Surprise and delight campaigns could be your secret weapon, whether you’re looking to gain traction on social media, leave your clients’ customers feeling seen and heard or simply spread goodness into the world.

What exactly is surprise and delight in marketing?

In the world of marketing, the phrase surprise and delight refers to those moments of marketing magic where customer expectations are exceeded in an unexpected and positive way. In a world brimming with endless marketing messages for products and services vying for our attention, surprise and delight in marketing is one the most effective ways of cutting through the noise and getting a business noticed.

The idea behind the surprise and delight marketing approach is to deliver a memorable experience that catches the customer or prospect off guard and leaves them with a smile on their face. When done right, this strategy can foster customer loyalty, enhance brand image, and generate positive word-of-mouth marketing. By going above and beyond what is usually expected, businesses can catch customers off-guard by surpassing their expectations and offering them something extraordinary.

What are the components of an effective surprise and delight marketing campaign?

There are lots of ways to create that positive feeling in audiences, but the basic anatomy of a successful campaign will include these elements:

Know the audience

The first step in any successful surprise and delight marketing campaign is understanding the target audience. Businesses should know their audience preferences, pain points, and values, and use this knowledge to inform their campaigns. To truly delight customers, it’s important to know what makes them tick.

Be genuinely surprising

To delight the customer and elicit a strong emotional response, campaigns need to get creative and be genuinely surprising. Offering predictable promotions or rewards might be welcome, but these strategies will fail to create the desired emotional impact that is the goal with surprise and delight marketing. Aim to break away from the norm, and experiment with new and inventive ways to engage and please the audience.

Create a memorable experience

While different audience bases might define delighted in different ways, surprise and delight marketing tends to share one thing in common: it leaves a lasting impression and invites buzz. This can be achieved through personalization, exceptional customer service, or offering unique, shareable moments that customers will want to rave about.

Be timely and relevant

Surprise and delight marketing campaigns are often aligned with some kind of current event, season, or trend to maximize the relevance and impact of the campaign. If your campaign is linked to an event, time of year, or trend, acing the timing can go a long way in delighting customers.

Why you should always delight the customer

These kind of campaigns are all examples of how great PR can boost brand awareness, bolster customer loyalty, and create meaningful moments with viral potential and a ripple effect of  impact. In a LoyaltyOne survey, 95 percent of respondents said they were left with a positive perception of the company or brand behind a surprise and delight promotion.

Compelling reasons why your business should always strive to create delightful experiences for customers

It boosts customer retention

Delighted customers are more likely to stick around and choose the brand that delighted them over a competitor, leading to increased customer retention rates. Greater retention means more repeat business, higher customer lifetime value (LTV), and a more reliable revenue stream for businesses.

Encouraging customer retention isn’t just a nice vanity metric for businesses: it has serious impact on the bottom line. A 5% increase in customer retention can increase revenues by anywhere from 25-95 per cent (Hubspot). Considering the high costs of customer acquisition, anything that supports higher retention rates can help your business.

It encourages word-of-mouth marketing

When you delight the customer, they will be more likely to share their experiences with others, generating valuable word-of-mouth marketing.

It can be a powerful brand differentiator

Delighting customers helps businesses stand out in a crowded marketplace, even for widely available and generic products like tissues or coffee. By going above and beyond to create memorable moments and impressions, these businesses position themselves as truly caring about their customers and valuing more than just generating more sales and profits. From the customer perspective, surprise and delight marketing creates lasting positive impressions of the brands that practice it.

It’s an online reputation booster

A brand’s reputation is shaped by the aggregate of the experiences its customers have. By consistently delighting customers in new ways as part of an overall reputation management strategy, brands can build a positive reputation that attracts new customers and encourages existing customers to keep coming back. This positive reputation, or good will, can even help businesses down the line if they suffer some negative press or operational issues that would otherwise damage their reputations.

Surprise and delight ideas to kickstart your own campaign

You don’t need a multi-million dollar marketing budget to execute a strategy at the agency level and for the clients you serve. Here are ways brands can leverage similar tactics to generate goodwill and create more brand advocates on a local level:

Write a handwritten note

You may know your customer recently had a new baby or they’ve been going through a rough patch getting their small business off the ground. Handwritten messages show you care about what’s going on in their lives on a personal level, and that they have your support in tackling any challenges.

Host a giveaway on social

Not only will it allow you to gift an awesome prize to someone who’s already a brand advocate or at least one in the making, by building in a requirement for tagging other friends in the comments you reach an audience beyond those who already follow you. Check out some guidelines for launching a Facebook giveaway here.

Make a meaningful connection

Interpersonal connections are one of the most powerful interactions we have as human beings and if you can make those moments happen you may come out of it a hero. Perhaps you volunteer to mentor a group of students in a field you’re passionate about, or to help out in a local Habitat for Humanity shelter. These are ways to give back to people in your community and grow new connections and relationships.

Celebrate birthdays

Send a special discount code to a customer on his or her birthday or even a card and small gift for higher-touch clients. Acknowledging special days like birthdays and anniversaries goes a long way toward building brand loyalty.

Don’t forget about your team

Your staff are some of your best advocates. Employers who apply these same surprise and delight tactics on their employees are sure to create an army of brand ambassadors who know your business from the inside out. Springing for a work lunch on a Friday or offering frequent and meaningful recognition will encourage good work and excellent outreach, too.

Offer exclusive discounts or promotions

Providing exclusive discounts or promotions to loyal customers or subscribers makes them feel appreciated and encourages repeat business. This could be in the form of a loyalty program, a limited-time offer, or a secret sale available only to select customers. However, the key to distinguishing this from run-of-the-mill promotions is to incorporate some element of the unexpected.

Personalize your interactions

Taking the time to personalize interactions with customers can enhance their experience and make them feel like more than just another number or customer service ticket. Even small things like repeating the customers name in a conversation, reference their past interactions with the business, or offer personalized recommendations can add an element of delight.

Organize special events or workshops

Hosting special events or workshops can be a great way to delight customers through memorable experiences, especially for businesses that normally only interact with customers online. These events can be educational, entertaining, or simply an opportunity for customers to connect with one another and with the business they support.

Support a local cause or charity

Aaligning with a local cause or charity not only shows commitment to the community but also allows customers to support something meaningful through their support of a business they like. Fundraising or volunteer events can be fun, memorable, and unexpected, delighting customers while building trust and creating a positive brand image.

Respond promptly and thoughtfully to feedback

When customers feel heard and their concerns are addressed, they are more likely to be satisfied and loyal to a brand. Making a point to ask for reviews and respond thoughtfully to customer feedback, suggestions, and criticisms can surprise customers who might not expect a fast, personalized response.