry’s has never – in 10 years – failed to deliver exactly what I go there for; fresh and delicious local produce, great prices, great variety and a very local and off-the-beaten-path experience . Larry’s is ours – and we love it!
Worth the Extra Steps… ? Always!
So is Larry’s totally easy to do business with? Not really. I have to remember to grab some cash or my checkbook before heading out there; it’s usually requires an extra trip to the ATM. I have to remember to grab my canvas bags so I have something to carry my goodies in as I shop. And I have to fight crowds and long lines in 90+ degree heat; and yet for more than 10 years, I’ve shopped there religiously, at least once per week every month they’re open. I’m sad to see them close in the fall and anxious for them to open again in spring. Every year, around late May I start making the extra trip out there to see if they’ve put out their sign telling us – their anxious and eager public – when they’re opening for the season. (Yay! for the newsletter and Facebook this year to save me that trip!!!)
So, this little farm produce stand on a 2 lane country road has built a booming business by very simply understanding their niche and by being the very best at what they do. They have created an institution, and an insanely loyal following based on a product and an exprience that is true and 100% Larry’s. They are a testimonial to the core of marketing and business success: offering a superior product or service at a great value can be a differentiator – if you do it perfectly.
What is the one thing you do absolutely flawlessly that keeps customers coming back? Will your customers go out of their way to do business with you? How can we all get the kind of loyalty and following that Larry’s has gotten? I’d love to read your thoughts….