How do you fuel anticipation?

Heinz Anticipation.  (For the 30+ crowd, you should be singing by now.)

What a powerful and often over-looked marketing tool.  How could it enhance our customer’s experience?  Think about these buying situations:

  • A couple books a cruise 9 months in advance. 
  • A client gets fired up during the discovery process but must now wait 3-6 weeks for a logo design.
  • A bike enthusiast puts in his order for the new Harley which will be off the line in 15 months.

Let’s face it, we want them to be counting the days.  To be watching the clock.  To be talking about the pending delivery to their peers and colleagues.  We want them to be hungry for the pay off, right?

Here’s my question to you — how do you keep a client’s enthusiasm bubbling while you are back at the shop, toiling away?  This is a question we still wrestle with at MMG.  We’re not as good at this as I’d like us to be.

Looking for a great example of someone who does do it well?  It won’t shock you to discover that Disney is always working on improving in this arena.  Most people book their Disney vacation at least 6+ months in advance.  They have an extensive Vacation Planning Kit, which includes a DVD that I guarantee you gets watched many times before the actual journey begins. By adults and kids alike.  But they decided that wasn’t enough anticipation buzz.


So, they’ve just launched their new Customized Maps which allow you to create your family’s personal journey through each of the theme parks.  After you’ve spent time deciding which attractions, shows and restaurants you want to visit — they will send you 5 full color 14" x 20" maps that are made to your specifications.


Add up the time spent choosing the locations, marking each map and then the time studying the maps once they arrive.  That’s building anticipation!

Fair enough, we’re not Disney.  But it is a very potent reminder that even though we have a client’s money — we still need to search for ways to keep them at the edge of their seat. 

How do you keep your clients psyched up while they wait?

Flickr photo courtesy of Mike ~heart~ Tiffy.

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9 comments on “How do you fuel anticipation?

  1. Mike Sansone says:

    In social media, I’ve found that passing along gems of how others are doing things (blogs/videos/auido, etc) serve two purposes – it’s gets them listening…and it gets them excited to share their own. Plus, with a blog…I usually design while they’re practicing – so each time they login, they see the changes as they take place.

    The anticipation factor is big. I’ve found that long-term success is better if anticipation can be built up (pent up?)

  2. Mike,

    Your methods are good ones. I need to gather up some branding goodies (either samples of good brands or white papers etc) and use them to keep a client’s passion fired up.

    I agree with you, the potential is very big. Many marketers just don’t utilize it enough.


  3. Janet Green says:

    Drew, speaking as a Harley rider, a couple things. First, minor point: they don’t really have a waiting period anymore for bikes… I don’t remember exactly when it ceased to be a problem, but there have been plenty of bikes available for the last several years. That doesn’t mean they aren’t a good example of “building anticipation,” though!

    Second point: the way they keep customer interest going – in addition to making a completely awesome product – is through merchandising and building community. During the peak bike-shortage period, they kept people on the hook by building brand loyalty through licensing a TON of logo merchandise, and also by creating the concept of the Harley Owner’s Group (HOG) – a community of owners. So even while you were waiting for a bike, you were welcomed into the family with frequent communications, a local chapter to hang around with, and plenty of “stuff” emblazoned with the logo. As an owner today, I receive frequent communications from my dealer, my local HOG chapter, and the corporate folks: catalogs, event invitations, magazines, etc. The metric bike manufacturers, while they have certainly copied the styling and tried to duplicate the sound, have never been as good at merchandising or building community.

    I think any business with a long creative lead-time can benefit from at least the concept of creating a “community of clients.” New clients may begin to disengage when they don’t hear from you in awhile, so a special newsletter or private blog of “insider info” that’s just for clients, or some other series of mailings or emailings, can reinforce for clients that they’ve made the right decision in working with you, and keep them excited to hear from you with the first round of creative goodness!

  4. Janet,

    Thanks for the update. I will amend my storytelling accordingly!

    You are very right about the importance of community building. And few do it as well as Harley. What does Harley do in terms of viral marketing — blogs etc. Do they have an corporate one?

    I love your ideas of a client only blog or newsletter. I’m going to have to give that some more thought…


  5. Janet Green says:

    Drew, interestingly enough, there doesn’t appear to be ANY kind of viral marketing going on, either from corporate or the local HOG chapter. Closest I’ve come to that is looking up amusing Harley videos on YouTube. But, no corporate or otherwise-official blogs at all that I can find or have heard about. Our local HOG chapter “kind of” runs an online forum, but participation in that is practically zero. (Membership and participation in rides and other events, however, is through the roof.) There are far more active Harley (and other make/model) forums elsewhere online, and many individual riders are blogging and using social media (MySpace, BikerWorlds & CruiserCustomizing), but nothing “official.” By the way, I notice they just featured some performer named “Pink” on their website as an example of a woman rider. She is NOT the “typical” female rider, no matter what the PR machine cranks out, and these kinds of sexpot images frankly drive me bonkers. Harley is indeed great at building community, but they are AWFUL about capitalizing on the growing female market. They do *not* appear to understand “women who ride”!

  6. Janet,

    Do you think Harley misrepresents women bikers to appeal to the male bikers? What is the percentage of buyers by gender?

    In other words…are they choosing to risk alienating the women, just to capture the men?


  7. Janet Green says:

    Drew, I see in some of their other marketing that they are trying very hard to sincerely appeal to women, so no, I don’t think they are purposely misrepresenting women riders. (Remember the VRod commercial where the guy tries to tell a girl all about “his” bike, but then a woman comes along and hops on, and rides away on the bike? That was a good spot – recognizing that a female rider is just not what one would expect.)

    They are also doing some re-engineering on the bikes that make them more female-friendly (if not precisely geared toward women buyers) such as lower seat heights and easier-to-pull clutch levers, features which benefit *all* riders.

    I don’t think they are choosing to alienate women. I’m pretty sure they thought that featuring “Pink” was their best effort at featuring a strong, independent female rider. The thing is, there are “real women” out there – non celebrities – riding who are just so much more inspirational in terms of what they have achieved. (I can name names if you like, but won’t to save space here! LOL) I think honestly that Harley still straddles the “sexpot marketing fence” because there IS that whole history of the slutty biker chick that still appeals to some people. And in fact, there probably is a segment of the female market that wants to portray that image. Perhaps if they would use Jerry O’Connell (“Crossing Jordan”) as a Featured Rider, and put him on the homepage shirtless and in tight jeans standing next to a Springer, I’d feel placated. 🙂

    Finally – to answer your specific question about the female market, I believe women make up 10 percent of the bike-buying market these days, up from 7 percent just about four years ago. Women are buying IN DROVES, and I can anecdotally state that probably HALF of the women in the online forums I frequent are over the age of 40. (Call us middle-age crazy!)

  8. Dave Origano says:

    Hey Drew,

    the way I build up anticipation is to ‘leak’ a thing or two to one of my clients. Since our clients and customers form an active community and a lot know eachother personally – these ‘rumours’ spread like wildfire.

    Sometimes I also publish my ‘Product Creation Agenda’ with the names and a few notes of the products that are going to be released in the next months or year.

    Then we normally do a Q&A about the product thru a teleseminar or blog comments – along the way we get feedback on our product ideas too.


  9. Dave,

    It sounds like you are very effectively using anticipation to get your audience’s attention. How do they respond? DO they enjoy the game or do they get restless?

    Has it ever backfired on you? If so…what lessons did you learn?


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