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Business Lessons Learned In Odd Places

It’s another Expert Briefs, where I ask really smart business owners to answer your burning questions.

If you've missed past Expert Briefs, you can click on the undies to see them all –>

Last week we discussed interesting and unique ways to make money in your business.

This week we're talking about lessons learned. I asked our panel of experts …

What's a marketing or business lesson that you've learned from a totally unexpected place?

kellyKelly McCausey of Solo Smarts Podcast says:

A Lesson Learned from Soggy Fries at McDonald's.

McDonald's often reminds me to ‘just get it right!'. They have the best fries on the planet, right? Well, at least one out of three visits to McDonalds will end up a disappointment. Some employee with no concept of quality control sends sad and wilted fries out the window into my car. There's nothing quite as disappointing as a wilted fry when you're expecting crisp and hot deliciousness!

I am always frustrated by this. How hard is it to notice that the fries have gone past their prime? It's a small thing in the greater scope of life, I know this – but still… it is such a let down.

Whenever I get crappy fries, I think about how they've let me down. Recently I got to thinking about my own customer satisfaction. Do I ever let my people down like McDonalds? Great, great – then a flop?

I'll never give up on McDonald's because when the fries are good they are very VERY good – but I don't want to risk losing a customer due to poor quality control. I'm double checking my sales process to make sure that my customers aren't disappointed!

ShannonShannon Cherry of Learn How I Get *Paid* to Attend Events says:

A Lesson in Grace from the UN.

Lessons are everywhere if we choose to see them.

And a few years ago, I got a big one.

You see, I attended an event my husband was hosting at the United Nations. It was a ‘debate' so-to-speak about a proposal for a UN resolution to call for blasphemy laws. One of the debaters and proponents of the resolution was the head of the organization of Islamic states. This man represented all countries where Islam is the the country's religion.

At one point during the very civil debate, a woman in the audience started screaming at this man. She had no right to speak, let alone be so hostile.

This man bowed to her and apologized for offending her and then said he would not continue if his viewpoints were so offensive.

All I could think of was, “Wow! This man could have shouted back at her. This man could have had this woman removed. This extremely powerful man could have done anything to her. But he didn't.”

I learned that being gracious makes a bigger impression sometimes than being a fighter. His actions spoke louder than words. So today, I try to make sure I am gracious as much as possible in my business.

Susanne Myers of  Daily Affiliate Tasks says:

Lesson's Learned from The Knitting Niche.

I’ve been doing a lot of sock knitting lately and in the process have come across few different Indy dyers (these are people that take bland white yarn and turn them into colorful pieces of art that you then knit socks out of). I could out-market most of them, but my two favorites are doing a few things really well that could easily be adopted no matter what you’re marketing.

Yarn Dyer #1.

The first is a fairly new dyer who doesn’t have much of a following. She’s growing rapidly though because she does a few things very well:

  • She is where her target market is. She’s very active on social media and yarn specific forums.
  • She’s showing her product in variety of ways including images and videos.
  • She ships super fast and has the yarn ready at the time of order.
  • She adds some personal touches to each shipment including a handwritten note.

The Takeaway: Hang out where your customers are already interacting online. Show your product in a variety of different formats. Focus on great customer service and get back with your readers/
subscribers and customers quickly. Add some personal touches and focus on building a loyal following.

Yarn Dyer #2.

The second dyer is well established and has quite a following. She has to do no actual marketing. In fact her yarn goes so quickly, it took me six months to figure out how to grab some before it sells out. Each batch of her yarn is gone within 3 to 5 minutes. Why?

  • She has a quality product that’s consistently good.
  • She keeps coming up with new and exciting colorways.
  • She encourages her customers to share items they’ve knit with her yarn online (that’s how I first came across her yarn).
  • She’s very personal and always ready to go the extra mile for a good customer. I missed out on some holiday yarn this past weekend because I was traveling. She offered to dye up an extra
    skein for me.
  • She adds some little surprise goodies to each shipment.
  • She recently teamed up with a popular project bag creator (it’s a knitting thing) to create coordinating yarns and bags. In other words she was JVing and leveraging both her and her friend’s client base to generate more sales for everyone involved.

The Takeaway: You can slow down on your direct marketing once you’re established provided you keep your customers happy. Focus instead on cultivating your loyal following and create the products they need over and over again. Leverage your success by JVing with other marketers in related fields that complement what you are doing.

If you are a knitter, get in touch with me and I’ll gladly the contact info for both those Indy yarn dyers with you.

rachelRachel Rofe of How To Get Every Book You Write Onto The First Page Of Kindle says:

Lessons Learned from People Watching.

Eben Pagan mentioned years ago that every once in a while he'll go to a Wal-Mart and just people watch. I love doing the same thing (and also at train stations, subways, and wherever I can get away with it ;)). I remember sitting at a train station in Rio de Janeiro for hours, not understanding Portuguese but loving watching everyone..

It's really fun to see how people live. How they react to things. What their body language looks like. What they say.

Studies say you're the average of the 5 closest people in your life. So normally I try and surround myself with other successful business owners who identify as go-getters, ambitious, healthy, conscious, etc.

And while that sounds great on the surface, sometimes it can detach you from every day reality. That's where people watching comes in. I remember walking past a McDonald's one day (a place I don't go) and felt a flash of surprise that people eat there. In my world, that just doesn't happen.

So I think watching people provides a “reality check”. It boosts up your empathy skills and allows you to relate to more people. This is incredible for all your sales communication, for copywriting, and really, just for getting through life. 🙂

ronnieRonnie Nijmeh of (< -click for a special free offer from Ronnie) says:

Lesson Learned from Foam.

The unrelated business that opened my eyes and blew my mind is the foam industry.

Yup, foam.

There's this foam manufacturer called Foamite just outside of Toronto that we first heard about at a “Home Show” a couple years back… It's one of those expos with aisle after aisle of products and vendors.

Foamite stood out from the others because the owner was actually there manning the booth, they use a super high quality and natural foam, and it's a family-owned business. We bought our mattress from them two years ago, as well as the foam for a window seat, and we bought another mattress for a guest bed this week. We love them. 🙂

Why am I saying this?

Well, the way they do business is so different than anything I've seen.

First, they actually MAKE the foam AND they sell direct to consumers. That's pretty unusual since you typically go to a department store or mattress store to buy a mattress at a massive markup. These guys sell for less, the quality is better, and they're very proud of their product — they aren't shy about telling you either. 🙂

Next, they've supplied foam for some of the big mattress companies like Ikea, Tempur-pedic, and others. So they've got another type of client there… an industry with regular, massive purchase orders for bulk quantities of foam.

Next, they supply raw foam in custom sizes and cuts for designers and furniture makers… A totally different sub-niche and a niche that keeps coming back to make new stuff all the time.

Then, they go after entire industries. And WEIRD ones, too.

Like supplying foam cushions for 18,000 seat arenas… or outfitting the bumpers for curling clubs across Canada (it's a strange sport played on ice)… and they even make giant dense foam pipe cleaners that are used to clean underground pipes that are as wide as I am tall!

When I asked the sales rep how they find these businesses, she said: “they find us.” Crazy cool.

What are the key lessons from Foamite?

1. They have a product that they can fully control and make on demand. They are the product creator, not just an affiliate (but they do sell other related products — i.e. upsells — that they don't make, like pillows and mattress covers).

2. They have a product that many, many different types of people and businesses want and need… and they have different lead generating methods to attract the right person or business into the right product. A guy looking to clean pipes goes through a different funnel than the couple who wants a mattress.

3. They took a boring product and made it relevant across different niches. It's easy to think that foam is only good for mattresses, where there's lots of competiton and lower-ticket sales… but it's genius to dream of unique uses for foam, like underground pipe cleaners, curling bumpers, and arena seats where there's little competition and HUGE lucrative contracts.

When you look around, you'll see business lessons everywhere!

NicoleNicole Dean of .. here! .. says:

Lessons Learned from the Liquor Store.

My favorite place to go for marketing inspiration, especially when it comes to creative branding, is the liquor store.

Well, for that reason and so I can grab some wine, of course. 🙂

On my recent mastermind weekend with Connie Green, we stopped at a liquor store so that I could grab some wine. I mentioned to Connie my fascination with the branding on the bottles and she, so graciously asked the gentleman running the store if I could take a few pictures. He agreed. I was so excited!

Here are a couple of the pictures that I took in those few minutes….

Angry Orchard.

I love how the creators of this brand took the Wizard of Oz reference and ran with it.

Skinny Girl Cocktails.

I could write for days about Skinny Girl and  their brand. But, basically, who wants a beer gut? Skinny girl to the rescue.

Oddka Vodka.

Last but certainly not least is Oddka Vodka.

What makes Oddka unique? Well, they have oddly flavored Vodka. Nothing as cool as Bacon Vodka, but still pretty awesome as you are about to see.

Their two oddest flavors are Fresh Cut Grass and Wasabi.



Oddka reminds me of Harry Potter's Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans ? 1.2 oz Box – the jelly beans that come in earthworm, fresh cut grass, and booger flavor. Why not attract that market for vodka? (Not that I want to drink Booger Vodka, but you get what I mean.)

So talk to me.

Where do you find odd inspiration for your marketing?

Nicole Dean

PS. Yes, if you are over the age of 21, feel free to click on any of the images above and check them out. It's a pretty interesting study in branding if you ask me.

PS again. I know I should have something to sell here, but I just wanted to ask the question. If you like this post – share it and check out my friends' sites. That'll make me happy! 🙂 Appreciate you!


I appreciate shares and I adore comments! Please share your thoughts.

  • Polly White

    I agree to what others says that “experience is a great teacher” because they are really. We can never live a life where we don’t face problems since it’s like a magnet that keeps coming back to our life if we don’t face it head on. Whether it’s personal or business related, we do learn our lessons in our life mostly the hard way so that we will think twice on doing certain things that we’ve already done. Thank you for sharing this post.

  • Ronnie Nijmeh

    Amazing how we can find inspiration in the oddest of places… and how VASTLY different we all are — yet how inspired we are too! 🙂

  • Bruce Arnold


    Interesting branding in the liquor store. I was in Walgreens here in St. Petersburg recently and as I walked past their wine section, I did a double-take. There on their shelf was a wine called Mad Housewife Cabernet Sauvignon. Certainly got my attention. A little research shows they even have T-Shirts, coffee mugs, etc. in cafepress.

    As usual, thanks for another enlightening Experts Brief and please keep them coming!

  • Larry

    I love @Kelly’s McD’s fries story – it is the soggy fries that drives us nuts – where’s that crispy freshness?! But a friend of mine said life is all about texture, and you need a bit of crunch in your life, and this page has reminded me of that, and thanks.

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