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!