Smart brands know that they're driven by their consumers - that without regular repeat buyers and without reaching new potential consumers, they won't stay in business for long. Smart marketers know the value of personalized one-on-one relationship building, and that nurturing those relationships requires going above and beyond 'typical' customer service.
I'm definitely one of those people that regularly says "I hate surprises!" But that's not entirely true.
I hate the kind of surprises that come from sentences beginning with "I need to come clean about something," or "(insert deep intake of breath here) We need to talk about ____."
On the flip side, an unexpected surprise can often make someone's entire day. It can happen in the line at Starbucks when out of the blue, the barista says "this one's on me", or it can occur when a waiter brings you a free dessert just because.
It can even happen on social media, after an interaction with your favorite brand.
Surprises can show people that they matter to you, that you're listening to them. For brands, these surprises can be a way to create immediate emotional connections with consumers, leading to a deeper sense of brand loyalty and advocacy.
While turning this into a marketing tactic might sound a bit off-putting, smart marketers understand what's behind the idea of "surprise and delight". Brands are employing surprise and delight strategies (also known as "Random Acts of Kindness") on social media, through sponsored events, in-store demonstrations, advertising and more. "Surprise and delight" is going one better. Taking customer service a step further, anticipating the needs of your consumers and offering them a solution before they even realize they have a need. Not only is this a great way to create buzz and brand loyalty with current fans and consumers, but it's also a great way to build, find and create new consumers, thanks to social media and the fact that most people, when delighted, will share their experience.
A Surprising Response
It might sound funny to hear adults excited about receiving stickers in the mail - but that's exactly what happens when people receive a handwritten card and stickers from companies like SproutSocial and Buffer. Innately, we all like to be recognized, and turning away from technology to take the time to write out a card, stick it in the mail with a couple branded stickers and give consumers an offline experience is meaningful. Adding elements of surprise and delight to your marketing efforts might take a bit more time, but it it's a strategy that can pay off in deepening consumer connections, creating long-term customers and brand advocates.
Social listening is the best way to find the people in your community that would be the ideal recipients of a surprise and delight experience, and delving deeper into their Twitter streams or Facebook pages will give you a glimpse of the best ways to employ this tactic. Not everyone wants stickers. Not everyone will wear a t-shirt. When you truly know the people you're looking to reach, you'll find the best way to reach their hearts and what 'gifts' they'll find most meaningful.
Personal Real World Examples
I've mentioned that receiving stickers and handwritten cards in the mail are one of the ways that some online brands are using "surprise and delight" within their online communities. Here are some ways that I've employed this strategy:
- Brunch: As a marketing consultant, I travel a lot on behalf of brands. For one of them, after engaging with a few people in the Chicago area for quite some time on Twitter and Facebook, I had an upcoming trip to the area. I reached out to four of the people I had gotten to know best and invited them to brunch with me. I paid for brunch and brought them a little gift bag filled with product. I've continued to do this in the form on tweet-Uups in other areas - when I know I am heading to a certain city, I'll post about it on Twitter, tagging some of the members in that brands' community that I have engaged with the most and scheduled a tweet up with them. Not only does this give me the opportunity to show these people that I want to get to know them further, and that they're important to our business, but it also gives them a chance to meet other people in their communities. Odds are that they'll have more in common than a love for my brand, and it can open them up to making new friends and developing relationships with people in their own city they otherwise might not have known.
- Experiences: As a CPG marketer, I often have the opportunity to work with artists and celebrities, and will occasionally receive tickets to their shows or backstage passes. I'll take those gifts offered to me, and I'll ask the artists if I can pass them along to members of the brands community, using them for contest prizes or simply surprising a random member of the brands Twitter followers. This gives that person an experience from the brand they otherwise could not have gotten on their own.
- Make My Day: I have a marketing program I call "Make My Day." In cities that I have a dedicated street team, I'll scour social media posts from people in that city and find someone that's posting about having a bad day or that's upset about something that's happened. I'll then reach out to them on that same social media platform and, showing them that I'm paying attention, say something like, "I hear you're having a rough day because of _____. I'd love to try to brighten it with (and then insert the name of your brand and their product)" I'll then see if they're at their office and send a member of my street team to them with some free goodies, or, if I can't discern where this person is, I might ask them "can you meet my team in one hour (so they have time to get there) at the corner of _____? We've got a little something for you".
Things that might seem like no big deal can often be huge to someone else. These little things are often the difference between a good brand and a great brand - they might take a bit more time to organize, but it's the people and brands willing to take a chance, try some different tactics and spend a bit more time showing their consumers how much they mean, that can differentiate themselves and stand out from the ever-expanding crowd.
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