One Sure Way to Get and Keep Customers: Give Them Something Extra

The last time you got something extra from a company, how did it make you feel?  Good, right?  Even though it might have been an orange-colored tee shirt with a too-large logo that you wouldn’t wear more than once, getting it made you feel like you were appreciated.  The secret of why this works is in the giving, not the gift.

It’s not altogether about the total value of the something extra.  The extra has to have some kind of value to the customer in order to be effective, but only up to a certain level.  If the something extra is too much, it can make customers feel uncomfortable.  Or certain types of customers may expect even more and more.  And it can ding your profitability.  Sometimes, less is more.

When I was selling military aircraft in Central Europe, I’d often be at regional air shows.  I loved those small shows because the flying was great and the crowds were fun.  Even small airplane pins were accepted with big smiles.  Because summer weather in that region always included passing rain showers, we brought a lot of umbrellas with our logo on them.  They were wildly popular, didn’t cost a lot and provided great advertising.  I’d see them back in the cities all year long.

Why even consider giving something extra?  Isn’t a good product at a good price good enough?  The general answer is yes, but quite often good enough is not competitive.  Smart business people learned long ago that an estimated 20 percent of their customer base gives them 80 percent of their business … and refers them to others.  That’s why loyalty programs were created – to “gift” repeat customers and encourage new customers to join up.

Does your company have a something extra strategy?  Perhaps a free app?  Free training?  Free analysis?  I once worked with a group that offered free analytical software to customers so they could make their own inputs and compare different providers.  No gimmicks.  It was a superb something extra for technical and user buyers and promoted trust through transparency.

Ever been to New Orleans?  Ever heard someone say lagniappe?  It’s a Creole word meaning a little something extra, like the 13th beignet in the baker’s dozen.  I love New Orleans.  My wife’s mother’s family is from Louisiana and for many years I joined her cousins on a Mardi Gras krewe.  It was a blast being part of all the pageantry and revelry.

Mardi Gras krewes give a lot of extras – to tourism in general and to revelers in particular.  Besides their balls and social events, they personally fund all those great parades of floats, bands and “throws.”  Throws are the beads, coins, cups, and whatevers that come off the floats into the waving arms of the crowds.  It’s a wild scene, but there’s a certain decorum for safety and tradition.  We signed pledges neither to drink on the floats nor throw live chickens (really).

The reason I bring this up is that Mardi Gras throws are the ultimate something extra.  They are cheaply made trinkets with little material value, but become highly desirable for a moment.  Standing on the floats going down St. Charles Avenue you’d hear, “Throw me something, mister.” And you would.  But many times I’d look beyond the frenzy near the float and get eye contact with someone at the edge of the crowd, point to them and launch the throw.  When they caught it, they broke out into a big smile that we both shared.

What’s your company parade?  What’s your throw?  Give ‘em something extra and make it fun.

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