The Customer Experience: What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Patti Labelle’s Sweet Potato Pie

There’s been a lot of talk about pie.

Sweet potato pie.

Patti Labelle’s Sweet Potato Pie to be exact.

Ms. Patti’s pies have been selling out across Walmarts all over the country. They’ve been on the news; they’ve been the center of controversy; and they’ve even found their way to memes.


Now let’s be clear.

No one took a look at these pies either. They’ve been sitting on the shelves since September. September. Despite claims that they had been selling out prior to that viral video, the pies are just now being brought to our attention in a way that’s making them fly off the shelves.

There’s a key component in this we have to look at as entrepreneurs.

That component is marketing an experience.

The Experience Over Everything

Youtube sensation James Wright, who isn’t unfamiliar with making videos go viral, gave a review and testimonial that put Patti Labelle’s pies on the map. But let’s zero in on his review. It wasn’t a foodie review. James created something of value and entertainment that resulted in giving us an experience we could buy into.

The Promise

“You’ll turn into Patti Labelle after eating this.”

That was the promise made in his video.

Not, “This is really good, y’all. You have to try it.”


You’ll turn into Patti Labelle.

He had a “come to Patti moment.” He sang. He danced. He did “the Bird.” He gave us one-liners to remember and a conversation piece to have around the table. He took a pie and transformed it into an inclusive experience that was memorable and gave us something of value upfront before asking for something in return.

Purchasing the pie and uploading a picture of it on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook became part of that experience. It became communal, and anyone who wanted to take part in it just had to go out and buy a pie.

You may not have a James Wright in your corner, but you can give your customers an experience that’ll lead them into creating their own testimonials and reviews of the same caliber.

Experiences create loyalty. Loyalty creates repeat customers. Repeat customers create a second sale. There’s no second sale without an experience.

Have you created an experience, or are you too wrapped up in the politics of a meme to consider that you may not be doing what’s necessary to create the same virality for your brand and product?

If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll realize we didn’t rush out to support her pies until that testimonial brought the pie to our attention and gave us an experience and a reason to care.

A customer talking about their experience with you is worth ten times that which you write or say about yourself.David J. Greer

So how do you start doing this?

Learn to Market

“Buy my thing.
“Buy my thing.
“Buy my thing.
“Click my thing.
“Click my thing.
“Click my thing.
“Support my thing.
“Support my thing.
“Support my thing.

This is spam.

That isn’t marketing.

You’re adding to the noise of others who are doing the same thing, and aren’t differentiating yourself from those people.

If any of this sounds like you, take “Buy my thing,” “Support my thing,” “Click the link and support,” off the end of your Facebook post or tweet. Is what you have left strong enough for people to buy, click, view, support, or share without you telling them? Have you provided any value up front? Have you created a narrative or story preceding that link or product?

For the next week, I challenge you to take “Buy my thing” off your posts. We’re going to create experiences and stories around what we’re putting out. We’re going to put things of value on people’s feeds.

No more begging for Likes and follows.

Those are just numbers. You ought to be going for the 10 followers who actively engage in your content, ask you questions, and tell others the experience they’re having with your brand through their own mouths vs.10,000 followers who scroll past your content, like every so often, or hit “Unfollow” on Facebook because they no longer want to see what you’re posting.

Remember: Ms. Patti’s pies are sold. out. 1 person did that. Not 10,000. If you get 10 loyal people following you, speaking to those 10 people. You have 10 more than the person who has 0. Build loyalty, trust, and relationships with those 10. Those 10 will bring more loyal followers because they’ve shared and expressed the experience they’re receiving with their peers.

We trust our peers. There’s more authenticity coming from them than ourselves.

92% of respondents reported that a positive recommendation from a friend, family member, or someone they trust is the biggest influence on whether they buy a product or service.Paul M. Rand

Learn to Brand

Branding is how you sound.

It’s how you talk.

It’s how you respond to tweets.

The emotions customers feel.

It’s loyalty.

It’s knowing the arena you compete in.

It’s your value proposition.

Branding is how you make people care about your business and what you’re selling. You can’t expect the support of others if no one knows about your business, and if you don’t know who or what your brand is, it makes it that much harder for others to understand it.

Your stories should be in the same voice.

Your product descriptions should all have the same tone.

How you respond to customers on Facebook or Instagram should feel the same from platform to platform.

You can’t sound sassy on Twitter, formal on Facebook, and be technical and highly intelligent on Instagram.

That’s 3 different personalities we’re engaging with. That leads to confusion. And none of us like being confused. If you’re confused on what’s going out in your marketing and communications, your audience on the other end will also be confused.

Your experience needs to be on a website.

Your experience needs to be on social media.

Your experience needs to be in the smiles of your staff or the compassionate voices of your customer support.

You need a brand story for people to connect with.

You need to understand your brand’s personality and how that personality is expressed in your marketing and communications.

All of these things work together like cogs in a giant wheel. That giant wheel is your business. Marketing and branding keeps the wheel well oiled so they don’t rust and you don’t find yourself with something immovable and stalled out.

So no more meme politics.

Let’s get down to brass tacks and create things of value that separate us from other entrepreneurs.

The competition for attention is high.

It’s getting easier to start a business, but you still have the opportunity to take your brand from “unheard of” to “viral” once you get into the business of creating experiences and stories for your audience and customers.


Pies aside, create your experience. Focus on the customer and create everything around them. Below are some of the resources I’ve listened to, to help gain perspective and draw focus on what I can be doing more of. I’ve also included a list of designers that specialize in not only branding, but design that will pull all of these things together for you and create visual experiences.


On Creating Customer Experiences

The Customer Experience

Coffee v. Experience: Are You Selling Features or Benefits?


Relationship Marketing 101
How to Use Social Media to Craft a Compelling Brand Story

Email Marketing

Sales is Not a Dirty Word: Why You Need to Sell

How to Self-Promote Without Feeling Like a Loser

Business Growth

Level Up Your Business: Focus

Level Up Your Business: Overlap

Level Up Your Business: Maximize:

Level Up Your Business: Optimize:

4 Mistakes That Stunt Your Business Growth

How to Start and Grow an E-Commerce Business

The Money Mindset You Need in Order to Sell

Outside of Your Comfort Zone is Where You Make Money


What Is a Brand?

How to Discover Your Brand’s Values, Mission, and Purpose

Defining Your Target Audience

Understanding Your Brand as a Personality and Why It Matters

Set Your Brand Apart With Content Marketing

Other Designers Who Specialize in Branding and Design

Kevin Davis

Kevin Davis Design + Brand

Dana James Mwangi

Cheers Creative