Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

I'm not mimicking Gomer Pyle. I'm giving you the secret to creating more value and growing your business. The secret is to deliver positive surprise.

The other day, my son made his first big purchase, buying himself an iPod Nano. After three months of hard work, saving and scrimping, he had finally accumulated enough money. On Saturday, (after he had ordered it and before it had arrived) he came to me with some serious buyer's remorse. He started to realize how much money he had spent to buy this product, how much he had sacrificed to get it and he was filled with regret. As it normally is with kids, this remorse was temporary. But, what happened next teaches us a lot about why Apple is so successful.

He had purchased the Nano to listen to music and to see pictures. What he didn't know was the iPod had games. He was ecstatic. He had received something for free. He didn't know the iPod had a clock and a stop watch. His watch is on the fritz and he basically got a free watch. The iPod had many features he didn't expect and it was smaller than he remembered (especially after seeing his dad's big clunky one). As a result, he was surprised. Positively and substantially surprised. As a result, he has moved from remorse to advocacy.

If we want to build value with our customers, we also need to create positive surprise. There are several implications.

1) Apple plays up big general features, but leaves the small, cool features as surprises. Customers aren't told in advance (or aren't told as often.)

2) This means they UNDER market some features. For many marketers, this is very difficult. We want to "sell" everything we have to sell. Yet, the lesson of Apple is less is MORE.

3) Advocacy doesn't come from simply satisfying a need. It comes from exceeding an expectation. Apple had satisfied my son's need (want) for music to take with him. Yet, even before he got it, he was disappointed and sad. Yet, advocacy came when the product did things DIFFERENT than he expected. MORE than he expected. That is when he became an advocate.

4) Companies that want to create value must follow the same course of action. Creating positive surprise is the key.

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