stampA couple years ago, author and digital strategist Jay Deragon coined the phrase “Youtility.” His idea was simple: marketers need to focus more on “being able to add more and more value to consumers.”

Last year, social media pro Jay Baer turned that phrase—and idea—into a book. It quickly hit the New York Times bestseller list.

I mention this phrase, and the background on it, to illustrate the fact that marketers are doing a lot to figure out how they can create relationships with their customers by helping them. Because, now, companies that are relying on broadcast discounts to drive business aren’t just giving away margin on orders. They’re missing opportunities to create loyal customers.

In trying to find an example that really hit home, I again reached out to some of our customers through our Monetate Customer Champions program and posed this question: Have you had any “winning” experiences as a customer?

Chad Fillion, web/digital project specialist at Garnet Hill, sent me this:

In January 2001, I received a small, unsolicited envelope from an online book store. In the envelope was a single page letter thanking me for being a customer of theirs in the past. The letter stated that my time was important to them and there are only a few opportunities a company can be given to thank loyal customers. This letter and “gift” was one of those ways.

Postage had just increased at the time (back then, from $0.33 to $0.34) and the company figured, I would be in need of one centers to make all my letters “valid.” Accompanying the letter was a sheet of 1-cent stamps. They wanted to save me the time and hassle of having to run to the post office and buy a sheet of these penny stamps in order to “upgrade” my current .33 cent stamps.

That 15 cents meant more to me on a human level than any 40, 50, or even 75% off sale ever could have. The bookstore was Amazon, and I have not purchased an online book from any other retailer since.

Amazon, obviously, was onto something back then. And it’s probably worth noting that they’re still pretty darn good at this kind of thing, as evidenced by this blog post from Bruce Ernst, our VP, Product Management.

Here’s the thing, though: Amazon isn’t any better suited to be successful at this than the rest of us.

As daunting as big data seems to be, finding a segment of your customers that is unique or more potentially valuable is worth the effort. One of my more memorable experiences as a customer was when a small retailer of HVAC filters sent me an email reminding me to change my filter. That email included a link to the exact filter I bought last time.

And you know what? The company had no where near the financial means of an Amazon. It simply recognized the needs of a particular set of customers and acted on it.

Even if you only did this type of promotion to a limited group of customers, you’re creating a helpful experience that your customers will appreciate. And that usually means they’ll share their story with friends and even via social media channels. The level of loyalty it creates—and the level of advocacy it creates—means you’ll get a lot more mileage out of this type of effort than you would any monetary discount.

It’s time, then, to start getting creative with your marketing. Find something unique you can do for your customers and consider, again, that last line of Chad’s note: he’s never bought a book from a different online retailer.

How could you turn down that level of loyalty?

Stamp image courtesy of Shutterstock.