The Great Summer Sausage Caper
A Story About Guerilla Marketing
I often hear people ask my father, Mac Voisin, founder of M&M Meat Shops, “What are some of the things you did in the early days to get success with your business?” It’s almost as if people think my father knew some secrets that other people hadn’t figured out. In reality though, his ideas were often simple and based on common sense.
One of my favourite stories that illustrates this execution of common sense and simplicity is what my dad calls “The Great Summer Sausage Caper”.
It goes like this. One day in early 1981, in year one of business, Mac and Mark were standing behind their sales counter with no customers in the store and they got a little hungry. They decided to pull a summer sausage off the refrigerator shelf for a snack. They had forgotten how good of a product it was but that made them wonder why it didn’t sell better. They noticed there were only a couple left on the shelf. Since this product had a best before date they would only bring a few in each week for fear of not selling them all before they “expire”.
They realized too that customers were probably not noticing the sausages and if they were, they probably weren’t motivated to buy them because there was always just one or two on the shelf, making them look unimportant and unworthy.
Then it hit them. “You know, we should be telling customers how good this sausage is and even letting them taste a little”. This might sound obvious to us in 2015 but in 1981 it was basically unheard of to offer food samples in this way. The next two customers snatched up the last couple of sausages.
At the risk of not selling them all and having to make a visit to the local food bank, they ordered in 90 selling units of summer sausage! They told every customer who walked through their front door how great the sausage was and how they had to order in 90 selling units because they could hardly keep it in stock. Mac and Mark were on to something and proceeded to sell 87 sausages in one week!
Another example of something simple in the early days that helped increase business was when Mac bought a trailer full of 100 pumpkins near Halloween. He brought them to a local school and had the students carve them. Then he put the pumpkins in front of his shop where people could see them when driving by. It caused people to stop their cars and come in to find out what was going on. Mac and Mark would tell customers that they were just trying to draw attention and create a fun atmosphere, but then they would proceed to get customers tasting samples and checking out the great products they sold.
There are a lot of other examples like this that amounted to increases in success during the early days of M&M Meat Shops. Over time these ideas were often refined but they became a part of the system that made the company the success it is today. Sometimes we all need to remember the keep it simple rule!
It is obvious that Mac and Mark had a vision of what success looked like and were prepared to do whatever it took to sell that vision.