Technology is a wonderful thing. Personal computers, the Internet, and Smartphones have revolutionized the way billions of people disseminate and access information. Despite constant advances in technology, our appetite for how quickly we can share and consume this information is never satiated; smarter processors, new apps, and better Internet connections are never quite fast enough.
“Fast” gradually normalizes and becomes “slow.” Each iteration of “fast” only momentarily addresses our need for speed until our tolerance increases and we need even “faster.” If Gen Y is the microwave generation, then Gen Z is the fastronomy generation. But don’t be mistaken, this epidemic of impatience creeps into all generations of technology users and affects us in a very real way.
We’ve become a population with an instant-gratification mindset and the attention span of a gold fish. As a result, it’s never been more difficult to attract (and keep) attention.
Once-productive meetings turn into Facebook and YouTube binge-fests:
Once-romantic dinner dates transform into Instagram and Twitter updating sessions:
Ironically, the very same technology blamed for ruining attention spans (social, content, mobile, etc.) is what brands are using as a tool to capture attention. With so many eyeballs glued to their screens, it makes sense to invest in these media. But just like “fast” normalizes into “slow,” marketing that once piqued ears eventually becomes background noise. So, stay ahead of the marketing trends and avoid fighting for attention in crowded channels.
How? It’s simple really. Just do what no one else is doing. While everyone is flooding the newest channels, go old-school and connect with your audience through “traditional” channels. While everyone is worried about scaling their marketing efforts, go small and reach out to smaller segments with high-touch channels.
Marketing through an unconventional channel is only the first part of the equation. The second part using that unconventional channel in a creative and engaging way. To help get your brain turning, here’s a list of 21 ways grab your audience’s attention.
Throw a party
Invite your best customers (and your worst ones who have the most money :-P) to an intimate get-together filled with mingling, passed apps, and a private Apocalyptica concert (come on, it’s got to be attention-grabbing, right?).
Throw an after-party
Are you attending a conference or networking event with prospective clients? Steal some of the spotlight by offering your own after-party. Research the prospects you’d like to meet beforehand and create personalized invitations for the exclusive after-party!
Pay a visit
Schedule a surprise drive-by (the friendly kind) to your customers’ offices and pop in for a quick hello. Who doesn’t love unexpected guests bearing gifts? (Did I forget to mention that you should ALWAYS bring gifts?) And if no one’s home leave a hand-written note with your gift so they know you stopped by because it really is the thought that counts!
Make a comic book
I’m a visual person, and sometimes I just don’t “get it” until I “see it.” Perhaps your customers and prospects are the same way? Help them “see it” by writing and illustrating a custom comic book that shows different scenarios where your customers and prospects work with you to save the day for their own customers. Everyone loves a superhero! Remember Nelson’s Wildlife Safari from my article on how to convert customers at tradeshows? He’s got a great comic book!
Sharing the same values is a great way to connect with customers, but exhibiting those values is even better! Do your customers volunteer in the community? Deepen your bond by joining them in a day of living out shared, meaningful values. How cool would it be if your providers asked if they could contribute to a cause that you are passionate about?
Give a tour
Is your office a really fun space? Do you have interesting facilities where you create your products and services? Invite prospects and customers to see your manufacturing process and show them “where the magic happens.” Make the tour over-the-top with informational brochures, photo opportunities, a personal tour-guide, free souvenirs, and more!
Does today mark the 1 year anniversary of your relationship with a customer? Give them a call, send them a card, bake them a cake! Is one of your customers approaching its tenth year of being in business? Offer to host a party for them! Make big to-do’s of customer milestones to show them your appreciation.
Send a sample
Need some help wooing prospects? Try sending a sample of your product that will be both useful and valuable. Sometimes prospective customers need to experience your offering firsthand before they finally pull the trigger. Oh, and sampling works for when you’d like to up- or cross-sell current customers, too.
Go to a game
Is your customer a diehard Cubs fan? Customer loyalty is always reason enough for reward, but a long-suffering Cubs fans’ commitment is even more worthy! The next time you can catch a Cubbies game, be sure to invite them to come along and enjoy the
Host a game
Sometimes a little friendly competition is the best way to learn about people, and there’s nothing like a hefty prize to inspire participants to really show their competitive nature (make sure you have awesome awards for the winners). Why not host a March Madness basketball tournament for your customers and prospects? Or maybe you could relate the competition to your industry. If you’re in real estate, you could host a Monopoly marathon. If you’re in healthcare, you could have a trivia night with healthcare-related questions. And if you do accounting, well then you’re out of luck!
Sing a telegram
Serenade your prospects and show them how much you’d love to do business with them. Send love songs to long-time customers to express your gratitude. Singing telegrams are perfect for any occasion (or none whatsoever!).
Build a Lego castle
Is your office or storefront in a well-trafficked area? Set up the beginnings of a Lego castle in a visible location and give visitors their own blocks that they can use to build the castle higher. Send customers and prospects custom Lego people designed to look like them and invite them to place their figurines prominently on the castle. Your clients will love receiving their own personal Lego person and will enjoy seeing the crowd-sourced castle grow!
Sponsor lemonade stands
Want to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs while racking up some good PR? Poll your employees and co-workers to see if any of their kids would like to run a lemonade stand or bake sale (you could even extend the invitation to your customers and prospects!). Pay for all the costs, build a fun stand (don’t forget to tastefully include the sponsor), and let the kids run it. Be sure to maximize exposure by placing the stands in public places with lots of foot traffic. The kids learn about operating a business and earn some money while passersby learn about you. A win-win!
Make a Rube Goldberg machine
Does your business involve waiting or queuing? Give customers some entertainment during that down time with a Rube Goldberg machine. The machine could dispense candy, toothpicks, or pens for guests. Or the machine could do something more lighthearted like ring a bell for assistance or take a Polaroid picture.
Organize a flash mob
Although sadly I can’t speak from personal experience, I’d imagine that witnessing an impromptu flash mob is a memory that would be hard to forget. Leaving a lasting, positive impression is exactly what we’re going for here, and a flash mob is a really fun way to accomplish that goal. Don’t be afraid to go outside the box!
Design your own map
Mail a custom map of the city to your prospects and customers. Call out local treasures, favorite spots, and fun adventures. Here’s the catch: don’t brand the map or include your information on the letter. Only mark your location on the map with a big red X and let your recipients investigate to find out it was you who sent the map. Half the fun is the mystery of it all!
Have you ever driven by a park and seen LARPers engaged in an epic battle? The spectacle undoubtedly attracts tons of rubber-necking from drivers passing by, but many times the attention grows into herds of fans cheering the fighters on to victory. Why not hire a group of LARPers and name one clan after your company? Your clan could even fight (and defeat, of course) a clan named after your biggest competitor: a funny way to drop a not-so-subtle hint, ha!
Soup up your ride
Sometimes an over-the-top company car is all you need to grab attention.
Need I say more?
Create a Guest Wall
Remember the guestbooks that visitors could sign on GeoCities websites in 1998? Well, it’s time to bring that back, except for your office! When your esteemed guests drop by, ask them to adorn a special wall (check out IdeaPaint!) with their autographs. Use the wall as a living testimony of your love for your customers and prospects!
Are you working on a new product prototype and want to make an impression on your customers? Mail a package to your most valued customers containing your old product prototypes, your current product, and your new prototype. Include a note that says something like this:We’ve been working together for a long time, and you may (or may not) remember our first product prototypes. Talk about humble beginnings!
Thanks to your support, we’ve turned our early concept models into the high quality product you use today. Well, we’re trying to make our product even better and have a new prototype. You’ve help us reach where we are today, and we’d be honored if you helped us reach greater heights in the future.
Please check out this prototype and share your thoughts. Your opinion is important to us!
Host a scavenger hunt
Who doesn’t love the thrill of the chase? Invite customers and prospects to your very own scavenger hunt chock-full 0f clues that lead to hidden treasures! I’d recommend making it tech-free (no phones allowed!), but if that won’t fly you can always go the Geocaching route.
Image Sources: Facebook Study Group via OpenHatch, SmartPhone Addict via Your Company Mobiles,Volunteers via Rebuilding Together Nashville, Lego Castle via Jon Bristow Flickr, Tricked Out Truck via Silencer Talk