I was having lunch with a friend and client today and doing some brainstorming about client retention. I'm not sure if it was the fantastic pastrami or the pickle bar but we started talking about food. I related a story that I recently read in Life, Inc. by Douglas Rushkoff about a small cafe in Hastings on Hudson, NY by the name of Comfort. It seems that John, the owner and chef, wanted to expand and was renovating a new space but got caught in the credit crises without the funds to finish the project.
So John got the idea to sell VIP cards to people in town that would be good for food from the restaurant. He gave people a great deal and sold the cards so that for every dollar spent the customer got $1.20 worth of credit for a 20 percent rate of return on the card investment.
John got the money he needed to finish the project and at the cost of food and labor instead of dollars to the bank. And, customers got twenty percent more food for their dollar. And, since people now have invested in the restaurant they are naturally inclined to go their rather than someplace else.
My friend has lots of clients that regularly use his services. He could create his own money and exchange it for US dollars at a discounted price. My friend get cash up front, his clients get a discounted price on the products and services and they are more likely to think of him rather than a competitor since they've already paid.
Will it work for my friend and will he try it out? I don't know. It's one of those ideas you have to test. But, I bet if you sit down and brainstorm the idea with your employees you might come up with a way to create your own currency to trade between you and your customers.