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.

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Clarity is Power

Tonight I watched my first Anthony Robbins presentation. It appeared at the top of one of my feeds and the title struck me as something that would be worth checking out, if only for a minute.

His message is good but the part I enjoyed most begins at around the fifth minute where he discusses the importance of clarity. Simply put, being clear about goals (both personal and professional) and the power that comes with clarity, can change your life.

Here’s hoping that we find clarity and work hard toward our goals.

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.

Slow Down

The Epiphany by Me

Have you ever driven down a highway and then, all of a sudden, you find yourself doing 65 MPH in a 45 MPH work zone? You’ve missed the more than fifty orange warning signs and for some reason were totally oblivious to the flashing yellow lights and large orange barrels.  If not, good for you –  if so, then don’t feel bad. It happens to just about all of us and just the other day in happened to me but this time I actually learned something from the experience. (And it didn’t take getting a ticket to do so.)

As I sped through the work zone it occurred to me that what was happening on the road may also be happening in our daily lives, either at work, at home or both.  We’re speeding through days, weeks, months and our lives without slowing down or paying attention to our warning signs.

Our drive to provide, to succeed, to meet the demands of what is expected of us from others and to meet our own expectations is forcing us to feel as if we can never slow down.  We’re working longer hours, trying harder to exceed our personal and professional goals and in between trying to make sure our responsibilities to ourselves and families are met.  In addition, the added stress of a recession-induced environment has everyone trying to make sense of constantly a changing marketplace.  These factors may be contributing to a “move fast or die” attitude but it may be doing more harm than good and it may be time to think differently.

For the first time ever once I saw the “Slow Down” sign I actually did it.  I didn’t contemplate how long it would take me to get out of the work zone, whether or not there was a police officer in sight, or the insane rational behind the thinking that since there were no workers it was o.k. to continue to do 65 mph. This time I pulled my foot off the gas, dropped back in my seat, and enjoyed the ride. It was a refreshing break and one that I didn’t even know I needed, that’s the scary part. (and perhaps that was the biggest lesson of all) We get so caught up  in what seems most important at any given second that we forget how to keep things in perspective, we forget how to slow down and that isn’t good.

If we don’t take time to slow down then we’re headed for trouble.  Imagine those early “Road Work Ahead” signs, flashing lights and big barrels as projects, deadlines, or even our health. If we keep missing them because we’ve convinced ourselves that moving faster is what it takes, or ignoring them because they are not a priority “RIGHT NOW” then all of a sudden we”ll find ourselves in a work zone where moving fast becomes prohibitive and costly. Those small projects become missed opportunities, missed deadlines become big problems, and is there really any need to go into what happens when we ignore our health.

It’s important to slow down, to prioritize, to think of others (like those workers on the side of the road), and maybe even to find value in the slow lane.  After all, there are opportunities there too.

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.