by John Williams

I admit it. I’m a cheap­skate. When­ever I do my online shop­ping, I will always check for a “discount” field on the check­out page. I am prob­a­bly *single-hand­edly *respon­si­ble for over 30% of all aban­doned carts on the entire inter­net because of my obses­sion with getting a discount. I can’t control myself. I’ll search online for published codes, and if all else fails, I’ll take to social media. Believe me, this is incred­i­bly effec­tive.

Some­thing my mother used to preach to me as a child was “If you don’t ask, you’ll never know”. Usually it was about some girl I was way too inse­cure to ask out. But I’ll apply it to this because, don’t friggin’ judge me, I’ll apply life lessons how I see fit. I’m a grown-ass man. *ahem *We were talking about social media and the intox­i­cat­ing idea of discounted goods and services. Over the last few years, I’ve become quite good at engag­ing with brands to get a little shaved off the price. It’s like haggling but far less confronta­tional. And a good brand will under­stand that the value of acquir­ing a new customer is worth a one-time gift of 20%. Let me tell you about a couple expe­ri­ences and see if you can apply any of this to your shop­ping habits if you’re a consumer or your brand strat­egy if you’re a busi­ness.

I was in the market for an iPad case. I loved the DODOcase, but worried about it’s dura­bil­ity. At the time, there were several people on Face­book complain­ing about the build quality. The case is made of bamboo, so it was natu­rally pretty fragile. I did a little digging and came across another shop called Portenzo. They make similar, hand-crafted, book-like cases that used a stronger wood and had more customiza­tion options. I went through the site and started config­ur­ing my case when one of those chat modals popped up. Usually I ignore these, but the copy on the modal was cute so I decided to ask a couple ques­tions.

The “customer service elf” Lea was friendly, spoke like a human being, and had an active inter­est in helping me out. I asked her about a discount code and she made me tell her a joke. If I made her laugh, I’d get a discount.

I didn’t. *:(  *

But, I said I was so impressed with the exchange that I would be happy to drum up some conver­sa­tion on Twitter and Face­book. We ended up working out a fantas­tic deal for me and several of my team­mates got a kick out of the witty banter. That exchange has turned me into a very loyal repeat customer. I’ve purchased several cases and I’ve pointed a bunch of people to Portenzo, always suggest­ing that they take time to say hi to Lea.

Some­times all it takes is a funny Face­book post. I was in the market for some wooden decals for my head­phones. Don’t judge. I ended up at Lazer­wood Indus­tries. They had a great looking product and *SQUEE* a discount field on their check­out. I headed over to their Face­book profile and had this expe­ri­ence:

Success! I ended up getting a 20% code simply because I engaged a brand that under­stood the impor­tance of creat­ing advo­cates.

This last tale is a little differ­ent, but no less impor­tant in illus­trat­ing the power of social media engage­ment. Some of my team­mates and I went to lunch at a new restau­rant down the street. They’ve been open less than a week. We had a very diffi­cult time and with each stum­bling point, I’d pull out my iPhone and tweet at them. I wasn’t expect­ing anything out of it other than the hope that they would see the tweets and make an effort to fix the issues.

After lunch, I received a tweet apol­o­giz­ing for our expe­ri­ence and asking for further detail. Ulti­mately, they offered me and my team­mates a do over. They gave me the personal phone number of the general manager and asked us to call before­hand so that they could insure a flaw­less expe­ri­ence. This was a company that recog­nized the impor­tance of word-of-mouth….er word-of-tweet and took concrete steps to turn a lousy expe­ri­ence into another oppor­tu­nity to secure a loyal customer.

If you, as a brand or busi­ness, can create advo­cates for your brand, you can increase the like­li­hood of repeat busi­ness, increase the number of word-of-mouth reviews, and grow and expand your busi­ness to new clients.

And people, try talking to the compa­nies you do busi­ness with. Treat them like people. It’s disarm­ing, flat­ter­ing, and unex­pected. Busi­nesses love that you use their products/services and are so often excited to reward your loyalty.

Do you folks have any success stories from engag­ing with a brand or one of your customers on social media? Please share!