12 Ways to Wow Your Customers

By Daria Steigman, founder of Steigman Communications, LLC and author of the Independent Thinking Blog.

Stan Phelps has a message for business owners: stop spending so much time on acquiring new customers and spend more of it wowing the ones you have.

In a terrific new book, What’s Your Purple Goldfish, the author posits that in a sea of sameness the best way to achieve brand differentiation is to focus the bulk of your marketing efforts (and budget) on your customers— and not your prospects. His approach is a concept called lagniappe:

“Lagniappe is a Creole word meaning ‘the gift’ or ‘to give more.” A marketing lagniappe, i.e., a purple goldfish, is any time a business purposely goes above and beyond to provide a little something extra. It’s a marketing investment back into your customer base. It’s that unexpected surprise that’s thrown in for good measure to achieve product differentiation, drive retention and promote word of mouth.”

It is not a baker’s dozen, because we expect 13 bagels in our bag. But the 14th bagel just might be a purple goldfish.

12 Ways to Wow

Phelps identifies two categories of lagniappe (value and maintenance) and 12 different ways to wow your customers:

  1. Throw-ins (e.g., Southwest Airlines’ “bags fly free”)
  2. In the Bag / Out of the Box (e.g., Zipcars leaving gift bags in random cars)
  3. Sampling (e.g., a bakery giving everyone who walks in the door a slice of bread)
  4. First and Last Impressions (e.g., a tire store bringing a cold drink out to a stranded motorist)
  5. Guarantees (e.g., LL Bean’s lifetime product guarantee)
  6. Pay it Forward (e.g., a dry cleaner cleaning a suit for free for a job interview)
  7. Follow-up Call (e.g., a pharmacist calling to check on a patient)
  8. Added Service (e.g., Zappos recommending a competitor because the item isn’t in stock)
  9. Convenience (e.g., Trader Joe’s having miniature shopping carts for kids)
  10. Waiting (e.g., Five Guys offering free, unshelled peanuts for customers as they wait in line)
  11. Special Needs (e.g., Hyatt creating hypo-allergenic rooms to cater to allergy sufferers)
  12. Handling Mistakes (e.g., a WineLibrary.com employee driving three hours to hand deliver a shipment that got screwed up by FedEx)

What’s Your Purple Goldfish is one of those books that every entrepreneur should read. It’s not filled with lofty ideas for changing the world; nor is it intended to be. Instead, it’s filled with examples of companies of all shapes and sizes who are driving word-of-mouth marketing by wowing their customers one person at a time. If you can’t find something in this book to apply to your business, then rethink your business.

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