Utilizing New Channels to Create Unforgettable Experiences

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Dinner’s on Joe.
Illustrated by H.P.Riggs, JR.

In today’s ever changing environment it is important for companies to separate themselves from their competition by creating unforgettable experiences for members of their community (customers, vendors, friends, etc.).  The Disney empire was built on creating “wow” moments and every company strives to do the same. Wow’s are what keeps them coming back and are the cornerstone of customer loyalty. This month, while working with a local insurance agency, we came up with a unique “wow” moment for his company that we believe we should share.

The agent, we’ll call him Joe, works for a large and reputable insurance company. His agency, franchise of sorts, is located in the suburbs of Philadelphia on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River and his target market are the more than 20,000 residents residing in the three towns close to his office.

His agency is relatively new so Joe and his three employees continually seek unique ways to separate his firm from his competitors. We meet monthly to discuss his approach and to brainstorm on how he can improve his business without breaking the bank. Among the many ideas we discussed the following stood out as the most creative.

During our conversation Joe mentioned that he wanted to figure out how to work more closely with a local and very popular cheesesteak / pizza shop in order to gain exposure. The shop is located within walking distance of his agency and the owners recently gave Joe their business. Up until this point he has considered trying the traditional tactics including the ever so  popular “place your card in the bowl and win a lunch” contest. But today, a new idea emerged.

From now through the end of summer Joe will sponsor two pizzas per weekend to be delivered to anonymous customers within his target area. He will pre-pay the pizza shop and allow them to randomly select which customers (delivery only) will receive the surprise pie. Here’s how it will work and why it is a great idea.

Customer A calls on a friday night for a pizza to be delivered to his/her home. When the food arrives the driver simply tells the customer that the pizza is complementary of Joe, a local local insurance agent, who wants to build his reputation throughout the community. A pre-printed “thank you” card will be placed on the top of the box inviting the recipient to “thank Joe” on his company’s Facebook page and telling them to enjoy their meal. A simple yet powerful gesture.

Here’s why it will work.

  •  People love surprises, especially ones that save them money.
  • Eating is intimate and so is insurance. A natural yet subtle connection.
  • It screams community. Isn’t that what it’s all about.
  • The pizza shop also looks good so they will begin to sing his praises.
  • If he can successfully encourage people to talk about it online and thank him on his Facebook page then he will begin to reach people in those places every company wants to be.
  • It’s out-of-the-box, inexpensive, emotional, an experience, and fun. In other words, a homerun.
  • It’s nice.
  • It employees a new channel in the B2C relationship. Engaging the pizza shop to creates a new and unexpected carrier (literally) of his message.

There are few details to be worked out, including debriefing the staff at the pizza shop so they are clear in their message and making sure we get the responses we need, but nothing too challenging. The best part about it is the cost – we estimate an annual investment of $1,200 – $1,500.

It will be interesting to see how this unfolds and we will certainly keep you posted.

Creative (and other) Problems

Yesterday I noticed this painting while attending my daughter’s art show. It’s an open house for the art school as well as an opportunity for the students to showcase their work. It was done by a 15 year old which, in my opinion, was one of the best works on display.

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What I like most about this painting is the message (intended or not) contained within the work. We’ve all heard of writer’s block, a condition among writers that prevents them from producing new work. It may also be safe to assume that artists also suffer a similar condition as evidenced by this painting. It’s also safe to say that we have all suffered from a similar condition. Artist or not, we have encountered a professional or personal moment of paralysis whereby we feel as if we cannot move forward.

This “problem” is not limited to the creative community but as we can see here perhaps there’s an opportunity to learn from the citizens of that community. As this artist has done so perfectly it may be time to turn these moments of defeat into moments of opportunity. You can almost envision this artist painting her way through the her “creative problem.”

The next time you hit the proverbial wall in whatever you do think about this artist and think about how to change that moment in time into a moment of opportunity. Write, post, capture, or develop your way through your problem, have faith in your abilities and maybe the product you produce will turn into a work of art.

*The painting was created by a student at the Kaizar School of Art. For more information on this image or the artist that created it please content them directly. http://www.kaizarartschool.com/

Innovate & “Amplify Human Imagination”

This morning Vijay Govindarajan of the Harvard Business Review posted a fascinating blog on innovation entitled Reverse Innovation at Davos. The article examines how innovation in developing countries is contributing to unprecedented growth and what that means to their rich, developed counterparts. At the end of the piece  Govindarajan challenges “Western multinationals” to begin to shift their focus, resources and power to these emerging markets suggesting that a failure to do so will result in missed opportunities.

This article reminded me of seeing Gary Hamel deliver a keynote  at ASAE a few years back on “The Future of Management,”  which focuses on the need for organizations (nonprofit and for-profit alike) to think and act differently in order to succeed.  At the heart of his argument was the notion that organizations need to continually innovate and revisit their strategies through new and often very different lenses. This, he suggests, often means redesigning and challenging longstanding management models to accommodate for a new approach to doing business.

It’s been two years since I saw Hamel’s presentation but his message of  “strategic renewal” and a belief that every member of every organization can play a role in “continually generating hundreds of new strategic options” has always stuck with me.  With that in mind, and on the heels of a very enlightening piece from HBR, I found this presentation and thought I would share it for review.  Comments on favorite slides are listed below the presentation.

*This presentation was put together by Mark Sniukas.  His presentation can also be viewed here.

Slide 12 – Strategic Renewal  – Over the past few months I’ve been involved in several board meetings where the teams have reviewed their strategic plans through an innovative lens.  Meaning – they’re taking a look at the gaps in their plans to identify opportunities to develop new ideas, products, and processes.  This, I believe, is a product of strategic renewal.

Slide 13 – I’m not crazy over the repetitive use of the word “strategic” but I do like the idea of rebooting. In my opinion you can reboot just about everything.

Slide 14 – “Continually generating hundreds of NEW strategic options” – this is great.

Slide 28 – Continually reinforce the belief that innovation can come from anyone.

Slide 40 – Amplify human imagination.

In this day and age everyone is afforded the opportunity to innovate.  Leaders, teams and organizations alike should be taking full advantage of it.

We’re All Artists So Let’s Get Painting

Last week  I sat through  a presentation at my daughter’s art school. The walls of the studio were covered with paintings, sketches and drawings.  All were done by the students who range in age from six to 26.  Although the subject matter was all over the map, from cartoons to profiles to landscapes, they all had one thing in common – they were born out of creative desire.

As I sat there I couldn’t help but think about what creativity means in this day and age and how, even though many of us may not consider ourselves to be creative (as in Van Gogh), the opportunity for us to introduce creativity in everything we do has never been greater.

Dictionary.com defines creativity as – the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.

I prefer the definition offered up by Dr. Nancy Andreasen of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and author of The Creating Brain. During an interview with NPR  she states “creativity is an intellectual capacity that is not directly related to intelligence. And it is capacity of seeing new things, new relationships, create novel things, and it spreads across the arts and sciences…the point I make is the genius is somebody who has the capacity to think outside the box and have original ideas, produce beautiful things, things that are useful to society and so on.”

Mantelpiece at the Art School

I’m not exactly jazzed about using the term “think outside the box” but in today’s marketplace we, as professionals, have the opportunity to be creative in everything we do. More importantly, in many of our workplaces creativity in nontraditional environments is not accepted but almost expected.

Today, it ‘s not enough (or fun) to continue to do things the way we did last year, last month, or in some cases last week. Sure, there’s something to be said for maintaining process, but the beauty of today lies in our ability to employ creative approaches to everything we do.

In a way we’re all artists so imagine the “to do” list as a canvas and let yourself create a new landscape.

Opportunities for Growth

I finally got around to reading a blog post by Chris Brogan that’s been waiting for me for who knows how long. It was titled “How to Write Three Blog Posts a Day” and as a new blogger and a fan of his work I thought I could pick up a thing or two that I could put to use. Fortunately there were more than a few nuggets of information and when I was finished I came to an unexpected realization – that the “how to’s” in his post can easily be appplied to just about any scenario including how to improve upon our approach to business, relationships and networking. As I sit on plane headed to Chicago there are two that stand out in my head.

Embrace Imperfection – His point was that your blog will have mistakes so get over it and move on. Wow, what a relief. This is huge and a huge relief to those that are immobilized by the fear of failure.  If only we were able to adopt that philosophy in our everyday lives and on a consistent basis. Think about how ones approach to work would be, not to mention the outcome.

Seek Opportunity for Content – There’s plenty of things to write about as long as we’re looking for the opportunity. I agree but for all of the non-bloggers out there I would say replace “content” with “conversation” meaning star talking and listening to everyone around you. More often than not conversations lead to discovery which leads to many things including personal and professional growth.

These were two of many tips I was able that resonated with me. Oh, and one other included the notion of stealing time to write when you can which I’ve done here on my approved electronic device in seat 10 C.