If you've ever been on a road trip through Texas, you know Buc-ee's. It's not just a gas station. It's not just a convenience store. No, Buc-ee's is a traveler's paradise, a joyous, busy wonderland designed to meet the needs and desires of road-weary road warriors.
Texas is big. It has long stretches of highway with too few opportunities to stretch. In the summer it's hot, sometimes too hot for automotive air conditioning to overcome. Uneven sunburns are common here. In the winter, no weather condition is off the table. I've driven through sweltering heat, hail, snow, and ice storms in a single trip from Houston to Texarkana. In conditions like these, it's usually better just to stay in the car.
The internet is a lot like Texas. Billboard ads dot the highways, like banners on web pages, advertising tourist traps and novelties. Businesses from Walmart to Edna's Kolache Shop and Commemorative Spoon Boutique call out for you to visit and browse, distracting you from your traveling goals, just like Amazon ads on Facebook. It's amazing we ever get anywhere we want to go.
Enter Buc-ee's. Buc-ee's is designed to get you in, refreshed, fed, and back on the road. It is the perfect pitstop: luxuriously clean, spacious, friendly, and above all non-judgmental. If you just want to zoom in, pee, and zoom out, no one will raise an eyebrow. If you're grumpy and tired, they don't mind. They expect it.
What's magical about Buc-ee's? They give more than they expect to get. They invest time and money in stuff they don't ask you to pay for. They even advertise what they give away, not what they want to sell you. They give you permission to use them, to take advantage of what they have to offer, and never try to push something on you in return. It builds trust in the brand, and once they have that trust, you're open to anything else that sports the Buc-ee's brand.
That's a lot of stuff—the Buc-ee's stores are filled with Buc-ee's-branded goodies. Bags of road snacks, like beaver nuggets, malted milk balls, and trail mix. Prepared foods, like their famous Southwest Cobb salad, weird varieties of fudge, and of course their world-famous jerky. Then there's the merchandise: clothing and housewares top the list. Also, did I mention the gas is usually cheaper?
What's the lesson for internet marketers? If you want to rake in sales, you have to build trust in your brand. And the best way to build trust in your brand is to give something valuable away for nothing. For small businesses, that means writing blog entries and hosting webinars to share your professional thoughts with the world. That means developing an ebook or giving away your utility or mobile app. Stingy businesses who keep their assets locked away behind a payment processor can't compete with free. Free is a differentiator. Free builds trust.
When deciding what assets to give away and what assets to keep inside your revenue model, remember the Buc-ee's philosophy. When people are out on the vast and confusing highways of the internet, what do they need most? Give that away freely, and you're on the road to more customers, increased sales, and business growth.