Can you spend $50 and make a customer for life?

Founder Collective
3 min readApr 13, 2022


By David Frankel

🎁 Could you spend $50 and make a customer for life?

😃 What have you done to make your biggest accounts happy? Not satisfied. *Happy.*

A recent conversation with ShakeShack founder Danny Meyer reminded me how important small, thoughtful acts can be to customer relationships.

Danny shared a story about staying at a hotel. The concierge wanted to make an impression on their VIP guest, so this hustling hotelier got ahold of Meyer’s cocktail cookbook “Mix Shake Stir” and found a recipe that was called out as Danny’s favorite.

Upon Danny’s arrival, all the ingredients — vodka, Midori etc — needed to make the drink for the duration of his stay were in the room.

A $50 investment in alcohol and lemons, and a little leg work, has led Danny to recount that story, I would imagine, dozens of times.

It was an impressive effort — someone at the hotel had to have wits enough to know who Danny was, buy his book, read it, and select a recipe that would resonate. But it was incredibly capital efficient and a model that many tech founders could copy.

This industrious hotelier hustled to make a six-night stay in a hotel feel amazing!

It made me wonder, how many companies with six-figure SaaS contracts do the same?

Is your CMO charged to please customers like this majordomo?

I’d bet that Danny stays in nice hotels, but I’d double down on the belief that the ACV of an average enterprise startup is quite a bit higher than his typical stay. Are you extending a similar level of hospitality to your customers?

What would happen if you challenged your top sales reps to put a smile on the face of their most valuable accounts or highest-priority sales targets by spending no more than $50-$100? (Many companies limit the size of gifts FTEs can receive from vendors — to limit bribery.)

It’s easy to deploy ever more resources into highly-instrumented acquisition channels. It’s safe, scalable, and has the patina of scientific accuracy. However, sometimes it’s useful to think a bit more like Father Christmas.

This hands-on approach also works for potential hires. In a tough talent market, the most desirable execs have no shortage of choices. Gifts, be they small tokens or a weekend getaway for a dream candidate and their spouse, can go a long way.

Even commissioning a T-shirt to commemorate a major company milestone makes an impact far greater than the $15 cost of such a gesture.

Gifting is one of the oldest human interactions. It is short-sighted not to include it as part of your sales and marketing toolkit.

If you’ll excuse a shameless plug — as your organization scales, you’ll need to be more programmatic about this kind of activity, and our portfolio company @AlyceGifts helps manage the complexity for bigger companies.

Danny’s anecdote also resonated because it reminded me of Scott Belsky’s book — The Messy Middle, where he wrote, “resources come and go, but resourcefulness is a muscle.”

The gift was just an outward manifestation of a guest-focused culture.

A generation of founders has used AdTech to supercharge customer acquisition. CRM has turned customer relationships into equations. But there are more tools at your disposal than you might think.

Just as in the hospitality industry, if you treat relationships as more than a purely commercial transaction, you may be pleasantly surprised by how they are enriched. The actual gift is secondary. It is truly the thought that counts.



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