The Hardest Question In-Transition
Aug 12

Zingerman’s is a deli in Ann Arbor Michigan. It’s not any old deli, it’s a world-renowned deli and they do “deli” better than anyone else in the world. They also do a hell of a job with the deli, online.

I just got back from a meeting where Joe Erwin, of Erwin-Penland, explained that Zingerman’s is the fifth largest “producer” of online food. And they do the majority of that through their web site.

Zingerman’s had been sending out catalogs on a prospective basis with little positive sales impact for some time. “When we had an online presence, the response rates really picked up – as though our web site gave us some additional credibility that prompted people to act.” -Mo Frechette, managing partner of the Zingerman’s mail order business, source.

The fifth largest. This is a little deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Fifth largest. Wow.

It’s amazing what happens when you take a best-in-world mentality and combine it with the web. Sure, Zingerman’s could have said “We’re a relationship business, the web won’t work for us.” or “Why would someone from Florida buy Olive Oil from a deli in Michigan?” or “We’re a deli. You can’t eat online.”

Zingerman’s hired and attributes part of their success to 5th Food Group, an agency that specializes in marketing gourmet food online.

So what’s the bottom-line here?

1. Be open minded as to what the web can do for your business. Your business may do something that you think the web can’t help you with at all. Don’t downplay the role your web strategy could have in growing your business.

2. Hire the expert that fits. Zingerman’s could of had their nephew do a web site for them or relegated it to somebody in IT. Instead, they went to an agency that specialized in their industry and in online marketing. They remained the experts in deli-food, and let the experts be experts on the web. The results are, well, history.

3. Thinking world-class needs a world-class budget. Zingerman’s success online stems from their world-class mentality offline. If you’re world-class (or at least the best in your market), don’t limit what your web site could do by limiting it to a second-class budget.

Fifth in the world. Wow.

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