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January 16, 2007

Put Smiles In Your Marketing Campaign

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Kathy Sierra gives us another fantastic post about how very often it’s the small things that can make the difference and cause a customer to smile. And not the fake Barbie and Ken smile either, but the real, warms your soul kind.

Bruce may tie me a to a pole in the parking lot during lunch for saying this (come check later!) but Internet marketing isn’t just search engine optimization. Sure, SEO is important in establishing your site as an authority to the engines and to users, but it’s just a slice of the larger Internet marketing pie. For your Web site to be overall successful, customers need to be over the moon about your product and site. According to Kathy, real customer satisfaction comes in the form of crinkly-eyed smiling customers.

For a lot of us we work behind the scenes and don’t see an actual customer in our day-to-day routines. As a result, we don’t keep customers in mind when we’re designing our site or writing site copy or constructing the never-friendly users’ manual. But think about the impact we could make if we did. If we slipped a snarky remark in with our product’s setup information, or spontaneously cracked a joke (one that’s actually funny) deep within our site content. We could inspire customers to smile, possibly increase their satisfaction level with our product.

You have the power to make your customer’s day brighter simply by giving them something they weren’t expecting. Are you doing it?

Kathy Sierra is. If you’re a follower of the Creating Passionate Users blog you know that there’s something about Kathy that makes people feel warm and fuzzy. It may be all the cute graphics, her warm voice or her ability to hit the nail on even the smallest head, but she’s got that something. And so should your site.

Kathy talks a lot about employees "virtually smiling" at users. It’s the idea that if you’re having a good time, your customers will too. Smiles are infectious, but only when they’re genuine.

If you’ve ever rummaged through an old photo album, it’s easy to pick out the times you were genuinely happy and when your parents forced you stand for an obligated photo op. The difference is in your smiles. When it’s faked, you smile with your lips; when it’s not you get the crinkly eyes. I’m a firm believer that crinkly eyes and belly laughs are good for the soul.

If you want to know how to make your customers smile, consider what makes you smile. What has someone done with their site or product that left you smiling from the inside? Did someone make you smile simply because they did something they didn’t have to do? Be it an Easter egg in a piece of already good software, a funny sign or maybe a hidden joke, it’s those small design or product decisions that have the power to change someone’s day.

But whatever you do, please (please, please) don’t go overboard with the smiling. If you walked into a store and saw a line of employees staring blankly and giving you ear-to-ear grins, you’d run away frightened. Know that people who smile all the time are 100 percent crazy in the head and "funny" jokes are not made more funny simply because they are well-intentioned. If you’re not sure if your joke is funny, try running it through Google Laugh Rank. (I am totally kidding. Please do not do that.).

It’s the little, unexpected things that produce the biggest results and get the warmest smiles. Try working some into your Internet marketing efforts and see how customers respond.

While you’re coming up with your list of what makes you smile, here’s some stuff that always gets a grin out of me:

  • When the Starbucks barista remembers my name and knows I don’t like whip cream on my Grande White Mocha
  • When Jack Jack* jumps in my lap after knocking something over and scaring himself
  • Susan’s spontaneous laughing
  • Country music
  • Boston accents
  • Laughing babies
  • Good blogging/writing

What makes you smile? And who makes you do it?

*Susan feels I should mention that Jack Jack is my kitten. I do not allow strange boys with double names to jump in my lap. No matter how scared they may be.

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