Here’s the thinking that leads just about every all-you-can-eat buffet to trend to mediocrity:
“Oh, don’t worry about how fresh the mashed potatoes are, after all, they’re free.”
Indeed, as far as the kitchen is concerned, each individual item on the buffet is ‘free’ in the sense that the customer didn’t spend anything extra to get that item.
The problem is obvious, of course. Once you start thinking that way, then every single item on the buffet gets pretty lousy, and the next thing you know, the customers you seek don’t come.
So, the hotel that says, “With this sort of volume… we do tend to encounter a slower pace with our free wireless internet,” has completely misunderstood how to think about the free internet they offer. It’s not free. In fact, it might be the one and only reason someone picked your $400 hotel room over that hotel down the street. Sure the hot water and the towels and the quiet room are all free in the sense that they’re included in the price, but no, they’re not free in the mind of the purchaser.
Successful organizations often beat the competition by turning the buffet problem upside down. “Let’s make these the best mashed potatoes in town–who knows, next time, that guy out front will bring his friends.”
The mashed potatoes aren’t free, the mashed potatoes, the wifi and everything else you do are an opportunity. The cheapest and most effective marketing you’ll do all year.
Opportunities are unrealized value. 8th grade science or 9th grade health and fitness or first year algebra are not just the mashed potatoes of your school’s buffet; they are opportunities to build value! Let’s just modify Seth’s quote: “Let’s develop the shockingly best learning experience in town, one that families cannot find anywhere else, public or private–who knows, next admissions season some of those families will bring their friends to take a look at what we have to offer.”
Now I will write that blog post about value.