Big data, supercomputers, and advanced analytics are delivering big breakthroughs in marketing. But at a time of data deluge, it’s the small, unexpected touches that can make all the difference to your customers.
Guests at the Soho Grand Hotel in New York are offered a pet goldfish for their room. They may take stylish décor, comfortable beds, and welcoming service for granted, but the fish is a quirky extra that gets them talking. It may not fulfill any need identified by surveys or focus groups, yet it typifies the kind of thoughtful, unusual touch that can attract a dedicated following.
Put simply, satisfying customers is no longer enough; companies need to go a step further and excite them to generate word of mouth. That word of mouth can deliver real value: studies have shown that it’s the driving force behind 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions and that a 10 percent lift in word of mouth increases sales by up to 1.5 percent.1
Do something unexpected, noteworthy, and shareable, and you can kindle lasting memories, build customer loyalty, and harness the power of word of mouth.2
Ten best ways to excite
By analyzing best practices, we have identified ten directions that companies can take to generate customer excitement:
Extreme simplicity: Devise processes that are exceptionally easy and intuitive to use. Amazon set the standard for simplicity by offering a “one-click” option to streamline online buying. Users of the OpenTable reservation website can check availability at member restaurants, read reviews, and book a table, all within a few clicks, for free, and with the bonus of loyalty points to redeem against future meals.
Premium quality and design: Develop products that are outstanding in look and feel as well as performance. Some customer segments are excited by the flawless design and build of a Mercedes car, say, or a Bang & Olufsen sound system, with its aspiration to “combine technological excellence with emotional appeal.”
Exceptional service: Create a friendly personalized approach that takes the pain out of purchasing. To foster a customer-service culture, Ritz-Carlton gives its staff a budget of $2,000 each to use at their discretion to solve customer complaints. Kind gestures can surprise and excite customers too: in the UK, Interflora monitored Twitter to find users who were feeling down and offered them free bouquets; in the US, staff from healthy quick-service café Sweetgreen reward people for cycling to work by putting shower caps over bike saddles on rainy days and slipping gift cards under the covers.
Innovative technology: Develop revolutionary solutions that raise the bar of customer expectations for all competitors. Continuing its tradition of transforming the user experience in category after category of consumer electronics, Apple replaced browsers with apps as a user interface in the then embryonic tablet format and scored a runaway success with the launch of its iPad.
Exclusivity: Appeal to status-seekers with premium-priced luxury services. According to the Veblen effect, the perceived value of a product increases as its price grows; exclusivity breeds excitement. Consider Quintessentially, a private club that provides privileged access to information, events, and venues via a 24-hour concierge service in return for membership fees of up to $45,000.
Hedonism: Providefun, freedom, and shared experience through adventure or entertainment. Red Bull has engaged in so many extreme sports to excite its customers, from wingsuit flying to competitive ice-climbing, that it looks more like an event marketer than a drinks company. Hedonism is also on offer from the Burning Man festival, a week of community art, self-expression, and self-reliance attracting tens of thousands of followers who agree to abandon money, cars, and mobile phones in an escape from everyday life.
Mystique: Cultivate an aura of secrecy or intrigue around a product specification or launch. On its release in March 2013, rock musician David Bowie’s album The Next Day went straight to number 1 in the album charts in the UK and number 2 in the US and went on to top the charts in more than a dozen countries, despite the total secrecy surrounding the recording and the absence of interviews and promotional tours, demonstrating that mystique can trump marketing hype as a way of exciting an audience.
Taboo breaking: Reject stereotypes for a more daring approach. Instead of using professional models, skincare company Dove featured ordinary women in its Campaign for Real Beauty, putting authenticity at the core of its customer appeal. This break with convention enabled Dove to score success through viral campaigns that attracted more than 15 million viewers on YouTube.
Co-creation: Foster shared ownership through participation, contribution, and community. The rise of social media has made co-creation a popular and accessible way to excite customers. When Ford relaunched the Fiesta, it gave cars to a hundred social-media-savvy young people and asked them to blog about it, using customer-created content to create a powerful marketing force.
Authenticity: Show unusual frankness and openness to win – or woo back – skeptical customers. When takeaway chain Domino’s Pizza used documentary-style ads in the US to voice common complaints (“Your pizzas taste like cardboard”), customers were impressed with its willingness to face up to its failings: “I always hated Domino’s, but now I’d give them another chance.”
Excitement doesn’t come from serendipity, but from deliberate steps that leaders take to attract new customers and turn existing ones into lifelong advocates. To begin, think about:
Choosing your territory. No company can succeed at all of these options for exciting customers; it’s vital to select two or three directions that you want to own. What’s your territory?
Generating ideas for “Wow!” moments. Try “invention through transfer” – identify breakthrough ideas in other markets and emulate the logic behind them. Build a pipeline to deploy and track excitement ideas systematically. Who needs to be on your “wow” team?
Gearing up your organization. Splice excitement into your company’s DNA and make it a source of pride for employees. Ensure leaders take symbolic actions to underpin the change they want to see, whether it’s by rewarding employees for contributing excitement ideas or taking part in the new activities themselves. What is the one thing you want your leaders to start doing?
Adopting a new philosophy of measuring. Because excitement is disruptive, it needs a new set of qualitative measuring tools to capture the emotional impact on individuals. What metrics and tools should you be using?
Customer excitement is the next step in a successful customer journey, offering you a chance to make your customers more loyal, more talkative, and more profitable.
- See “A new way to measure word-of-mouth marketing,” McKinsey & Company; and Ed Keller, “Finally, proof that word of mouth isn't just 'nice to have,' but drives measurable ROI.”