The Ingredients for Success

The winning formula that made the McDonald’s Big Mac a worldwide fast-food staple can also be applied to your real estate business.

January 28, 2015

Forty-seven years ago, McDonald’s introduced the Big Mac, which remains one of the most visible top-selling products in the fast-food industry today. The 1970s-era jingle that accompanied McDonald’s commercials paid homage to the ingredients that made the Big Mac a hit: “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun.”

Each one of the Big Mac ingredients serves a very specific purpose in building the perfect burger. So, think of your real estate business as an entrepreneurial analogue to this iconic sandwich: Do you have all the right ingredients?

RE/MAX Director of Training Valerie Garcia explained how attendees at the Real Estate Connect conference in New York this week can build a business using the same winning formula McDonald’s used to create the Big Mac.

  1. Substance (all-beef patties): “Sometimes we get caught up in the shiny things,” such as the latest gadgets and gizmos, Garcia said. But that’s just dressing on the substance of your business, which should be customer service. How do you make the customer experience great? That’s the foundational ingredient of your business.
  2. Originality (special sauce): In the age of the Internet, it’s easy to duplicate what someone else has done and call it your own. If you’re imitating outside branding techniques or tactics, you’re not giving your clients anything new. “Imitation online will not get you anywhere, and it will not mean anything to people who have seen it 17,000 times in other places,” Garcia said.
  3. Value (lettuce): “To me, lettuce is that thing that makes it not a dirty cheeseburger you bought on the side of the road,” Garcia said. “It heightens the sophistication of the burger.” When you think of the customer experience you’re providing, are you adding something extra? When you truly go the distance by doing something for a client that wasn’t automatically expected of you, you’re adding lettuce to your burger and adding value to the experience.
  4. Taste (cheese): “There’s something to be said about that one ingredient that makes everything just feel and taste better,” Garcia said. Do something that makes your client feel good about their experience using your services. This is different than value, which is providing an extra service. The taste aspect focuses on appealing to your clients emotionally.
  5. Crunch (pickles): This is the pizzazz you bring to the customer experience. It’s most often found in the personality you show when working with clients—your flair. “People go back and use service providers and vendors again because they remember how well they worked together,” Garcia said. “The crunch is what makes the experience memorable, and it’s what will drive your customer to tell their family and friends, ‘You’ve got to call them.’”
  6. Opinions (onions): “Most people love onions or hate them; almost no one is in between,” Garcia said. “So the onions symbolize opinions, and we need to make sure our opinions are heard in this industry.” The spice of an onion represents people who take action, voice their opinions, and create change. That’s the kind of person customers want to work with.
  7. Packaging (sesame seed bun): “If you get a burger with no bun, it’s awkward to eat,” Garcia said. The bun packages the ingredients together so that it’s easy for the consumer to handle. “Is there something that makes your experience easy to consume?” she added.  

The Final Ingredient

There’s another aspect beyond the ingredients themselves that’s given the Big Mac such incredible staying power over time: consistency. McDonald’s has delivered the same solid experience with the Big Mac since it became a worldwide phenomenon in 1968, never straying from the formula that proved successful. Practitioners should follow the same path, Garcia said.

“Consistency is a huge reason why McDonald’s is popular,” Garcia said. “The packaging of the burger is the same, the ingredients are the same, the service is the same.” Deliver the same experience consistently to your customers. Remember that, particularly with referrals, your customers expect the same level of service that you give everybody else.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new things. New technological advances may strengthen your customer experience, but add them only when it’s the right time for your business, not on a whim.

“You have to have your own formula for success,” Garcia said, “and you have to decide whether new things will actually enhance your customer experience.”

By the same token, if even one of the basic ingredients of the Big Mac were removed, it wouldn’t be a Big Mac anymore. Just as you shouldn’t add too much to your experience, you shouldn’t take away either.

McDonald’s has gone from serving thousands to millions to billions worldwide. By to serve a consistent experience, they exceed their expectations over and over again. So don’t accept the status quo for your business. Set your expectations, and then push yourself to beat them every time. And, of course, don’t be afraid to give customers something extra.

“McDonald’s was genius when it started asking customers if they want fries with that,” Garcia said. In real estate that means asking your clients, “Is there something else I can help you with?” That’s the thing they are going to tell other people about, Garcia added. That’s what they will remember you by.

So what’s on your burger?

Graham Wood
Executive Editor of Digital Media

Graham Wood is Executive Editor of Digital Media for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at