Two powerful marketing lessons I learned from a Portland doughnut shop

taking-photos-792009_1920My whole intent on going to Portland was to hang out with some cool people. Learn a bit. Grow a lot. And have some time with some business superstars.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t just fly in randomly. I was there for a small, and I like to think “elite,” conference for a cool group of hustlers. People like:

Ben Settle…

Ray Higdon…

Ryan Stewman…

Heck…even Justin Devonshire was there all the way from Cyprus.

These were (are) folks I have read about, followed and learned from for quite some time up to that point so to meet them in person was almost like a dream come true.

And better yet, prior to that event I had never been to Portland.

But if truth be told…and I almost always TRY and tell the truth (heh-heh)…Portland has been on my bucket list.


That’s the truth.

I have no desire to climb big mountains…or to swim with sharks or any of those other nutty bucket list things.

One of mine was to go to Portland, Oregon and if I can laser down it was really to go to VooDoo Doughnuts.


A doughnut shop.

I like food. Especially doughnuts.

So I’m actually gonna tell you a pretty sweet (pun intended)…and it’s also a true story about TWO powerful marketing lessons I learned from a Portland doughnut shop.

OK but first a really serious question for you.

If you are in business…a FOR profit biz…then you must agree that you make money by selling. Right?

I mean in general, we all WANT to make more sales. I’m not here to split hairs about recurring revenue or “Well, Rick I only deal with ultra high ticket items”…or “I’m a heart centered entrepreneur so I work with crystals and the altruistic nature of monetary exchange.” (I totally just made that up)…

I’m just talking brass tacks here.

Straight up Business 101.

If you are in business then you make money by selling SOMETHING.

A product, a service a combo of the two. Online or offline. Brick and mortar or virtual. Network marketing, direct sales, affiliate marketing, relationship marketing, etc.

You get the drift.

And logic says that if you are in business then you likely wanna sell more of that thing.

Are ya with me still?

So that’s where VooDoo Doughnuts comes in…so wait for it while I take you to Portland with me for a sec.

There I was walking down a main Portland drag. My fellow entrepreneurs and I went out for a midnight stroll from the hotel to VooDoo Doughnuts and it was a straight shot down a busy Portland boulevard.

We had had a few drinks at the hotel and like any good midnight snacker it was #NomNom time.

We felt a hankering for some doughnuts.

The walk to the doughnut shop wasn’t really eventful because we were too busy thinking about the sugary, gooey, calorie filled goodness we were about to experience plus we were just engaged in conversation chatting about the day.

As we neared the doughnut shop suddenly you could see the lights from the corner it occupied.

People all up and down the sidewalks.

A buzz of activity and all kinds of things going on.

Not just the doughnut shop itself but all the bars, clubs, food trucks and hot spots that seemed to surround the place.

As we got closer I saw that out in front was a really…REALLY…long line of people in a velvet roped off area that reminded me of the long lines at the airport or Disneyland when you have to zig-zag around the chains ‘cause there’s so many people.

We got in the line and I saw a sign saying that my midnight munchies would be cured by a maple bacon doughnut.

A fella came out of the shop with a dozen of these bad boys and I kid you not he offered me one. Probably cause I looked hungry.

Someone else walked up and we chatted. She was from Louisiana.

The music from the doughnut shop speakers was upbeat and frankly made you feel like you were at a wicked hot nightclub except all they sold was doughnuts.

We finally made it inside the shop and it was a foodie nirvana. Instagram, Facebook and social media in general must love this place because of the nearly 24/7 posting to every social channel available to human kind.

Pics of doughnuts…pics of people eating doughnuts…heck they even sold t-shirts and stickers for VooDoo doughnut lovers.

Every sense was lit up…sight, smell, sound…and soon the most important one of all…taste.

Ok so by now you either want a doughnut or you’re asking what did I learn by being a part of this and HOW does it apply to business?

Here’s the two lessons I learned.

  1. They didn’t try to be all things to all people….and
  2. They understood the importance of BENEFITS…NOT features of their product.

So let me explain why this matters to you and why there are marketing lessons to be learned all around us.

The first thing is they sold doughnuts. That’s it. And they got really, really good at it. They didn’t offer slices of pizza or a delivery service they just are really really good at selling one item and building a community (or tribe) of folks who only want doughnuts. They focused on their core offering, don’t chase “shiny objects” or the latest and greatest trend and became the masters of their niche who deeply understand their target audience.

The Lesson I Learned: focus on the thing that works for my marketing and coaching business whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, email marketing and get really good at it. I learned to stop chasing after the recently released product because all it does it distract me from my core skills and offerings, then laser target it to my ideal client.

And this, my friends is why the second thing I learned is so critically important and makes the first thing magical.


You see VooDoo doughnuts also understands the beauty is in selling the BENEFITS…and not the FEATURES. As I looked around that little block there were several places open for business. Specifically for late night munchies. Their signs said “Open 24 Hours”…or “Gluten Free menu options”…or “Our lighting is Green Friendly” and while all those things are cool they are what we call features. If I can be blunt for a second those are the things I don’t really care about when I’m hungry at midnight. I want my late night hunger squelched. I want a full on bacon loaded doughy mess. I don’t care that it’s “open 24 hours” but rather that I can get a doughnut anytime of the day or night.

The Lesson I Learned: I hammer home to my team and clients to STOP talking about the famous university doctor who endorses their product…to close their mouth and don’t bore folks with the “science” behind the thing they sell or how many units have been sold in the last year. I tell them to share with your prospect how what you have will solve their current pain…make them prettier…help them look better naked, etc… The benefit of the thing you sell. NOT the feature.

Simply put they want to know “what’s in it for me”.

And therein lies the massive lessons I learned from a Portland doughnut shop.

When we put the two together we realize the importance of focusing our strengths and talents to build our business in a way that let’s the prospect or customer know how much we care about them.

Because in the end people buy from people.

By now it was time for the walk back to the hotel and that’s a whole other story, my friends, because the other lessons I learned on that walk back were as impactful as the 1st and no joke…from a stripper on 23rd street.

Peace out!

PS: if you found some value in this or you just really dig doughnuts I would sincerely love for you to share this article. Thanks so much.

Known as 'The Hardcore Hustler' Rick is a veteran, registered nurse and successful entrepreneur. From a $12 hour nurse to "3k day", Rick is the founder and creator of The Hustle Academy where he helps TONS of home based entrepreneurs live their dreams. Learn more at