The smooth jazz echoed off the cavernous grocery store walls as your mom pushed the cart down the aisle.
One rickety wheel in the front of the cart spastically shook to the left and right as it shared your excitement for what was about to come next. After all, what the next aisle contained was the only reason you jovially jumped into the car when she informed you of the morning’s food shopping duties.
Your mom stretched on her tippy toes to grab the boxed pasta on sale that week. She tossed it into the cart behind you and the dried noodles shook inside their container like a set of maracas. It was as if every object surrounding you was gearing up to celebrate what would come next.
As she pushed the cart around the bend, the music overhead silenced to a hush and all you could hear was the commercial jingles from every cereal brand. You begin taking inventory of where “Snap. Crackle. Pop.” was located, along with the friendly box of the “They’re grrreeeaaat!” tiger.
However, it wasn’t the cereal itself you were examining carefully as your mom slowly pushed you past the colorful rectangles of sugary grains. Nope, it was the tiny images printed on the corner of each box you were trying to desperately evaluate. After all, whichever one competed for the best “Toy Inside!” and won would be the cereal you begged to hug close to your chest until the entire morning of shopping was done.
The magic of a surprise inside
First pioneered by Cracker Jacks, the surprise inside is something that smart marketers have done for decades. In fact, Seth Godin wrote an entire book about its power.
The thing that makes something remarkable isn’t usually directly related to the original purpose of the product or service. It’s the FREE PRIZE INSIDE, the extra stuff, the stylish bonus, the design or the remarkable service or pricing that makes people talk about it and spread the word. – Seth Godin
These days, cereal brands have bastardized this concept to death. If a cereal does not contain a prize, it’s odd and rare. However, they get away with it since their primary buyer is children, and young children don’t typically rationalize buying decisions, especially when the money being spent isn’t their own.
My boys, for example, demanded two boxes of Reese’s Puffs cereal this summer (approximately $4.99 per box, totaling almost $10.00), just so they could proceed to crush the heck out of it as they searched for the Despicable Me Minion figurine that settled to the bottom. Each toy boasted a $0.50 value, and that’s probably generous.
However, when it comes to creating art for a living and your primary audience is adults, you have a slightly different playing field in which to operate. The bad news is that your buyer rationalizes their purchasing decisions before they buy, if they’re granted the time to do so. The good news is that the playing field is quite saturated with boring businesses and an insane amount of sameness.
With just a sprinkling of creativity, however, you can blow them all away (and I know you’ve got plenty of creativity…if you didn’t you wouldn’t be here).
How to create a unique client experience that also offers a surprise
Just as Seth Godin says, the surprise isn’t the product itself. It’s something in addition to what they’re paying you money to get. The surprise doesn’t have to cost very much, either (two inch tall plastic Minion, anyone?). However, it does have to be something that the customer wouldn’t normally expect. In order to have the most impact, it should be something that communicates that you care about the customer, what they enjoy and what they’ll likely tell loads of people about.
When you go to get your car’s oil changed, if they take 10 minutes to wash your car down and spray shiny stuff on your tires, you’re thrilled! It cost them 10 minutes of their time, one ounce of shiny stuff and five gallons of water. The expense was next to nothing. But in contrast, the other car mechanics tend to leave your car dirtier after an oil change. With black fingerprints on the interior and the driver’s seat thrown all the way back, you’re happy that your oil is all set for another 5,000 miles, but you’re annoyed that they didn’t respect your vehicle.
Customers of neither auto mechanic brag to their friends about how efficient and phenomenal the oil change was. Nope. They’re either complaining about the fingerprints or they’re sharing the treat of a newly washed car.
So in order to test out a surprise for your creative business, you need to:
- take a look at what the competition is not doing
- understand what your target market subculture would most enjoy
- evaluate a list of possible options and try one at a time
Comment below and share ideas of possible surprises to thrill and delight your customers
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Pin the image below as a reminder to brainstorm a surprise if you don’t have the time to right now.