• Gary Roth

Getting Noticed: Cooking in the WOW (Step #2)

Michael Hyatt loves to tell you about Blake Mycoskie, who creates wows of a different, but no less magical, kind than the late Steve Jobs. I think you'll enjoy this.

In 2006, Mycoskie was traveling in Argentina and saw that many children there had no shoes. So when he returned home to America, he created a new company, TOMS Shoes. For every pair sold, TOMS matches it—one for one—with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. When he returned to Argentina with reinforcements the next year, they placed ten thousand pairs on little feet. And by September 2010, TOMS and its affiliated partners such as Feed The Children had given more than one million pairs to kids in need around the world.

Now, you may not think a pair of shoes is a wow product, but for many of these kids, TOMS shoes will be their very first pair. Without shoes they cannot go to school, and they are susceptible to soil-transmitted diseases that penetrate the skin. One child in Kenya said, “I’m excited because when I woke up in the morning, I did not know when I’ll have something like this.” And a teacher said, “I can tell you, these children will not sleep today. They will be talking about those shoes the whole night!” Now that’s wow.

If you, like Steve Jobs or Blake Mycoskie, have a message to share, or a product or service to sell, I have significant news for you. We don’t need more messages or products or services. Instead, we need better messages, products, and services. Specifically, we need those that wow. This is the “compelling product” part of the success equation. But what is wow and how can we develop it? How can we make sure our message, product, or service creates a wow experience?

The first step is learning to recognize it. Most of us have experienced wow moments, but few of us have ever taken the time to actually think about them!

Michael Hyatt tells the story of his family trip to Scotland:

For example, a few summers ago, I took my wife and youngest daughter to Scotland. It was our first visit. We rented a car and spent a week touring the western Highlands. We started in Edinburgh and drove north to Inverness. We then drove down the west side of Loch Ness to Fort Augusta and then headed west across the Highlands to the Isle of Skye. We took our time and savored every moment.

As we neared the town of Portree, the capital of Skye, we saw the Sound of Raasay for the first time and let out a collective, “Wow!” It was gorgeous. My eyes welled up with tears. It was a transcendent moment— something none of us had expected.

We experienced numerous wow moments on this trip—Edinburgh Castle, the Caledonian Canal, Eilean Donan Castle, the ancient Dun Telve Broch, Glenelg Bay, Kilt Rock, the church of St. Mary and St. Finnan near Glenfinnan, and the endless fields of Scottish lupines.

Sometime after that trip, I met with my executive team for an all-day planning meeting. As we began the afternoon session, I asked them to think of one of the most powerful wow moments they had experienced in their lives. Then I asked each person to share the experience. One person spoke about the birth of a child. Another told of the first time he kissed his wife. Still another shared his experience of seeing Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe for the first time. It was so inspiring. We all could see each person’s face light up as he or she spoke. The rest of us vicariously entered into the joy.

Many leading marketers believe that wow moments can be boiled down to these 10 basic factors which have been listed and explained here:

1. Surprise. A wow experience ALWAYS exceeds our expectations. It creates delight, amazement, wonder, or awe. For Christmas one year, one of my friends bought me a copy of the illustrated edition of 1776 by David McCullough. Honestly, it blew my socks off. I have never seen a more beautiful book. As the advertising copy says, “Packed with striking replicas of letters, maps, and portraits, this updated version of David McCullough’s 2005 best seller provides readers with unedited firsthand accounts of America’s initial steps toward sovereignty.” This product definitely created a wow experience.

2. Anticipation. Anticipating a wow experience is almost as good as the experience itself. As you think about it, you begin to live it in advance. For example, as I am writing this, I am thinking about the upcoming season of the Kansas City Chiefs. Last year, I was able to attend three home games and I am hoping to attend even more this year! It's a very exciting time and my enjoyment of the game has already begun.

3. Resonance. A wow experience touches the heart. It resonates at a deep level. It sometimes causes goose bumps or even tears. Facebook absolutely nails this fact with the memories that it will flash up...bringing you back to last year or even 10 years ago.

4. Transcendence. A wow experience connects you to something transcendent. In that moment, you experience purpose, meaning, or even God. I remember some of my first days down in Athens Church of Christ and how they had such a variety in their congregation. It was incredibly special to see so many different people coming together under one roof.

5. Clarity. A wow experience creates a moment when you see things with more clarity than ever before. You suddenly “get it” in a new way. Not long ago, I was reading Chasing Daylight by Eugene O’Kelly. The story was so powerful I could not put it down. I read it in one long airplane ride to the West Coast. In those few hours, I had more clarity about life than I had had in a long time.

6. Presence. A wow experience creates timelessness. You aren’t thinking about the past. You’re not even thinking about the future. Instead, you are fully present in what is happening now. One such perfect moment happened when I enjoyed an evening on the porch with some of my old Army buddies. We were right back in there like we had never parted ways.

7. Universality. A true wow experience is nearly universal. Almost everyone will experience it in a similar way. This is why Cirque du Soleil and the Grand Canyon are so popular. They are so compelling that they appeal to people of all ages and ethnicities.

8. Evangelism. A wow experience has to be shared. You can’t contain it. You immediately begin thinking of all the people you wish were with you. After the experience, you recommend it unconditionally. You become an unpaid evangelist. I have done this with all the books I recommend to my friends and on my blog. And as you might know, “Apple evangelists” are a phenomenon of their own right up there with Harley-Davidson.

9. Longevity. The shine never wears off a wow experience. You can experience it again and again without growing tired of it. It endures. Again, as a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs, I can nearly remember my first Monday Night Football game, my first playoff game, and many others just as if they happened yesterday. Does your offering offer that?

10. Privilege. A wow experience makes you proud in a good way. You’re glad to be associated with it. You feel privileged, as if you are in an elite group, but at the same time humbled that you have had the experience. As a member of the United States Army, I did absolutely nothing special to be allowed to attend Basic Training. I worked hard and followed the regulations, which resulted in me being allowed to wear the uniform. After 24 years, I still feel like I'm part of something incredibly special.

Being successful means becoming the expert in recognizing wow when it shows up. More importantly, it means being able to recognize it when it is absent—and insisting that you ask yourself to deliver it. Don’t settle for something less, because, in doing so, you are depriving your customers of the wow experience they seek—and deserve. It is the foundation to building a significant platform.