We live in an age of scattered attention and digital overwhelm. Every day, consumers are inundated with hundreds of advertisements across social platforms, TV, radio, or in their inboxes. It’s becoming harder and harder for brands to stand out from the noise and grab attention. Meeting customers’ needs is no longer enough to get you noticed. Instead, you must be exceptional. You must stand out in stark contrast to the competition. As marketing guru Seth Godin puts it in his book, Purple Cow, “in order to get your product or service to stand out in the market and be immediately noticeable, you need to make it a purple cow, or wholly different and eye-catching.” I want to guide you through how to accomplish an exceptional, buzz-worthy brand through three stories.
Story #1: More than food
I visited an Indian restaurant in LA with my wife, and the owner of the place came out and asked where we were from, was it our first time, and our food preferences. He then shuffled off and returned with a couple of beers. He gave them to us on the house. After our meal, he asked if we liked that brand of beer, we said they were great, and he came back with two more—to take home! Again, on the house.
There were a few remarkable things about the experience. First, we told the owner we weren’t from LA, so he knew we wouldn’t be frequent diners there. He treated us like royalty anyway. You might have thought, given our direct contact with the owner and him going above and beyond, that they were a brand new place trying to get good Yelp reviews. Nope. They had been around for years and already had hundreds of 5-star reviews (that’s how we initially found them!). But again, he treated us like royalty anyway. Then he gave us a total of four free beers, which is a small investment on his part for creating an amazing experience for us.
Bottom line is, it was clear that it was part of this restaurant’s ethos—part of their brand—to create exceptional experiences. It wasn’t to game the system, or to try and build hype. They did it because being helpful and authentic was who they were.
If you run a service-based business, it is imperative that you go above and beyond in interactions like this. Overinvest in your customers. Spend more time on the existing base than on the new traffic and the power of word of mouth and customer evangelism will deliver the ROI for you.
Story #2: Making a bad experience into a good one
I bought a box of trading cards from Wizards of the Coast (WoC) for a party when I was younger. When it arrived, a small portion of the card packs (maybe 5%) had some ink damage. I let them know, and they immediately replaced the entire box (about $100 MSRP) and threw in extra sleeves and packs for the inconvenience. I am still a die-hard fan of their brand a decade later.
See, WoC understood something that many brands fail at: If someone has a negative experience with your product/brand, you want to try your very best to spin it into a positive one. If they just replaced the damaged cards, then it still would be at best a slightly negative experience (they replaced it, sure, but I had the inconvenience of having to contact them, talk to customer support, etc.).
But by going above and beyond, they spent a nominal cost to achieve a huge change in experience. That is good business, and that is how you build hype.
Story #3: Wow with your first interaction
Here’s another one. I used to work for a software company, and we subscribed to a platform that had such an incredible customer experience, I eventually went to work for them. (Yes, this is Bonjoro, where I work now.)
We were looking for a tool to help improve our demo no-show rates, improve our trial conversions, and improve our retention. Bonjoro is a tool that lets you record personalized video emails to send to prospects and customers. When our team first signed up for the tool, Bonjoro greeted me with a personal video, sharing tips and insights and joking about how California weather must be soooo rough (it is famously amazing). I had never gotten anything like it.
Having a brand get connected with customers in such a human way is a rarity in our day and age, and their continued support, almost as a team member more than a customer, totally sets them apart in my eyes.
Be exceptional or be left behind
If your company is trying to develop that brand that will get you the eyes you deserve, remember the lessons above. Remember to overinvest in customers and stay human and connected. Remember that every failure is an opportunity to show what kind of company you are. Be transparent, trust the customer, and try to turn any negative into a positive. Remember that if you amaze a customer in your first interaction with them, that impression will shape your future. Be generous, send your customers personal gifts, videos, or letters. Do this, and you will create a recognized brand.