Creating WOW! The Little Things Make the Biggest Difference

Author Bio

Author Bio

I’m proud to call Stan Phelps a friend and am so excited that he’s a speaker at the Confirmit Community Conference ‘13 in Las Vegas. He’s got a great story to tell – well, actually, a couple of thousand great stories. So let’s dive in.

The theme of Stan’s presentation: Always exceed expectations. Do the little extras.

Stan is Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH Marketing, a marketing consultancy. Why 9 inches? That is the average distance from the stem of the brain to the top of the heart; it is the longest and hardest journey, getting to the hearts of customers and employees. He’s focusing on shifting mindset and dollars from impressions to experiences by getting brands to stop chasing the prospect and focus on delighting the customer.

All customers are not created equal. Referrals are worth 4x the value of an ordinary (non-referral) customer. Why? They’ll spend up to twice the money compared to an ordinary customer and will refer twice as many people. How do we show our appreciation for customers? How do we delight them? By giving a little extra, giving something unexpected.

These little extras are what Stan refers to as “purple goldfish.” Why a goldfish? Because of the goldfish given to Kimpton Hotels’ guests if they are lonely. They call it Guppy Love. Why purple? It is one of the three colors of Mardi Gras: purple, green, and gold. Why an ode to Mardi Gras and New Orleans? Because Mark Twain said it was worth it to go to New Orleans for this: lagniappe. What is lagniappe? It is the French word for “the gift” or “to give more.” That’s a long explanation for a very cool little extra.

Stan’s first book project was What’s Your Purple Goldfish, a book for which he crowdsourced 1,001 examples of purple goldfish, or lagniappe. From all of the examples collected (and there were more than 1,001), he derived three lessons.

Lesson 1: Put the customer first.
Wells Fargo drives 80% of their growth through current customers. The average bank’s customers have 2.5 products; Wells Fargo customers have, on average, five of their products. Wells Fargo knows it costs 10X as much to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one.

Lesson 2: Experience is an investment.
Zappos is a great example. Tony Hsieh looks at investments into the business and all of the things they do (24/7 customer service, upgraded shipping, free returns, etc.) as an investment in the brand, in the customer, in loyalty. They truly do put the customer and her needs first; for example, if they don’t have the shoe you are looking to buy, they will recommend up to 3 competitors who will have that shoe.

Lesson 3: Think value, not price.
Brands that compete on extras compete on value, not on price. Southwest is a great example. When everyone else started charging for bags, Southwest said “Bags Fly Free.”


After Stan had collect 1,001 examples for the book, he categorized them into 12 different types of lagniappe. He didn’t have time to share all 12 but did tell us about six of them.

Category #1: Throw-ins
His favorite example is from Five Guys. While you wait, you can grab a snack from a huge box of peanuts. Another throw-in is their French fries: when you get fries with your order, they come in a cup; Five Guys throws into your bag an extra handful or two – nothing better than extra fries!

Category #2: Sampling
Let people try a sample. Stan’s favorite example is Izzy’s in Minnesota. They give an extra little scoop when you buy an ice cream cone so that you can try another flavor. Even cooler is another lagniappe of theirs. They have 140 ice cream flavors and clearly can’t stock all of them every day. When you come to the store and don’t see your favorite flavor, they’ll ask you for your email address, Twitter username, etc. Each flavor has an RFID on it. When they make your favorite flavor, you’ll automatically be notified as soon as it ready to be served in the store.

Category #3: First/Last Impressions
The example Stan gave was the Hard Rock Hotel, which gives you a Gibson guitar and headphones to use during your stay.

Category #4: Follow-Up
Jack Mitchell of Mitchell’s in Connecticut hand writes thank you notes to every one of his customers over the course of the year.

Category #5: Added Service
Safelite Auto Glass is a great example of added service. It takes about 10 minutes for the glue to dry once they’ve repaired your window. During that 10 minutes, they clean your car.

Category #6: Handling Mistakes
No one’s perfect; mistakes happen. It’s how you handle those mistakes that makes all the difference. If you handle them correctly, you create a bond with the customer. To handle the mistake, you have to go above and beyond. A great example of a company that does is Nurse Next Door. If they make a mistake, they write a note and send a freshly-baked apple pie, literally a humble pie.

The best brands don’t just have one purple goldfish, they have a whole school of purple goldfish. What’s your purple goldfish?

Note: Stan’s lagniappe to the audience today was a free copy of his book, What’s Your Purple Goldfish? downloadable from Amazon. Also, those three Mardi Gras colors: purple, green, and gold? Yes, there is a Green Goldfish book available now, and the Gold Goldfish book is forthcoming.

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