CakeMon

A couple months back, I was sitting at a bar on a tiny island off the coast of Belize. It was 4:30 on a perfect afternoon of 85-degree weather, when a local guy approached our group with a large box of cakes. He was 30-something and his 3×2-foot box held about 60 “personal-sized” cakes. Key lime cake, carrot cake, turtle cheesecake, pound cake, several cookies and his specialty: chocolate macaroon cake with fresh coconut frosting.

They sold for $3 each and we bought a few. The key lime cake was so remarkable, I nearly cried. Each one of us (6 grown men) was raving about the different treats we sampled like Martha Stewart wannabes. Upon our completion, we simultaneously felt the urge for more. And like schoolgirls chasing Justin Timberlake, we ran after the “CakeMon” to score another fix. This time I tried his specialty — still warm from the oven, the chocolate macaroon intermingled with the fresh coconut — it was spiritual.

That was our first day.

Each and everyday after, we would make our way to the bar around 4pm in anticipation of CakeMon’s arrival. We would tell everyone we spoke to about the cakes. We would speak specifically about the nuances of each flavor. We would encourage new visitors to the island to seek out these frosted gems and pay the more-than-fair $3 a piece.

We had become “Brand Evangelists.”

Evangelists are folks so inspired they will do a company’s bidding for them. A great deal of products and services are sold worldwide due to ordinary people spreading the word. How many logo t-shirts do you see in a day? How many suggestions do you get when talking about a new mobile phone? Ever see a company’s logo as a tattoo? (Can you say Harley Davidson?) Armies of people are out their pushing product without a penny in commission. I personally know brand evangelists for products that vary from Polaris Snowmobiles to Aveda Hand Cream. We all know evangelists for Apple Computer.

Whether it’s extraordinary service, exceptional product or an over-the-top brand experience, if you do right by your customer, they will feel compelled to return the favor. It’s a common courtesy that’s hard-wired into our human psyche. If you can hit that button…it’s automatic. Invest in your customers and respect them as a crucial component in your business plan. And like CakeMon, you’ll have people all but doing the baking for you.