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April 7, 2017
Digital Marketing  |  5 min read

Surprise!: How the Unexpected Remains One of Small Business’ Most Powerful Marketing Strategies

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Kathryn Hawkins

Easter is approaching, which in my family means an epic Easter egg hunt in my aunt’s backyard. It’s been an annual tradition for generations, and someday I’ll inherit the mantle (or, in this case, the basket).

Easter egg hunts are always fun. Why? Because the surprise of finding a hidden treasure triggers powerful emotion and hyperfocus. If the surprise is a positive one, it can also create a lasting positive association—i.e. Easter egg hunts are fun, the hunts happen at Aunt Jane’s house, therefore Aunt Jane is fun.

To generate positive and pleasurable associations around your business, look for every opportunity to surprise your customers (in a good way). Delivering unexpected value to your customers can be a savvy way to foster positive relationships between your brand and its customers.

Here are three ways to delight your customers with hidden treasure: 

1. Go the extra mile with personalized customer service

An effective hidden-treasure campaign doesn’t have to be grand and expensive. You can get as much accomplished with a small but thoughtful effort. Remember the real goal here—and in all marketing, ultimately—is to develop a positive customer relationship with your brand.

Customer service is a crucial element of building customer loyalty, and the best customer service stories go viral, creating a legend around your brand.

Consider the e-commerce store Zappos: When one woman called and mentioned her foot pain from medical issues, the rep didn’t just provide shoe recommendations for her—she sent a surprise bouquet of flowers and gave her complimentary VIP membership so that she’d receive free shipping on all orders. The woman vowed to buy all her shoes from Zappos from then on. By surprising your customers with quality service that goes above expectations, you can build customers for life.

2. Use tech to showcase creativity 

A digital “easter egg” can be another way to delight and surprise your customers. Follow Google’s lead: Search for “askew,” for example, and just watch what happens to your screen, and check out their daily Doodles for clever references to dates and often-obscure figures in history.

One way to create a digital easter egg that doesn’t require Google-level programming chops or artistic skills? Consider the lowly 404 page. (The page you get to when you’re trying to get somewhere else.)

There are many creative 404 pages out there, but one of my favorites is this one from the digital agency Bluegg. (If you’re around other people, you may want to put on headphones first.)

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You'll have to see it to get it.

Another favorite: Web developer Benjamin Reid’s old-school Jurassic Park console—try three password attempts and see what happens.

A creative 404 page turns what’s usually an annoying experience into a delightful one. Use it as an opportunity to engage and have fun with your fans.

3. Launch a scavenger hunt

A few years back, Chevy ran a 27-city scavenger hunt to promote its new Chevy Sonic model. Participants used a location-based SCVNGR app to scour the city solving Chevy-related clues. The team with the most points in each city won a new Sonic.

Now, you don’t have to be as far-reaching or as flashy as Chevy to entice your customers with a scavenger hunt. Think of the old-fashioned Easter egg hunt—release a bunch of kids (and their parents) into a backyard to fill up their baskets with as many colorful finds as possible. Everyone knows the rules, and everyone knows what to look for.

Why not do something simple in your store to celebrate a holiday or even the store’s anniversary? Tell customers that there are hidden hearts (Valentine’s Day), candy canes (Christmas), or plastic eggs (Easter) in your aisles or on your website and that if they can tell you where they are they get a percentage off their total purchase.

Hidden perks can have big payoffs

Surprise is "still the most powerful marketing tool of all", according to Harvard Business Review. Use the power of surprise to delight your customers, and build brand awareness in a fun and lasting way.

Repeating History: Small Business Strategies for Earning Repeat Sales and Customer Loyalty - Download Now

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