Our neighbor, Agnes, is an expert on cat treats. In our neighborhood, she is the go-to pet sitter. She has a couple of her own cats and is a big proponent of catching feral cats and having them neutered or spayed.
Whenever she spent time with the late “Slinky,” she always came armed with cat treats. Slinky was the epitome of a scaredy cat and refused to come out from under the bed for anyone other than my boyfriend.
As a cat lover extraordinaire, Agnes made it her mission to coax Slinky out from under the bed and establish a relationship with him. Treats were her number one tactic. These were especially compelling since I can honestly say that treat time was not a regular part of Slinky’s day.
When used strategically, treats can be an effective marketing tool. I think most people associate treats with some type of food or beverage, which is perfectly reasonable. But, treats can also come in the form of time off, gift cards, events or other non-food experiences. The key is using them wisely and not overusing them. Once a treat moves from unexpected surprise to expectation, you have lost the “specialness” of the gesture.
A lot of my readers work in patient care facilities. Any place that relies on human beings to provide care or services to other human beings is subject to waits and delays. That is not a criticism, just a fact of life. While discussing marketing tactics with a business owner recently, he brought up an excellent example of how he uses “treat” marketing when the waiting room becomes crowded.
He said now that so many people travel with their own coffee, he does not provide a coffee station in the waiting room anymore. Instead, when he knows he is running behind and it is getting crowded, he walks out into the waiting room and asks his office manager if she would not mind going next door and getting some coffee and donuts. She takes the coffee orders and brings back treats for the office.
What I loved most about that story is he, as a skilled marketer, realized and appreciated the value of taking a regular old “perk” and making it into a treat by strategically offering it.
Airports and t-shirts
The story reminds me of all the good press airline pilots get when they order pizzas to be brought to the plane while they are waiting out some type of extended delay.
The last time I got stuck overnight in Atlanta, Delta Air Lines did not give me a hotel room, food voucher or airline voucher, but I did get a little travel bag that had toothbrush, toothpaste and a t-shirt. It is not a particularly lovely t-shirt and I am sure it was extremely inexpensive for Delta, but it is soft and I wear it all the time.
It was not a treat to wander the airport all night long but, believe it or not, the t-shirt made me feel better, especially since I have never gotten one from an airline before. That is the key.
Surprise, not expectation
If the aforementioned business owner had coffee and donuts out every day, even if these were Starbucks or Krispy Kreme, nobody would feel “treated” if he got behind. The coffee run treat, just like the t-shirt, is hopefully a gesture that is appreciated and not an expectation.
Are you strategically using treats? Let me know!
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- Elizabeth Mansfield is the president of Outsource Marketing Solutions and the Vice President of Clinical Education Concepts. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.