Tradition is not based on intuition.
If you were an outside observe to so much of what occurs in a small city, church, or other community that had a long history, you would very much feel like an outsider. This doesn’t mean that this community isn’t welcoming, but rather that their traditions are not in the least bit intuitive.
This is certainly my experience in small town Spain and having to figure out any number of strange things, from the grocery stores being closed on Sundays to the strange ways that streets are named. In particular a choir I am part of would never bother to communicate that we would be singing 5 times during Holy Week, just because everyone already knew. I always, always had to ask. And yes, I always, always felt a bit stupid.
Now after about 3 years, I have finally started to integrate into the traditions. I am comfortable with the pace of the week, I have a sense about the upcoming events in the year, I understand how to go to the government to get most things that I need. I also understand how to use my networks of friends to find out the information I need. The best communication method in Spain is not the newspaper, it’s gossip.
What you have with any city that has a rhythm, a tradition, or a set of things that happen is you have a tradition. When you join a new company, you need a guide. When you get to know a specific community, you need someone to introduce you to these new traditions. Our success in living here has only been as a result of having excellent guides to introduce us to the places and people, and enabling us to grow on our own and be stabilized.
Tradition is wonderful in that it frees us from having to wonder what is going to happen next and it deepens our participation in what is happening with us. Serving the same food at thanksgiving means that you can salivate all year about the perfect doneness of the turkey, the special recipe of the gravy, and the goofy fruit salads with the marshmallows on top. However, those who are not part of that same tradition are completely missing out. They literally have no idea what is happening around them.
Now here is the marketing lesson: when we shape our communications, very few care about the traditions we have developed, they only care about understanding them as quickly as possible, so that they can avoid the embarrassment of having to “ask.” If you have traditions, make sure that you communicate not only where to look for the most accurate information, but also the information in a complete, clear way. However, once someone understands the traditions of your company, then they start to become a part of the company itself. They are a loyal customer, not just a buyer.
Southwest Airlines is an excellent case study. Southwest has a couple of interesting quirks, for example they only fly 737’s and they don’t assign seats. To an outsider, it’s very strange. It’s a foreign tradition. But, in the end, it’s also part of how Southwest Airlines maintains such a tight culture: they make it easy to get into the tradition. We don’t assign seats, but don’t worry, we will make it easy to follow and fun.
Other Examples: Are you a chimney sweep? Run a Christmas in July special. Selling a special product seasonally? Make sure you explain why and what it is in 10 words or less. Selling wood pallets? Show them how they may need spring cleaning or maintenance check for their pallets. Offering life coaching? Talk about your quarterly webinars where you take direct questions and how the 90 check in with a life coach is one of the most cost effective coaching packages you can get. Once people know what to expect throughout the year, they will be far more able to participate in the tradition your company is building, and soon it will just be intuition.