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The Milkshake Story: How to Increase Your Sales through Empathy

Mar 6, 2022 | ✉️ Newsletter

Hi friends,

Phew, I had a mountain of work planned this weekend. Repetitive work. The kind where you shut off 90% of your brain, but still need to be sharp enough to not make any mistakes. 

So yeah, the worst kind… pretty much.

It didn’t turn out to be all that bad though, because I thought: well, if I’m going to be doing near-mindless work, I might as well listen to an audiobook at the same time. 

The book I nearly finished now is called How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen. While its content is still fresh in my mind, it’s already changing my perspective on relationships. 

One story in particular stayed with me today. 

The milkshake story 🥤

One of Clayton’s colleagues, Bob, once visited a McDonald’s that wanted to sell more milkshakes. The restaurant was constantly trying to improve the milkshake by asking a lot of feedback from its customers.

“Do you want it cheaper? More chunky? More chocolaty?”

No matter how much they improved their milkshakes, the sales or profits didn’t increase.

Clayton explains that there are “jobs” out there that arise in people’s life on occasion, that causes them to buy a milkshake. So if you want to increase sales, you need to understand what the job is that causes people to buy a milkshake.

It turned out that McDonald’s customers didn’t want a cheaper, chunkier or chocolatier milkshake. They “hired” the milkshake to do a different job for them.

For example, people with a long and boring drive to work ahead wanted something to sip on for a long time in their car and not get hungry. In their minds, a milkshake was a far better option than a crumbly donut, a dry bagel or an unhealthy Snickers bar.

These were the other options the milkshake was competing with in customers’ minds. Not milkshakes from other fast food chains.

Once McDonald’s understood why customers wanted to “hire” the milkshake, they could market it differently. And that, of course, increased sales. 

If you like, you can listen to Clayton as he explains the story himself in the video below. 

So what did I learn from this? 🤔💡

To me, the main takeaway from this story is the importance of empathy.

“Companies focus too much on what they want to sell their customers, rather than what those customers really need. What’s missing? Empathy. The same is true in our relationships: we go into them thinking about what we want rather than what is important to the other person.” – Clayton Christensen

What Clayton is helping me realise, is that we often focus too much on ourselves. Like when I meet with friends: I want to have fun. Or when I’m in a romantic relationship: I want to feel love. Or when I’m working on my business: I want to sell a certain product. 

Clayton argues that if we stop focusing on ourselves and start asking what “job” someone else needs us to do, you often get all of these things you want… and more. 

To him, this way of “sacrificing” yourself for someone else’s needs is what leads to true happiness. It’s one of the core things he emphasises in his book. 

So the next time I’m going to be thinking about my customers, friends, family members or partner, I’m going to be thinking about what they need me to do. 

Let me end with a final quote by Clayton:

“But you have to go beyond understanding what job your spouse needs you to do. You have to do that job. You’ll have to devote your time and energy to the effort, be willing to suppress your own priorities and desires, and focus on doing what is required to make the other person happy.”

I like that. Making other people happy. 

Maybe reading this email made you feel a little bit happy or inspired as well. I hope it did! Or maybe you just feel like a milkshake now. That’s OK too. Have a great week! 



What I Loved this Week ❤️

📽️ TV Show – I had so much fun watching the first couple of episodes of Peacemaker this week. If you liked the latest Suicide Squad movie, this TV show is definitely a must-watch. It’s weird, funny, emotional and the action packs a punch. Good show!

📗 BookHow Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen. I know, I just spoke about it, but it’s a good read if you want to learn how to live a happy life, with flourishing relationships and a deeply satisfying career. I was surprised to see that there are a lot of entrepreneurial stories and lessons in there too.

🎙️Podcast – Because of one of my articles this week, I got back into the Masters of Scale podcast. In particular: episode 1 with AirBnB co-founder Brian Chesky. The podcast is just so well-produced and the 11-star experience exercise from the first episode kept inspiring me through the week on a business and personal level. I wonder how you apply it! Feel free to share.

Weekly Creation ✍️

KREW Date Night Josuel Rogers meeting format marc rodan gathering offline entrepeneurs networking mastermind

The pictures from the last KREW meeting just got in (thanks, Tatiana!) and I particularly love this one. KREW is something I started a couple of years ago and I used to host every meeting myself until just 2 months ago.

We’re at a point now where KREW is starting to take on a life of its own, like Josuël (the guy in the picture) hosting this event while I was enjoying the event as a member. Of course Josuël isn’t my creation, but the event is. Getting to this point where other people are able to run it and convey the feeling of what KREW is all about… it’s just awesome!