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.

Run Your Own Race

Image Courtesy of Time.com

Last week I wrote  Creative (and other) Problems, a look at the point at which we become paralyzed in our  own work, often unable to move forward due to a lack of inspiration, vision, creativity or whatever other distraction comes up. In many ways it’s like “writers block” for the everyday professional. Over the past several days I couldn’t help but think of a comment on that post by left by Mike Dwyer who said “don’t stress about it and your natural creativity won’t fail you!”

Fast forward one week. In the midst of the high winds and driving rain brought on by Hurricane Irene, I  watched Secretariat, the Disney movie about Kentucky’s Triple Crown winner of the early 1970’s. In the movie the phrase “run your own race” pops up  frequently and is used as a connector throughout the film. At one point Penny Tweedy, the owner of the horse, used it to try to convince her husband and brother that her decision to leverage everything they had on the future of the horse (described here in “drew’s marketing minute); and again, perhaps most dramatically, when she’s talking one-on-one with  Secretariat (the horse) shortly before an important race.  It didn’t take long before I “got it” and when I did it resonated loudly with me.  This is why.

Rules and Distraction
In our professional and personal lives  rules and distractions play prominent roles in defining how we spend our hours.  At times we are forced to address projects directly in front of us, you know,  the everyday tasks and responsibilities that we need to accomplish just to stay afloat.  Then enter the rules which govern our behavior, those set about by home, work, culture, routine, our laziness to…well,  run our own race.

Too often we forget that what got us where we are today is a belief in our own abilities but perhaps more importantly how those abilities can carry us forward. When we’re empowered to follow our “natural instincts,”  then we quickly realize we have enough drive to execute our goals, to embrace own success, and to run our own race.

Embrace Fear, Accept Failure, Be Patient

If you are contemplating a place on the social stage then you will have to embrace fear, accept failure, and be very, very patient.

Embracing Fear: What keeps most people from engaging online? Fear. Plain and simple. Fear that the words won’t come out right; Fear of being judged on every post; Fear that what you have to say isn’t as important or as smart as you think it is. It’s fear that keeps us from moving forward and it’s fear that will keep you from engaging if you let it.  My advice – embrace fear by letting it drive your curiosity. Use it to first motivate thought and then action. Fear is a powerful emotion and when channeled appropriately can be a great motivator. And the good news is it eventually  goes away.

Image: iStock

 

Accepting Failure: Just past fear lies failure, and it will happen.  The hard part is accepting it and learning from it. In most cases we’ve been told that failure isn’t good but when it comes to social engagement it’s necessary. Once you’ve accepted failure as a part of the process then I recommend reading How to Teach Yourself to Trust Yourself, by Peter Bregman. It’s a quick read and one that I recommend revisiting every month or two. It will change the way you feel about your online presence and your “voice.”

Be Patient: Building an online presence (beyond Facebook) will take time so it’s important to be patient and not get frustrated. It simply takes time to get into the rhythm of online engagement. However, you will get better with practice, learn some really important stuff along the way, and create a community that you will come to appreciate.

Wrap Up
A few weeks ago I was part of a team that reviewed Open Community, a new book by Maddie Grant and Lindy Dreyer that examines how associations build community online. These three concepts (Fear, Failure and Patience) were interwoven throughout the book and was the inspiration for this post. It’s a terrific book and a worthwhile read whether you’re involved in a professional society or an association, or simply have an interest in online engagement. Click here to see our video review of Open Community.

Three Reasons to Keep it Simple

Tonight I returned from ASAE’s 2010 Tech Conference in Washington, D.C.  with a brain filled with all sorts of  ideas and agenda items. Among other things the conference offered valuable sessions on social media and content  strategy, the importance of curating content and the convergence of marketing  and IT departments and philosophies.

It was well worth the two days spent away from the office and for the most part left me inspired. However, a funny thing happened to me as I stepped off the train at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia and it was, perhaps, the most enlightening moment of my trip. As I ascended up the stairway and made my way through a back hallway I stumbled across this chalkboard which  stopped me dead in my tracks.

Train Schedule on Wheels

There’s no way of knowing exactly what this particular schedule is used for but it’s not the schedule that appears in the main lobby (pictured below),  or the small digital screens hanging in other areas of the depot. However, in its simplicity lie lessons that can be applied to anyone involved in content, technologies, social media and marketing.

Lesson #1 –  Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it isn’t useful. It serves the same purpose as the other schedules, even without the flashing lights and sounds.

Lesson #2 – It  accomplishes the same goal as the other schedules – it communicates specific and relevant information to those that need it.

Lesson #3 – It’s accessible.  It doesn’t over complicate the message.

These three rules can be applied to just about any form of communication including those used in social spaces. Too often we get lost in the “noise” around us or distracted by the flashy tools available at our fingertips.  Because of this  we tend to forget all about the value in simplicity and how, if applied properly, can actually advance our goals easier and faster.

Flashy Schedule Image Credit - http://www.trainweb.org