To me? With me? Or for me?

I have recently been in Chicago covering the Engaging Times event for Alterian. One of the highlights has been interviewing DM pioneer Stan Rapp. One thing about a guy who brings 60-odd years of direct marketing experience to social media, his ideas about engagement don’t lose track of the endgame – which is of course closing the deal.

During our interview Stan said something simple, but insightful. Companies have a choice: They can do things to customers. They can do them with customers. Or they can do things for them.

Obviously the vast majority of marketing efforts are done to customers or, increasingly in the digital age, with them. But – and here’s the take away message – today technology means you can do things for customers as part of the marketing effort. How compelling is that?

To illustrate the point, Stan cites US fast food chain, Chick-fil-A’s phenomenally successful launch of its Spicy Chicken Sandwich in June this year. In additional to a national media buy, the company invited its e-club members to visit a dedicated microsite and reserve a time to preview a complimentary sandwich at a local Chick-fil-A restaurant, the week prior to the official launch. After making their reservation, guests received an e-mail linked to a personalized invitation to the time and day selected. They could also announce their reservation on Facebook or Twitter or recommend the reservation site to a friend.

What happened? An astonishing 1,000,000 people showed up. Not bad eh?