I lived in New Orleans when I was writing my first major book, evacuating, like hundreds of thousands of others, when Hurricane Katrina hit. I'll be celebrating Mardi Gras tomorrow, too, just as I have every year since I left. But the biggest impact from New Orleans was on my business, particularly with the city concept of "lagniappe."

The locally-known word "lagniappe" is pronounced like lan-yap. You'll see it on the restaurant menus, you'll experience it unofficially from hospitality, and so on. The simple concept can change your business.

Giving the unexpected

A Creole term, lagniappe means an unexpected bonus or gift. Have you ever gotten fast food and found an extra chicken nugget in your meal or a surprise onion ring in your fries? Lagniappe is like that, but the server didn't make a mistake.

The people serving you are giving you more on purpose.

When I lived there, it meant finding an extra praline in the dozen from my favorite candy shop or getting an additional small overflow cup when a restaurant made me a daiquiri. It meant a surprise.

The power of overdelivering

Here's the real secret to lagniappe: It doesn't cost much. Throwing in a little extra is often nothing, especially compared to your potential return on investment.

I have infused lagniappe into my own business. I'll send or give a copy of my newest book to active coaching clients for free, or pass along a free mini-coaching session to those who have gone the extra mile to support me along the way, and so on. I now actively seek ways to give people I serve something more.

A client invests hundreds to thousands of dollars for my services. My average book costs $20. And yet, this simple gesture builds the relationship with my clients and helps them understand that I am happy to give beyond the transactional level. They, in turn, may be more likely to continue to work with me in the future.

It is my extra praline that could have a profound impact.

Why you should always give more

Taking the opposite approach can actually turn customers away. A mentor of mine recently made a several-thousand-dollar purchase--and then, when they realized a couple additional screws were needed, the company founder immediately gave them an invoice for a dollar and some change. They won't be purchasing from that company again.

The question is this: Do you want to account for every short-term penny or do you want to invest in the satisfaction of your customers?

This is why New Orleans is one of the most hospitable cities in America. It's worth following its lead in your business.