By Pieter Bickford

In part one, I talked about the first step in engaging your customers: grab them. In part two, we’ll be covering the other two elements to engagement: surprise them and move them.

How to Surprise Your Customers

Once you’ve grabbed a potential customer’s attention, how do you keep it? You surprise them. In marketing, this is often called “breaking the script” and it means going above and beyond your customers’ expectations in ways they don’t expect. Need an example? Check out our list:

Companies Breaking the Script

  • You Need a Budget, or YNAB, encourages potential customers to sign up for the 34-day challenge which aims to “teach you everything you’ll ever need to know to break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, get out of debt and save more money.” Instead of offering the typical 30-day free trial, YNAB offers a 34-day free trial so their customers are able to complete the challenge. They have enough faith in their product, that they trust that satisfied clients will continue after 34 days.

  • Leitersburg Cinemas offers free popcorn and drink refills for every customer. This defies logic in the movie theater business – owners would expect to lose money because customers would only buy and refill small sizes. However, the large size is the highest seller at LC! When customers feel like they’re saving money on refills, they are also more likely to purchase other concessions.
  • Sugar Bakers Cakes in Baltimore is breaking tradition in the wedding industry, where customers are already expecting to spend a lot of money. Instead of urging their customers to splurge on the extra tier of cake to freeze and eat on their first anniversary, the bakery will rebake it for you! Just give them a call a few weeks in advance and they’ll recreate your wedding cake, for free!

At HighRock, we always say that your marketing needs to find a way to “break through the noise.” Your customers may not see the money you pour into your marketing campaign, but they will see the places that you’re breaking the script in order to make a genuine connection with them. These surprises may cost your company a little bit, but they make a much bigger impact on your clients. Meaningful connection makes repeat customers.

How to Move Your Customers

The final step to engaging with your customers is closely related to the emotional response in step one – grab them. Remember the motivators of money, family, safety, health, and community?  Now it’s time to figure out where your business fits in to those.

As you go about your business, look for stories that fit at least one of those factors. You can start with yourself and our business: What is your story? Why do your staff enjoy their jobs? What do clients say when they express their gratitude for your product or service? What will your customers want to know about you that will engage their emotions? Think about your mission – why do you do what you do? Chances are the reasons that tug on your heartstrings to keep going day after day will probably emotionally engage your customers too.

A great example of companies telling the stories that matter to them is Whirlpool’s Care Counts campaign. Whirlpool found out that one in five students don’t have regular access to clean clothes, making them more likely to miss school. They started the Care Counts program and began installing washing machines and dryers in schools, allowing parents and teachers to sign up for time slots to come do laundry at the school.

Since 2015, Whirlpool has installed washers and dryers in 82 schools, impacting 38,000 children. For a story like this, customers connect on a family and community level. The best part of this story though is that Whirlpool didn’t set out to do this as a marketing campaign – they were responding to stories that created an emotional response in them. Marketing this campaign is just a side benefit to the Care Counts campaign. Customers will remember the emotional impact and the story for much longer.

Ready to engage with your customers in news ways? HighRock’s strategic marketing team would love to help!

This blog post is an adaptation of Bickford’s workshop through the Maryland Small Business Development Center.

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