“Help us continue to offer our free Wi-Fi.”
On a beautifully sunny (but freezingly cold) weekday afternoon, I’m sitting at Panera Bread in Skokie, Ill. using the free WiFi. There are at least a dozen other people doing the same thing.
At that table, three people are having a business meeting, reviewing printed documents and gazing at the screen of their laptop. At the next table, two women are having some kind of meeting involving something on their computer screen.
Several years ago, Panera made me a customer for life by establishing the trend of offering a free wireless Internet connection to diners, office-less road warriors and work-at-home types who were bored by their basements.
It became so popular, that now the fast-casual restaurant chain must remind me at every login not to stay in the cafe too long and not to single-handedly hog a table for four. That’s cool.
Here’s my creative idea, a sample marketing plan outline offered for discussion at your favorite business school.
These creative marketing ideas might help Panera expand on their popularity with the Internet-addicted masses, specifically the business folks.
- Increase catering sales for in-office lunch meetings or seminars
- Create more opportunities for affinity marketing
- Promote new products (like that yummy thai chopped salad I enjoyed today)
- Generate additional in-store revenue
The creative marketing plan:
Get my email address: I’m sitting here for free. In exchange, I’m willing to give Panera my email address. Just ask for it when I log in to Internet access. Tie this registration in with your new “My Panera” affinity card program.
Send me the news: Do a weekly email newsletter targeted to road warriors, with articles about cloud computing, mobile gadgets and business networking.
Be my friend: Offer me a 50-cent discount on a shortbread cookie if I join your fan page on Facebook.
Free cookie: Come to think of it, you should give me a free shortbread cookie right now in exchange for my plan.
More power: Install more electrical outlets, and require the use of a proprietary adapter, which you can rent for $1 an hour. When my laptop battery is dead and I’m on deadline, I’d pay any amount of money for electricity (please don’t tell Commonwealth Edison I said that).
Help me: Partner with Best Buy’s Geek Squad to offer limited support for popular software.
Meet me in St. Louis: Founded as the Saint Louis Bread Co., Panera could leverage social media to create a business networking group that meets for coffee (and shortbread cookies) in the store.
Ok, enough brainstorming for now. I’m hungry. Where’s my cookie?
UPDATE: Hey what do you know? I activated my MyPanera card and there’s a reward waiting for me: a Free Espresso Drink/Smoothie. I hope that means espresso OR smoothie, because I don’t drink espresso and I really like Panera’s smoothies.
Jonathan Lehrer is the proprietor of MrCommunicator.com. He strongly suggests that you click the “where’s my cookie” link.