I have a confession:  there’s a bit of computer geek in me.

In high school I took computer language courses in BASIC, FORTRAN, and PASCAL.

In college, I worked at the campus computer center.  My job entailed collecting 10 cents per page printed and rebooting our enormous mainframe computer when it crashed during high usage periods (mid-terms and finals).

When the system crashed, a less pleasant part of my job was to tell some seniors that yes, unfortunately, the 10 pages of thesis they had just spent 6 hours writing were really gone if they hadn’t acted to save them.

Seeing the pain in those students’ faces made me compulsive about saving my work.  Once PCs became prevalent, I saved both to the hard drive and to a back up source regularly.  With floppy disks, it only took a couple of keystrokes.  It was almost an unconscious reflexive action.

Once CDs and DVDs took over, I could no longer save to a disk with just a keystroke.  I was a little lost.  I hate to admit it, but the past few years I reverted to backing up to a flash drive once a week or so (horrors!). 

My computer has not crashed, but it was time to stop pushing my luck.  I decided to try Carbonite’s computer backup service in early January.

Carbonite has a 15-day trial period, but I was ready to buy and be secure by day 7.  The frugal side of me acknowledged that I could get another 8 days free, but the peace of mind to get this done won out.

Carbonite lets you know the remaining time of your subscription in the lower left hand corner of their Information Center screen.  I signed up for 3 years at once.  After completing payment, I noticed that it the subscription read ‘3 years and 8 days left’.

It seemed an odd number until I realized that the company was crediting me for the unused time on my trial.

Wow!  What a classy thing to do.

Not just classy, but smart.  Very smart.

Why is giving 8 days of extra service away smart?  That one small gesture spoke volumes to me.

  • I felt I got full value for my money.  Any residual remorse I might have had for signing up early dissolved.  Carbonite was honoring the deal to the fullest extent.
  • Carbonite’s action conveyed that it pays attention to detail.  Precision is a key attribute for a backup service.  Their gesture increased my trust in their ability to fulfill their backup commitment well.
  • The extra 8 days cost them little or nothing to provide, but it thrilled me.

A no-cost way to thrill your customers, increase their confidence in doing business with you, and increase the value of your service in their eyes?  That’s smart marketing.

One other benefit is that I am finally working the unconscious urge to hit Shift F12 (to save) every 5 seconds out of my system.

How can your company use this kind of smart marketing?

  • Understand what traits customers value in your brand.  What are prospects’ most frequently asked questions?  What do your existing customers value most about your product or service?
  • Look for ways to demonstrate those traits.  Actions trump words.  A company’s gesture says much more about its nature than any advertising or other one-way communication could.
  • Reward those who sign up early or pay early.  Treat customers fairly.  And certainly ensure there is no penalty associated with those most desired customer responses!

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