Open Bars, Product Creation, and You

I’m going to a buddy’s wedding this weekend.

Just got done doing the typical, cutthroat jostling for a window seat that goes on in these Southwest flights.  (I succeeded, by the way.)

Anyways, I’m in the groom’s party.  Which means there’s going to be a lot of picture taking, standing around, and generally appearing to be more important than we really are.

Since my friend and his fiance are Catholic (there’s a foot and a half height difference between them, by the way . . . awesome!), I imagine there’s also going to be a healthy amount of drinking going on, too.

We Catholics do love to indulge in the sacrament every now and then.

And if you haven’t tried a a Trappist beer yet, I’ll give you a few minutes to go ahead and do that now . . .

Catholics have been brewing some of the best beers in the world for hundreds of years.

Catholic monks have been brewing some of the best beers in the world for centuries.

Don’t worry.  I’ll wait . . .

Good to go?  All right.  Now, all this picture-taking, fuchsia-vest wearing (*shudder*), merrymaking wedding talk got me thinking about . . . business.

Surprise, surprise.

But I realized something.  In all the weddings I’ve attended, there have been one of three “bar situations,” if you will.  And these different bar setups are directly analogous to all of the products or services I’ve ever bought.

Dry Weddings . . .

First things first.  The dry wedding.  Cheap?  Yeah, you bet.  But those things can be downright painful for wedding-goers.  Doubly so if dancing is expected.  And especially as long as I remain a white male trying to attempt said dancing.  (I don’t plan on getting a “reverse Michael Jackson” done anytime soon).

In business terms, these are the products that don’t live up to their hype.  Maybe you find them already broken right when you open up the box.  If not, they end up stuffed in a closet or on the street corner a short time later.  Ultimately, they just add another layer of tarnish to advertising’s bad name.

Note: if you’re interested in creating these types of products – i.e., cutting every corner you can to increase profit margins without much regard for the value you provide in return – I kindly suggest you stop visiting this site.  Thanks.

Cash Bars . . .

Then you have your cash bars.  These are the staples of the weddingsphere, the sensible, middle of the road option.  The Honda Civic of he nuptial superhighway.  You part with some of your cash, you get a tasty cocktail in return.  It’s quid pro quo, baby.  And, all in all, everyone’s reasonably satisfied.

The business counterparts of these are just . . . decent businesses.  They don’t promise the world to you, but their product does exactly what they say it they will do, and not much else.  These products represent 99.9% of your mundane, everyday items.

Reliable, useful stuff.  No surprises (bad or pleasant).  And ultimately, pretty forgettable.

Open Bars . . .

Finally, you have open bars.  These are the magical words that turn “maybes” into earnest RSVPs and make Bacchus proud.  You’ll find even your stingiest of friends there, gathering people around him and shouting, “next round’s on me!”

The Open Bar phenomenon: "I'll take Six Schlitzes . . . or whatever's free!"

The Open Bar phenomenon: “I’ll take Six Schlitzes… or whatever’s free!”

In the business sense, Apple is the first thing that comes to mind.  They’ve gone beyond the material world of product creation, utility, and quid pro quo exchange.  They’ve set in motion an entire ecosystem of fanboys (and fangirls) who huddle around Apple storefronts waiting for the iPhone 4, 5, 0r 17.

They aren’t just products.  They’re promises of a new lifestyle.


Because people’s perceived value of what they receive, for say, an iPod, is much greater than the material value of its cost.  It isn’t a balanced transaction.  Customers get more than what they pay for on a regular basis, to the point that it’s become expected.

And this pattern of fanatical over-deliverance of value engenders the press coverage, word of mouth viral marketing, and the rabid fandom.

So, let me ask you:

What kind of product or service are you building?

Do you ever want to hang out with your customers outside a business environment?  Or are you be too afraid they’ll turn on you for under-delivering on your promises?

Stop worrying (and complaining) about getting a “fair bargain.”  Don’t expect to get X amount of money for putting X amount of blood, sweat, and tears into creating and marketing your product.

Start thinking how you can go out of your way to over-deliver.  Give, give, and give until you can’t give anymore (then give some more).  Give your customer 10 times the value of what she pays you in exchange.

It feels good, wowing people.  And it creates hordes of people eager to do business with you over the long haul.  People that post on forums, sing your praises to all their friends, and line up in the freezing cold for you in Best Buy parking lots.

So stop worrying about getting a fair deal right now.  It doesn’t work that way.

Give as much as you can.  Set up that open bar of yours, stock it with top shelf liquor, and invite everybody in.

It all comes back eventually.

Like a boomerang that picks up dollar bills on its return flight.

P.S. How do you “over-deliver” to your customers?  Which companies (besides your own) do you think do this best?  Leave me a comment and let me know!