A story of chocolate hearts. (Or why I didn’t want free flowers for a year and what that has to do with your business.)

OK, so maybe I DID quite like the idea of free flowers for a year, but not enough to actually do anything about it.

Let me back up a bit to the beginning of the story and it will all make much more sense to you, I’m sure.

The shopping centre that houses my local supermarket also has a pretty little florist shop. I walk past it at least twice a week, but I’ve never been in and I’ve never bought anything from them. Recently — for about a month — the florist shop ran a competition where if you spent over $100 at any of the stores in the centre, you could enter the draw to win flowers delivered to your home once a month for 12 months.

Free flowers delivered to my home for a whole year? Yes please!!!

But did I enter?

I walk past that particular florist shop at least twice a week. All I had to do was complete a form with my contact details.  And yet I didn’t enter. Why not? It wasn’t difficult. Nor was it time consuming. Every time I walked past the florist shop I thought to myself, “I must do that.” And yet I didn’t…not until the very last day of the competition.


So what had changed?

Why did I enter then? What changed? And no, it wasn’t that I had simply realised that I had nearly run out of time. That ‘sense of urgency’ that marketing people always say you need for special offers had nothing to do with it. In fact, the day that I did enter I had been standing in the queue at the check out of the supermarket, looking at a particularly beautiful sign advertising the competition. “Last chance!” it said. I stood there, thinking to myself, “I must do that.” Then it was my turn at the checkout. I paid for my groceries and started making my way back to the car, past the florist, as always. As I did so, a lovely young lady handed me a chocolate heart and smiled.

“Oh, thank you!” I said.

“Did you spend more than $100 at the supermarket today?”

I laughed. “When do I ever not?”

“It’s a bit like that,” she said. “Did you know you could win flowers for a year? It’s really easy. What’s your name?”

And she went on to fill out the form for me on the spot. Entry done. Had she not been there I would have gone to my car and gone home. The competition would have closed. I would not have entered, and the florist would not have had my details in their database.


So what has that story got to do with your business?

Have you ever run a competition to try to engage your target clients? To build your database? I have, and with very little success, I must say, even though the prizes up for grabs each time have been incredible, much like free flowers for a year delivered to your door.   Maybe people had meant to enter my competitions. Maybe they even really wanted to win…. but perhaps they just hadn’t quite gotten around to it. Maybe I needed to find a way of making it easier them. Here’s what I took away from my experience:

  • The young lady who did my entry for me was friendly and happy, but not gushingly so. She seemed genuinely interested in chatting with me. It was a real exchange, not scripted.
  • She was attractive and well-presented, but not threateningly so.
  • She gave me something for nothing: That chocolate heart was mine whether I entered the competition or not, and she gave it to me with no strings attached and without asking me to do anything.
  • She made it all super easy for me. I didn’t even have to pick up a pen.

Well… I didn’t win any free flowers, but I did learn a lot. Maybe next time I want people to enter a competition or sign up to my newsletter I’ll ask myself:

  • What can I give with no strings attached?
  • Is my offer attractive and well presented, but not so much so that it seems too good to be true?
  • Am I being genuinely friendly and happy? Is my offer coming from a genuine desire to give? Or am I just wanting to get something for myself?
  • How can I make the day a little easier for the people who see my offer?

What about you? Do you run a small business? Tell me, what’s worked for you in the past as a way of building genuine customer engagement?

EDITED TO ADD: Well, that competition was way back in February… and I have not heard from the florist at all. Nope! Not at all. Not even a newsletter! What a waste! They had the perfect opportunity to contact me straight after the winner was drawn to say something like, “We’re so sad that not all of you could win that we’ve decided to give you all something anyway. Enjoy this gift certificate to our store.” You can bet that would have gotten me through their door the next time I did the groceries…. So here’s my final tip:

  • Know WHY you are running your competition or special offer BEFORE you start. What’s the point of collecting addresses for your database if you do nothing with them?
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