Smart businesses get long-term customers through “free prizes”

Years ago Seth Godin wrote a book called “Free Prize Inside.” The idea of a free prize, that little something extra you get (as a customer) or give (as a business) has stayed with me ever since, and I notice free prizes and lack thereof on a regular basis.

 

Staples had a great free prize going on recently. They called it a Career Stimulus Program and were giving away 20 resume copies and 40 business cards, for free! How sweet is that? How relevant to the mindset of their customers, either those who did get laid off or those who were worried about it? That’s a move that says “you’re more than a customer” and one that will build brand loyalty.

 

On the other hand, I will be paying $800 for new tires this week due to a lack of free prize. Now, admittedly, my tires wearing wrong and needing to be replaced just two years after I bought them is my fault. I didn’t get them aligned (and they were somehow aligned wrong??). But if the place I bought the tires from had an email marketing program that sent me a reminder every 6 to 12 months to go in for a rotation and alignment, I would love that company for the reminder, and I wouldn’t have been driving around on tires that were ready to blow at any minute! (Seriously, they are so bad, I had to sign a waiver before I was allowed to leave my mechanics. Thank goodness they noticed!)

 

Both of these take work: Giving away free copies and business cards takes labor and paper, of course. Setting up an email program to send out reminders takes labor and technology. But as Staples demonstrated, that effort can pay you back a hundred fold in brand loyalty.

 

It’s easy not to do enough. As they say, good enough is the enemy of great. But what’s the next step? What’s the free prize? What’s the little bit extra your company can do to win that brand loyalty? Yes, it takes short-term investment, but there is long-term gain. And it’s the long-term relationship you want with your customer.

Or use the marketing is like dating analogy: What’s a dating free prize, that little bit extra that shows you’re thoughtful and in it for more than one night? Let her choose the restaurant. Show up with flowers. Play her radio station in the car. You get the idea.

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