It’s All In How You Say It: A Marketing Idea

Thanks to Jaymi Heimbuch and Flickr for the image.

This weekend my husband and I braved the Dallas ice and snow to grab dinner at one of my favorite restaurants. When we walked in, we were asked if we had a chance to call ahead to save a table. We had not made a reservation, but I was taken aback so I wanted to share this easy marketing idea with you.

Normally when I walk into a busy restaurant on a Friday night, the Maitre’D immediately asks if I have made a reservation. When I say no, I get a scathing look that says ‘I dare you to complain or walk out’ and am told it will be a 45 – 90 minute wait.

I’m probably not the normal customer, but I’m fine with waiting. Dining out is about the experience for me. I enjoy sitting at the bar with a glass of wine and catching up on my week with my husband or friends before we are seated. If I wanted food that exact second, I’d go to McDonalds.

I expect to wait at least 45 minutes for a table on a weekend. Yet the way restaurant staff often reacts when I have the audacity to admit I haven’t made a reservation makes me feel I’m not welcome. So this weekend, when I was asked if I had a chance to call ahead and save a table instead of the typical greeting of “Do you have a reservation” I was surprised and delighted. Just a simple change in words set the tone for a completely different experience in a restaurant I frequent.

Are there familiar phrases you use in your small business that could be positioned differently to create a more positive interaction and experience with you?

When a customer comes in looking for a size 5 in a certain shoe, do you say “I’m sorry. We don’t have those.” Or do you say, “You know, we had 3 pair and they have all sold out. However, let me call my vendor or another store I know that carries them and see if they have them.”

When a client asks for a cd of your images on a digital file do you say, “I don’t offer a cd.” Or do you say, “Actually, I’ve found that when I provided a cd of my art, I couldn’t control the print quality of the images. The low-cost labs like CostCo just don’t have the technology to showcase the images in a way that does my art justice. So instead, I take the trouble off your hands of trying to find a lab that can print them the way you are seeing them and I handle that for you.”

Just a subtle change in the way you frame your responses can make a huge difference in the customer experience.


Working photographer, coach, mama, and wife. Whether you’re looking to take your photography business full-time or simply make good money on a very part-time basis so you can contribute to your family financially and be your best self, we’ve got something for you.

I’m Sarah Petty

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