‘Unexpected’ advice you can use to get the winning edge

The power of the unexpected

A friend remembers working at home on his computer one day casually looking out his front window when he saw an elderly woman walking down the sidewalk, past his house, completely naked from head to toe.

He called 911 and it turned out that his wasn’t the first call reporting the woman.

That was 20 years ago. He still remembers the incident as if it happened yesterday.

We’re wired to notice and remember the unexpected. Early on in human evolution, this attribute probably helped prevent us from being eaten by saber-tooth tigers or crushed by wooly mammoths. Early humans would hear an unexpected sound or notice an unusual shape in the distance and react appropriately.

Today, this element of human nature prevents us from overloading our brains with data that is less important. And, you can use our reaction to the unexpected to win and keep customers. I want to examine two general strategies to make this work for you.

1. Another way to be different

I’ve written a lot about differentiation; what sets you apart from your competitors. A major part of differentiation is to deliver special value or provide a unique twist with your product or service. Usually, the discussion centers around making your business the only place a person can go to get exactly what you provide.

However, there is another aspect to differentiation. When you do something differently than everyone else, you are doing something unexpected. This makes you memorable and you want to be the business that “comes to mind” when people are in the market for your product or service.

This also means that you can differentiate in ways that aren’t always obvious. For example, have you eaten at a Chick-fil-a fast food restaurant? If you thank workers there, they will, invariably reply, “My pleasure.” They are specifically trained to respond this way.

At first, you might merely think that they are trained to be polite. I’m sure that’s part of it, but replying, “You’re welcome,” would be sufficiently polite. However, “You’re welcome” is expected. By saying, “My pleasure,” Chick-fil-a makes an unforgettable imprint on its customers.

Frankly, there may be other fast food restaurants whose employees are trained to be equally polite, but if there are, I can’t remember them! Score one for saying “You’re welcome” differently.

Lesson: Find ways to put an unexpected twist on otherwise routine processes.

2. A different kind of loyalty reward

You can also make good use of this quality in your customer loyalty program. Most loyalty programs give rewards after the customer has spent a certain amount of money or made a certain number of purchases. These are fine, but they do not make your loyalty program memorable!

Find ways to occasionally deliver an unexpected reward and it will make your business shine! If you communicate with members of your loyalty program via email, find some excuse to occasionally give them a special benefit. Celebrate William Henry Harrison’s birthday with a “Lesser-Appreciated Presidents Day Sale” that is only for members of your loyalty program. If you’re a retailer, allow your sales associates to randomly give a discount coupon to one or two loyalty program members each day. Use your imagination.

Bring those “random acts of kindness” to your business. Make them a little off beat and totally unexpected so they (and you) become very memorable.