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7 things Chick-fil-A taught us about marketing

If I were the marketing director for Chick-fil-A, I would be buying full-page ads in the Chicago, Boston and San Francisco papers, thanking their local politicians for increasing sales over 100% in one day.

With just a few words from Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, Chick-fil-A had millions of passionate customers all over the country lined up around the block and in some cases all the way through town.

Some people waited in line for over an hour just to get a chicken sandwich. Many restaurants sold out of food and dedicated fans in cities all over America are still going to Chick-fil-A’s Facebook page, begging for a restaurant in their town.

Chick-fil-A, a $4 billion privately run company, has been in the media spotlight since their president and COO, Dan Cathy, said in an interview with the Biblical Reporter that he and his company supported traditional marriage.

Mike Huckaby – the former Governor of Arkansas, 2008 presidential candidate, NY Times best-selling author, radio and television show host – came up with “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” on Aug. 1 and posted it on his popular website.

From there, social media took over.

So what does all of this have to do with marketing banks (or any other company, for that matter)? Plenty! There are many valuable lessons we can learn from the controversy and events of the past week:

Lesson #1: Decide what your mission statement is and stick with it.

What does your bank stand for? What are your values? I think everyone in America now knows what Chick-fil-A stands for. It is important that your bank has a strong mission statement that governs the way you do business. I’ve heard all my life, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Lesson #2: Understand the value of social media.

Within days of establishing a “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” on his website, Mike Huckaby was able to motivate millions of people to show up at their local Chick-fil-A. By using social-networking sites, pro-democracy demonstrators were able to force Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak from office in just 18 days.

Lesson #3: Monitor social media.

You need to know what everyone is saying about your business. It won’t always be true, but you have to deal with it in a positive way.

Lesson #4: Have a contingency plan for unforeseen circumstances.

How would you handle a bank robbery or internal fraud? Who would speak with the media? What would they say? Who in your organization needs media training?

Lesson #5: Train your employees on how to deal with irate customers.

Here’s a video of a great example of how a Chick-fil-A employee handled a customer who tried to bully her. (This irate individual was fired after creating a public relations nightmare for his company.)

Lesson #6: Privately-held companies have more leeway.

A lot of businesses operate by the “golden rule” – he who has the gold gets to make the rules. If Dan Cathy had worked for a publically-traded company, his stockholders and board might have asked for his resignation. But since Chick-fil-A is a private company, Dan can say anything he wants to.

Lesson #7: Create a great working environment for your employees.

Chick-fil-A is the best run, most profitable and fastest-growing restaurant chain in the industry. They have a great history of taking care of their employees and their employees’ families. As a result, employees of Chick-fil-A are loyal to the company and – as we have seen over the past week – so are its customers.

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Neal Reynolds has worked with hundreds of banks and credit unions around the country helping them to grow core deposits and market share without growing their marketing budgets. Contact him at nreynolds@eadshop.com.

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