When was the last time you had a happy surprise?  It could be something small and seemingly insignificant.  Think of your day-to-day life – where you go, what you do, who you interact with.  Sometimes our lives can get into a comfortable flow and we settle into sameness.

The same thing is true in our businesses and for our customers.  Whether you’re a small business owner, or working on a billion dollar brand, you can shake it up with your customers.  I do a lot of work with restaurant owners.  Think about working in a sandwich shop.  Customer comes in, makes an order, you make a sandwich; they pay and walk out the door.  Over and over and over again.  It’s the same with any service business.  It’s easy to get info that flow.

The customer is in their flow, the business is in their flow, and everyone is walking around like zombies – rushing around, getting their stuff done, and moving on with their life.  Businesses give adequate service, people get adequate service, and everyone is more or less “satisfied.”

When everything seems like a sea of sameness, you can find opportunity.  In today’s society, being different can actually be more powerful than being better.  Many business owners, especially small business owners, are not differentiating themselves.  They want more customers and struggle with how to get them.

So how to be different?  I challenge you with this exercise.  Brainstorm 100 ways that you could do something surprising for your customers.  I’m not talking about big, grandiose gestures.  Rather, think of things that will disrupt that flow of sameness.  What could you do to positively disrupt your customers’ day?

Like what?  A friend recently got her oil changed, and when they brought her car out, there was a pink carnation on the dash.  Small, and totally unexpected.  Does this have anything to do with a better oil change?  No way, but do you suppose that she thinks of that every time she looks at the oil change sticker in her window, or when she drives by that place?  Absolutely.  Do you suppose she took a picture of that, told others, and maybe posted it on Facebook?  Surprise!

I recently stayed at a Hilton Garden Inn – a pretty basic hotel.  They had a breakfast buffet, so I grabbed a quick bite before I went to my meeting.  There were four servers in the dining room.  In the 15 minutes I was there, each of the servers had interacted with me.  They were all happy and playful with me and with one another.  I eat at a lot of hotel restaurants.  In the sea of sameness, these folks stood out so much I asked for the manager to find out how he found and trained them.

Now keep in mind, they didn’t do anything grandiose.  They just did what they did in a way that was just different enough from the norm that I was truly wowed.

Think of your customers.  What do they see and do day after day?  How can you be surprising?

Gerry O'Brion - Keynote Marketing & Branding Speaker


Gerry spent his career growing big brands such as Procter & Gamble, Coors Light, Quiznos, and Red Robin. Now, he translates strategies from billion dollar brands into techniques that any company can use, regardless of their budget.

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