Saturday, February 2, 2008

Owning awesome

Last weekend at the 2008 NSCAA Convention in Baltimore, TourneyCentral had a cake on display, made by the awesomely cool artists of Charm City Cakes (Ace of Cakes, The Food Network) It was big, it smelled delicious, it drew a crowd and it was awesome.
The cake artists at Charm City Cakes OWN their market. Duff decided at some point that being a good cake creator was just not going to be enough and that he was going to own awesome. As examples, the piping of the goalie gloves was intricate. The ball was perfectly round. The gloves were to scale with the ball. The cake was a product of years spent honing a craft and a unwavering dedication to awesome. Even a simple sheet cake from Charm City Cakes, I suspect, has elements of awesome baked and decorated in and on it. In spite of their fame, they were just regular people, taking calls, answering emails, fretting over whether I was happy with the cake or not.
Our advice: We’ve all been to “just another tournament” and it always has that certain “nothing special” feel. And then we’ve been to AWESOME tournaments when it almost doesn’t matter that our team didn’t place or even win any games. But everyone wants to go back.
Strive to be that tournament that everyone wants to come back to, win or lose. Look at your tournament from the point of view of the teams. What makes these events awesome? It may be the simple things that have nothing to do with the competition on the pitch, like a smile from the volunteers at every turn, a great hotel stay, upbeat energy from the HQ tent (yes, teams can feel tension!).. simple things — like awesomeness — that are hard to describe and harder yet to create as a formula. Yet, you know if when you “feel” it.
Behind the scenes as an attempt to get into the essence of awesome. When we booked into the NSCAA in Baltimore, I knew I just had to get an Ace of Cakes cake. This was back in September, 2007. I dropped them an email, asking if they would be interested in making a soccer cake for the exhibit booth, how much, etc. I really didn’t expect anything back because these guys are famous and I’m not, but Jessica sent me an email back within a day with a “yes, we can and want to” and a price (which I thought was way too low for an “Ace Cake”) We signed an agreement, did the money thing and we had our cake booked. On a phone call later that week, Mary Alice then asked what I wanted the cake to look like, what flavor, etc.
My response was “You guys are the artists, so whatever you want within a soccer theme. And pick your favorite flavor for the cake.” The phone call immediately turned from an order-taking into a creative session, where the tone of her voice got that bit of excitement edge. We hashed through several design ideas and came up with a soccer ball being caught by a pair of goalie gloves. And, the entire bakery would sign the “game ball” (which I thought they would charge extra for, but didn’t.) I suspect the creative process kept going all the way through until delivery.
From the emails through the phone calls, through the on time delivery during a Baltimore snow storm, to the excitement Mark (he delivered to the show) felt about the huge soccer show (while we were “ooing” and “ahhhing” over the cake; he was “ooing” and “ahhhing” over the huge soccer show, which made US feel like WE were the ones who were doing something special!), these guys were about the most awesome folks I have ever bought anything from. Ever.
The real product they are selling is not really just cake, but awesomeness that focused everything on the customer experience. Never for a moment, did they forget that the real product was an intimate, authentic customer experience. And they were responsible for managing and steering that. And they did it with ease, grace, professionalism, genuine excitement, pleasure and a sense of humor. Simply awesome

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