Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher

Spend $2 to Delight Customers

What’s a better way to get new customers: Delight the ones who already know you, or throw more money at ad campaigns? Where do your customers come from? Do your marketing activities target those customers precisely? If you can’t answer these two questions with certainty, you’re in trouble. Knowing with precision – and predictability – where your customers come from is the only way to spend scarce marketing dollars and get results.

Consider companies who depend upon referrals, like real estate agents: Nearly 4 in 10 sellers choose an agent because of a recommendation from a trusted friend or family member. The path to prosperity REALTORS runs through people who have tried and liked your services in the past, if you can get them to recommend your services to people they know.

Yet most marketing dollars are wasted chasing people who have no idea who we are or if we’re any good. And who disbelieve any of our ego-stroking marketing statements by default.

How do referrals take place? Stories. Word of mouth. People telling other people they should try your service. Referrals happen within a sphere of influence of people who  know what you do, and that it warrants talking positively about it. Most referring is informal – over a coffee or a beer, or a tweet. But customers won’t talk about you if they were merely “satisfied” with their experience. Rather, referrals only come from one place:

Delighted customers.

Creating delighted customers is remarkably inexpensive. Far less expensive than pay-per-click campaigns on search engines. Far, far less expensive than direct mail campaigns to neighborhoods. Far, far, far, far, far less expensive than running newspaper ads touting your terrificness.

Best of all, delighted customers are  more effective than almost any other marketing effort.

How do you delight customers? Isn’t doing a good job enough? No, it’s not. That’s what customers expect when they pay you. They are only satisfied to get what they expect.

To delight them, you must do something they didn’t expect.

An example: On a trip to Chicago, I checked into the Palomar hotel, a very nice hotel with very nice doormen, very nice desk staff and a very nice room. I expected all of that, because I also paid a very nice price. All things considered, I was satisfied to get my money’s worth. But I stay at many hotels: I don’t tell my friends about my satisfied-only experiences.

I arrived thirsty from the airport, so I drank a ginger-ale from the room’s mini-bar. I left the empty bottle on the desk the next day before leaving. When I got back in the afternoon, I expected the room to be cleaned. I expected the soda bottle to be removed.

What I didn’t expect however, was what happened, that was delightful.

While checking email that afternoon, there came a knock at the door. A staff person stood there with a bottle of ginger ale. He explained that they had noticed that I drank a bottle of ginger ale from the mini-bar yesterday. So he was bringing me a complimentary bottle to enjoy today. Then he left.

Standing there with a bottle of ginger ale in my hands, I was stunned. Most hotels make you pay for a bottle of room-temperature water. A nice cold bottle of soda – free – even after they knew I’d be willing to pay for it from the mini-bar? Just delightful!

What did it cost them? Maybe two dollars, probably less. But what did it earn them? My testimonials to many – at dinner that night, today on this blog, in the future to others who travel as much as I do. Merely paying attention to their customer’s habits – actually, to their customer’s trash – presented them with an opportunity to inexpensively but effectively delight their customer. $2 became priceless in terms of marketing. And it was spent with exacting precision, on the precise customer who could not only become a repeat customer, but a powerful source of word-of-mouth marketing.

So what’s your $2 customer delight plan? How can you pay attention to your customer’s habits, needs, desires – the little things are all it takes – to create delight? It’s time to stop throwing money around – to stop guessing which 140 characters in ads might cause someone who doesn’t know you to suddenly like you.

Instead, think about the people who are already satisfied with you, and spend $2 worth of effort to delight them. Like me, you might be surprised at what happens next!

  • Debbie Oldakowski

    I just need to know the $2 item. Happy New Year Matt, Debbie O from Ft.Wayne, IN originally NH!!

  • Scottsdalearizonarealtor

    Priceless advice Mathew…thank you for sharing. It reminds me that it is the thought after the service that reaffirms my value…making my added value list now!

  • It doesn’t have to be an actual item: it could just be something that says you are “paying attention” to them and that you care. Maybe it’s a phone call. Maybe you forward them an article you found online on a topic you know is meaningful to them. Maybe it’s an actual item – like an inexpensive book that they would enjoy. The goal is to think about the customer – really think about them – not just send out mass-mailings, generic advertisements or blasted-items. If you confine yourself to your existing / recent clients, you’ll find you can actually spend more on fewer people and “make their day” rather than spend a lot on people you don’t know and can never know if you have any impact…. just a thought!

  • Richard

    Great Post Matthew! So, so true about how effective it is 10/10

  • Dhammon

    It is like the Lexus dealer that washes your car for free every saturday as long as you own the car and stop by their dealership on sat –it makes you feel like you got VALUE for your investment–

  • Exactly. Thanks.

  • Matthew

    What an excellent reminder, I agree, it’s not just what we do, it’s how we make someone feel that gets us what I like to call Raving Fans.

    At our office we’ve done this very successfully and more intently in the last year. Debbie (comment above) asked what the $2.00 item is for us it’s easy. The web is loaded with fun, inexpensive items that can be purchased and hand delivered or mailed with a note based on the item. One of my favorite places is Oriental Trading Company for super inexpensive items. I often simply send our clients articles we’ve found that were inline with their likes and business, recipes and each month we do a print newsletter which gets mailed to their home, not the office.

    Our office has sent books, CDs, boxes of treats which were simply the small box from the post office filled with cookies, candy, tea and a nice note. Post cards from vacations, post cards with great motivational quotes and old fashioned cards for holidays like Valentines Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    We’ve found it a better use of our budget as well to think of people often, rather than at one time a year with a larger gift. Keeps us top of mind and they never know what we’ll send next. Our referrals are up and we’ve also had several clients who had been “missing” re-engage in using our services and it only cost us a few dollars to let them know we cared.

    Recently I told a client I was doing some marketing client that the more someone knows you’re thinking of them, the more they will refer and reward you with their business.


  • Ssparks


    Wow! What a great experience in a time when exceptional service seems hard to find! Have you read The Referral Engine by John Jantsch (Teaching Your Business to Market Itself)? Exact same premise – it just cost more and took me longer to read! 🙂

  • I’ll check it out – haven’t read it, but if it’s along the same thinking-lines as our approach, it will be fun to read. Thanks for your comment!

  • Very TRUE…………………I have been selling for over 30 years and this is a GREAT REMINDER where our customers come from…..Thank You Matthew.

  • Kathy Toth

    So simple and so eloquent!

  • Eurico Silva

    Great article Matthew. In this down term we need to reengeehering our marketing activities.

  • MJ

    Matt, Inspiring article. I’m getting ready for my annual Valentines Day “touch”! Dunkie’s gift card and old fashioned Valentines card for clients. Well it’s $5, brings a smile and perhaps a referral or two!

  • Excellent idea! A small token to current and past clients goes much further than lots of dollars blown on “who knows what” in the newspaper :>

  • It is a fabulous book – tons of ideas for entrepreneurs (e.g. Realtors). I blogged about last month –

  • Leslie Riback

    I enjoyed your story Matt. I met you many years ago (too many to mention) when you were teaching a GRI class about e-mail in Greenwich, CT. It was a teeny component of the curriculum. You were charming and engaging back then, even when all you got to speak about was cc’s and bcc’s. Remember when? I am commenting on your post because you did do lots of “little” special things back then that made you stand out from every other instructor. Yours is the only name I remember.
    My, how our world has changed. I totally agree with what you have said. It is often the “little” things that make the difference. I like to think that I do go the extra mile to make every client’s real estate experience exceptional in a good way. It is very difficult to gauge if clicks and tweets and postings make the difference. What I think makes the difference is exceeding expectations. A referral is the ultimate compliment!

  • Leslie:
    Thanks for your wonderful comment; you made my day! A referral might be the ultimate compliment, but your comment on my blog posting was the second-most-wonderful for sure!

    Best wishes for continued success,