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Why Caring for Your Customers and Community Will Make You More Money, Not Less

By Brendan Byrnes - Apr 1, 2013 at 12:05PM

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Doug Levy, author of Can’t Buy Me Like and the founder and CEO of MEplusYOU, explains why the Panera model is so darn successful!

In the following interview segment, Doug Levy, author and CEO of MEplusYOU, explains what Panera (PNRA) is doing right, to bring the company such incredible success. The full interview with Doug Levy can be seen HERE, in which he discusses his new book, Can't Buy Me Like. In the book, Levy tackles the changing marketing space, believing that companies must either adapt or continue to put blind faith in increasingly ineffective advertising. Levy also explains a new era that we've entered, dubbed the 'relationship era', and describes how this will change marketing for all companies, big and small.

Brendan Byrnes: Let's talk about some companies that are doing a good job adapting to this. What are some success stories that you've seen with companies changing the way they market, as far as the Relationship Era, as you call it?

Doug Levy: One success is in the quick-service restaurant industry, which is a little ironic. This is an industry that's known for cost-cutting and efficiency, not necessarily humanity, but one company in particular, Panera, has done a phenomenal job.

They have 1600 bakery/cafés. They're known for a healthy menu, at least by chain restaurant standards, and friendly service. They bake fresh bread in the morning and they donate what isn't sold that day to charities in the communities in which they operate.

I've gotten to know the CEO, Ron Shaich, and when I talk to him he tells me stories about what happens in the stores, about a woman in Florida who came in after chemotherapy and the woman across the counter noticed that something was up and reached across the counter to give the customer a hug and a free lunch.

What's happened there has been amazing. This is a company that just launched a new ad campaign very much in line with this way of thinking. They launched it on TV and on social media, again demonstrating that it's not about channel.

You'd think that this care for customers and this care for communities would cost them financially, they'd be making less money, but no. In reality, the average Panera café has grown from $1.1 million of revenue to $2.4 million of revenue. The Dow Jones Average over the last five years is up 13 points; Panera is up more than 300.

Brendan: It goes into the old thing, it's easier to keep a customer than to attract a new one.

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