Original insights in international business and marketing
A few years ago I was introduced to the word “Lagniappe” (pronounced Lah-Nyap). And just like Mark Twain in 1883, who described it as a word “worth traveling to New Orleans to discover,” I too fell in love with lagniappe and its meaning.
Although commonly used today in the Gulf region of the US, the word traces its origins to Spanish and even further back to the Quechua Indian language. A lagniappe is essentially a small gift from the merchant to a purchasing customer. It’s modern day equivalent is the 13th doughnut offered by the baker when you buy a dozen. According to Merriam-Webster, a lagniappe is “something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure.”
I bring this up because there is something both magical and universal in the word and what it represents. The idea that a transaction or exchange is rewarded with a little extra.
As consumers we are constantly on the lookout for deals and value. Deep down, however, I think that we are a bit afraid of being ‘had’ or of being a ”sucker.” The highly transactional, fixed price, “what you see is what you get” world we live in has also lost some of its charm and, dare I say, it’s humanity.
The lagniappe is the symbol or the assurance that the merchant is on your side, that he or she values you and that they are prepared to forego a little bit of profit to make the customer feel good and (hopefully) return.
I think the lagniappe concept can teach us something important in today’s business world. The idea that every transaction – or even every interaction – can be accompanied by a token gesture of unsolicited generosity. Think about how much good such small gestures could do to customer satisfaction and loyalty! How would you feel if you got a wink and a small cookie sample with your next Latte at Starbucks? A free set of floormats for your new car? How about a free box of disposable accessories with you next medical device purchase? Or what about even sending a box of chocolates as a “thank you” to a regular contributor on your website?
In a world where customer retention is so important and so much more cost-effective vs. acquisition, doesn’t it make sense to inject some lagniappe into how you run your business?
Have you received a lagniappe recently that made an impression?
Got any ideas or examples of how the lagniappe can be used in business today? Share a comment.