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By Eric Quanstrom #hack September 8, 2016

When there are so many competitors in the same space for the same service, how do you distinguish yourself? Sure, your features may be better or your customer service more helpful, but if your clients remember something about you, they are more likely to tell their friends.

I took a flight on Virgin Airlines over the summer. If you have spent any amount of time flying, you could probably perform the safety briefing that happens before every flight. It’s necessary, but most of us just space out or go back to sending that last text or email before you are required to put your phone in airplane mode. Virgin did not have their flight attendants do the safety briefing standing in the middle of the aisles with props. They had a music video of the safety instructions play on the screen in front of each seat. It was neat. It was different. It reinforced my idea that Virgin is a fun company that does fun things. More importantly, it has been over six months since that trip and I cannot tell you the names of any other airline I flew on.

If you have a process which has “always been done that way,” it may be time to think about how it can be more you-like. Take software loading screens as an example. Slack’s loading screen always has a sentence of encouragement or a compliment when you open the program. Does the computer really know whether you look nice today? Probably not. Is it still nice to read? Yes. Either way, it is a step up from a swirling circle.

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Companies can be frighteningly similar to people in the way we interact with them. If you meet someone at a party and she expresses no opinions, shows no interest in anything, and politely speaks with you about the weather, you will probably not remember her the next day, much less next month. If someone has a passion for something or tells a hilarious story, you may not remember his name, but you will remember him as “the guy who is into …” Same for business. Les Schwab is a big tire company in the Pacific Northwest. Some people remember the name, but everybody knows “the place where they run to your car when you pull in.” It is such a little thing to do, but it makes the customer feel important. People remember feeling important.

It is easy to be vanilla. Most people like vanilla, but you don’t see many people who are enthusiastic about it. You cannot be vanilla and present a memorable image at the same time. As long as you know what your Ideal Customer likes and dislikes, you can tailor the little things to make the experience of working with you special. More importantly, your customers will remember you because you do something that makes them feel special. The more your customers remember you, the more likely they will tell their friends, and the more business you have.

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