That Little Something Extra

ExtraIn Louisiana there is a common word, “lagniappe” (pronounced “LAN-yap”), which means giving a little something extra to a customer’s order to build good will, and most of all, return business. A baker’s dozen is a good example.

The French also have a similar PR technique called “amuse-bouche,” meaning mouth amuser. A chef presents a specially prepared, not on the menu, bit of food, like an hors d’oeuvre, to everyone at the table during the meal. This gratis surprise is to enhance the chef’s reputation and the diners’ experience at his restaurant.


Any type of business can use the lagniappe technique to build goodwill with a gimme of its own. After the sale at the register, present a coupon for a discount on their next visit. Supermarket registers print these separately, but many registers can be programmed to print an offer on your receipts. Even an onsite ATM can be programmed to add an offer on the receipt. A gimme can be an add-on to the purchase – a tie to go with shirts, socks with shoes, etc. It’s also a great way to use extra stock. A printer uses left over paper to give out note pads with shopping lists, to-do lists, and calendars, for example. If you like, you can always buy a logoed promotional item to be your gimme. A pen, post-it note, magnet, or calendar will keep your name in front of the customer after the sale and can be your gimme at trade shows and chamber networking events.

Gimme Partners

Don’t have a lagniappe of your own? Partner with a vendor or neighborhood business to create a gimme that benefits you both. One sub shop that was located next to a movie theatre did a buy-one-get-one movie ticket offer when a sub shop register receipt was presented. Does a supplier have a new item that they are promoting? Ask for samples and promotional materials to distribute for them. Pharmaceutical companies are champions at this. Purchase certain brands and get $3.00 off your purchase. Supermarkets are great for this one too. Gimmes can be offered online. Restaurants do this one all the time. It’s a great way to build your email lists for future marketing.

No Strings

There should be no strings attached to your gimme. Small print and a laundry list of rules and exceptions will not build good will or return business. Lagniappe is supposed to be an out-of-the-kindness-of your-heart surprise. Conditions, especially with online offers, make this more like “briber-e”. These offers with strings can get your company dropped on Facebook as a violation to their contract. A national restaurant chain asks customers to sign up for their email club. An email is promptly sent for a “Free Appetizer” but only if you “really like us” with the LIKE button on Facebook. Without prior permission from Facebook, this gimme is violates Facebook’s terms of service and can get your page deleted. More importantly though, it leaves out potential customers who don’t use Facebook – especially older customers – and it’s more of a payoff than a lagniappe. A gimme should be just that, an extra somethin’-somethin’ given freely to endear the customer to your business.

So the bottom line is that whatever you call it – a lagniappe, give-away, or gimme – it can be a very effective marketing and relationship building tool… if it’s done right.  What experience do you have with your business or others using lagniappes?  Share with the community in the comments section!

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